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Furniture Factory Antin

 

When I first met Le Corbusier at Cap Martin in 1958, I rhapsodized about his furniture. These models, designed in 1928, were produced only as prototypes. No furniture maker was interested at the time in manufacturing them as a series. In 1958, I was fully convinced that even after the passage of 30 years they had lost nothing of their modernity. I reiterated my conviction to Le Corbusier. The doubt in his face quickly gave way to delight: „Vous trouvez vraiment cela? Les gens disent que cela ne vaut rien, c'est du vieux jeux.“ „Is that what you really think? People say that they are worthless and old fashioned.“ My response: „Monsieur, je suis persuadé que vos quatre sièges sont jusqu'aujourd'hui les plus modernes et que les enfants vont vouloir les hériter.“ „Monsieur, I am convinced that to your four pieces continue to remain the most modern and one day children will want to inherit them.“ Le Corbusier appeared to be very happy with my appreciation of his furniture and immediately confided his trust in me with the words: „Alors, je vous donne les plans et vous pouvez les fabriquer.“ „Well, I'm giving you the plans and you can produce them.“

 

 

When I was back in Zurich and had received the designs from him, I blissfully began to look for a suitable production space. To my great joy, I found a beautiful vacant space near my studio gallery „mezzanine“ that was part of a magnificent Middle-Ages building. As it happened, the previous tenant was the Salvation Army and I took that to be a good omen as certainly a lot of good had emerged from these rooms. I enjoyed dealing with the specifications for the first-class production of his four chairs and for the craftsmen, too. I had to buy a sewing machine for leatherwork and a second one for the down clusters of the cotton cushions. I also needed a plucking machine for the horsehair (which was delivered in the shape of a braid) to tease it apart, and a special sewing machine for the leather crafting of the cushions for the cubical men's armchair as well as the wide ladies' armchair. For these two models, a craftswoman sewed clusters that were subsequently sewn by upholsterers on the prepared horse hair core. I had to source foal hide from different suppliers for the chaiseslongues. It was an enormous effort and very difficult to find fine hides of the look and quality needed. Calf skin for the „armchair with adjustable back“ — it was complicated to find first-class quality when it came to these hides.

Three months later, during his first visit to Zurich, I was proudly able to present to Le Corbusier my series adaptation of his four chairs from my first production of 25 items. He was impressed and very satisfied with my implementation of his designs. For nine years, from 1958 to 1967, I produced the pieces in my small factory with great success and got orders from fans of his furniture around the world. But my small operation was not able to meet the growing demand and in 1964 I decided to assign my licence rights by sub-licensing the Italian firm Cassina in Meda to produce larger quantities. First, for Italy only. A year later, I extended the contracts for Europe and 12 months later for the United States.

Cassina, is a big company, which meanwhile has earned hundreds of millions with the production and sale of Le Corbusier furniture,In the past they did not even mention my name, despite the fact that they got the licences and rights from me and that they signed several contracts with me. The advertising displayed internationally claims: Cassina signed the contract for the worldwide rights during the lifetime of Le Corbusier… The owners of Cassina had never seen nor spoken with Le Corbusier. He also never wanted to meet them personally. He left all the contract negotiations and quality checking of the production completely to me. It amazes me that in the past a company as large as Cassina would find it necessary to try to conceal the true background of this story in this way from the furniture and design world.



 
I organized my first exhibition in 1958 in my „mezzanin“ studio gallery: „Le Corbusier furniture displayed in the colours of his Salubra wallpaper.“ I had developed by own exhibition concept: 15 small, original pencil drawings presented in wooden box frames that he had designed. All the other surfaces were painted in his stark colours (Le Corbusier colour fan deck) blue, orange, dark grey and the monochrome walls were free of pictures. I had large-format posters printed for this first exhibition and displayed throughout Switzerland. My efforts (financial, as well) astonished Le Corbusier; and he thanked me most eloquently.