Canadian Centre for Architecture the major acquisition of Pierre Jeanneret’s papers

The Canadian Centre for Architecture (CCA) announces a major acquisition on receiving the papers of the Swiss-born architect Pierre Jeanneret (1896-1967). The body of work is concerned with the design and construction of Chandigarh, Punjab, India, covering the period 1951-1965, during which this celebrated new city was being designed and built. The archive, comprising nearly eight linear metres of documents, consists of extensive correspondence, manuscripts, photographs, and drawings, covering Jeanneret’s involvement as Senior Architect of the city of Chandigarh, the new administrative capital of Punjab. Jeanneret also designed the majority of the housing for the capital city as well as the Punjabi University in the city’s sector 14.

A graduate of the École des Beaux-arts de Genève, Pierre Jeanneret worked with the Perret Brothers in Paris before joining his cousin Le Corbusier in a first partnership that lasted from 1922 to 1940. At Le Corbusier’s studio, 35 rue de Sèvres, he had the position of chef d’atelier and was responsible for the design and construction of many buildings including the Villa Stein-de-Monzie in Garches and the Villa Savoye in Poissy, designed in the second half of 1920s. Jeanneret left German-occupied Paris in June 1940, moving first to Ozon, in the Pyrenees mountains, then joining colleagues Georges Blanchon and Jean Prouvé to fight as a unit of the Resistance in Grenoble, and together subsequently set up the firm Bureau central de construction (BCC), experimenting in prefabricated metal housing. In 1950 Le Corbusier invited Jeanneret to work with him, and the British architects E. Maxwell Fry and Jane B. Drew on the Chandigarh project. After the epic beginning of the construction of Chandigarh, Jeanneret stayed and continued to work in India until1965 when he returned to Geneva for health reasons. Two years later he died in the city where he was born. Jeanneret’s deep attachment to Chandigarh was poignantly made manifest on April 25, 1970 when, according to his wish, his ashes were dispersed in Chandigarh’s Sukhna Lake.

The Jeanneret papers join the CCA’s rich archives, drawings, and photographs collection of the “heroic” period of modern architecture including the work of the atelier of Le Corbusier, Mies van der Rohe, Frank Lloyd Wright and Ernest Cormier. The Jeanneret fonds are the gift of the architects niece Jacqueline Jeanneret, who was drawn to the CCA by Montréal architect Luc Durand, a longtime colleague of Jacqueline Jeanneret and whose papers the CCA is proud to hold. Maristella Casciato, CCA Senior Mellon Fellow 2010, Professor of Architectural History, School of Architecture “Aldo Rossi” at Cesena, University of Bologna, highlighted the fact that the Jeanneret’s unknown, unstudied papers of the Chandigarh years, are an essential part of the still unwritten history of the new Punjabi capital. Known principally for Le Corbusier’s monumental public buildings, the city was developed between two “rooms,” one at 35 rue de Sèvres (Paris) and one in Chandigarh. The Indian project profited by the meticulous attitude of Pierre Jeanneret, as Le Corbusier’s right hand. “New lights will be cast on the history of one of the most representative modern cities of the 20th century, at the end of the colonial era,” added Professor Casciato. For Jean-Louis Cohen, a specialist of Le Corbusier and a professor at New York University, “as this extraordinary archive has been anticipated for decades by scholars and will allow for unprecedented investigations not only on the Chandigarh saga, but also on the work of Le Corbusier and French architecture in general.”

Mirko Zardini, Chief Curator and Director of the CCA, comments: “The increasing level of donations of modern and contemporary archives to the CCA and their curatorial interpretation is extremely important.” Phyllis Lambert, Founding Director of the CCA adds: “The Jeanneret fonds contribute to the richness and interconnectivity of the 20th-century architecture, urban and landscape design at the CCA creating a significant body of knowledge”.

The archive will be catalogued during this fall and a finding aid describing its content will be made available in 2011 in the Collection Online-Catalogue on the CCA’s website at

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