Prepare to see versions of this humble chair, also known as the Committee chair and Pierre Jeanneret chair, at a shop near you
A brief history of… the Capitol Complex office chair
Who designed it? It all starts with Le Corbusier, the legendary 20th-century Swiss-born architect. In the 1950s, he was tasked with creating the city of Chandigarh, which was being built by the first Prime Minister of independent India, Jawaharlal Nehru in 1947. Nehru wanted a utopian city to reflect the brave new vision of his country. In turn, Le Corbusier asked his cousin Pierre Jeanneret to help design a chair that could be made in the thousands for the city-in-making’s government offices. It was to be the official chair of the city.
What was the brief? The chairs had to be able to withstand the humidity of their environment and sturdy enough for the bureaucracy in whose offices they would be. They also had to be easily mass produced.
How will I ID it? Made of Burmese teak that was impervious to humidity and bugs, it has distinctive A-shaped legs
and woven cane or leather seats. Its geometric good looks reflected the modern, fresh style of this new city.
Why aren’t they as well known as the Tulip table or Ball chair? Fashions change and the people of Chandigarh updated the chairs for more contemporary versions. Still, a chair designed to be mass produced in India is not quite as capable as garnering iconic status as one made specifically for a European audience.
Why are we seeing them and replicas now? It’s all thanks to French antiques dealer Eric Touchaleaume who discovered piles of them on business trips to Chandigarh. He took a punt on buying some of these discarded chairs in the early 2000s. Needless to say, they went off.
Who loves them? The question is ‘who doesn’t?’ The great Belgian designer-to-the-stars including Kanye West, Axel Vervoordt adores them. As does Kourtney Kardashian.
Where can I get an original? Get in line. Auction website 1stdibs.com has a single woven chair on the website for just over $5560. Or you could get a set of eight for around $51,500 if you’re interested.