"Possibly the least-known and the greatest [architect] of twentieth-century houses." ~ Richard Rogers
Chareau was born in Bordeaux, France on August 3rd, 1883 into a family of Jewish shipbuilders. He attended the École Nationale Supérieure des Beaux-Arts from 1900 to 1908. After completing his studies, he worked at the Parisian offices of Waring & Gillow, a British firm specializing in furniture and interior design, for five years. He then went on to work independently, focusing on furniture and lighting projects as well as architecture commissions.
Architecture and Design
In 1928 Chareau collaborated with Dutch architect Bernard Bijvoet on two architectural projects. One, the clubhouse in Beauvallon (1928) near St Tropez, is exemplary of Chareau’s metal and wood furnishings. His most iconic work, the Maison de Verre (1932), consisted of a metal framework filled in with glass bricks. As a result of the unique glass construction, diffuse natural light washed over the interior of the building.
In 1931, Chareau joined the Union des Artistes Modernes. He exhibited with these artists, designers and architects annually until 1937. In 1940, he travelled to the United States to work in New York, where he made a name for himself within local design circles. One of his last works was the studio in East Hampton, NY, for the painter Robert Motherwell, constructed from American army surplus materials.
Chareau's designs were noted for their complexity, but many of his buildings are now demolished or destroyed. Chareau was also a member of Congrès International d'Architecture Moderne.
The Jewish Museum in New York City mounted an exhibition in 2016 called Pierre Chareau: Modern Architecture and Design, which explored the architect's work.