Culture

Pierre Guariche: designer of functional elegance

Pierre Guariche (1926-1995) is an eminently talented figure of post-war design in France. Along with Joseph-André Motte (1925-2013), Michel Mortier (1925-2015) and Pierre Paulin (1927-2009), he is part of the generation that succeeded Jean Prouvé (1901-1984), Charlotte Perriand (1903-1999) and Marcel Gascoin (1907-1986). A furniture designer, Pierre Guariche was also a decorator and, above all, a formidable designer. His taste for avant-garde aesthetics and the search for useful comfort led him to create some of the most beautiful pieces of French furniture of the 1950s and 1960s. It is no coincidence that the French furniture and decoration brand Maisons du Monde, and more recently the French publisher specialising in technical lighting, Sammode, are reissuing his creations. Let’s take a look at a very successful career and the emblematic pieces that have punctuated his career.

Photo of Pierre Guariche.

Pierre Guariche entered the Ecole Nationale Supérieure des Arts Décoratifs (ENSAD) at the age of 19, where he studied under René Gabriel, and graduated four years later in 1949. He trained in the furniture industry during internships and had a decisive experience with Marcel Gascoin, a decorator from Le Havre who specialised in “mass-produced furniture” and who worked on the emergence of French design after the Second World War. In 1950, he launched his career with the creation of his first light fixture: the Rotaflex lamp , for the specialist publisher Disderot. An entrepreneur at heart, he quickly set up his own agency in 1951.

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Rotaflex lamp, design and creation by Pierre Guariche for Disderot, 1950. An already original first creation with its tripod base.

His entry into the world of design with the creation of a lighting fixture is not a coincidence. Throughout the 1950s, Pierre Guariche was to be one of the most prolific designers of lighting. And he knows how to design everything: from floor lamps to desk lamps, including wall lamps and hanging lamps. His style was noticed very early on: objects that were above all functional, at the service of the user’s comfort, with pure and elegant lines. He is also a technician whose taste for functional research leads him to innovate. This was the case for the G23 double-balance luminaire he designed for Disderot in 1951.

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Period advertisement for the G23 double-balance luminaire, designed by Pierre Guariche for Disderot, 1951. This luminaire, with its double pendulum system, is an emblematic piece in the designer’s career.
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G23 “Equilibrium” luminaire with double pendulum, conception and design: Pierre Guariche for Disderot, 1951.
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G23 “Equilibrium” luminaire, detail of the double pendulum, conception and design: Pierre Guariche for Disderot, 1951.
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G23 “Equilibrium” luminaire, detail of a lamp, conception and design: Pierre Guariche for Disderot, 1951.
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G23 “Equilibrium” luminaire, detail of a lamp, conception and design: Pierre Guariche for Disderot, 1951.

Throughout his collaboration with the Ateliers Pierre Disderot, Pierre Guariche created a whole series of lighting fixtures, constantly combining elegant forms with creative and technical audacity. He worked with stamped metal and lacquer colours, perfected the mobility of his models (articulated ball joints) and used innovative materials such as Plexiglas and tube bulbs. Seduced by Pierre Guariche’s “luminous” legacy, the publisher Sammode has been reissuing certain pieces since 2018, including the famous G25 and G60 luminaires.

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G25 wall lamp reissued by Sammode Studio. Design Pierre Guariche, 1951. The G25 luminaire is a magnificent piece of design that does not go unnoticed. Pierre Guariche has the art of designing luminaires that diffuse both direct and indirect light, rising and falling, the flow of which is regulated in the case of the G25 by a length-adjustable brass rod.
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G25 wall lamp reissued by Sammode Studio, detail. Design by Pierre Guariche, 1951. Finesse and elegance!
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G60 table or bedside lamp re-issued by Sammode Studio. Design Pierre Guariche, 1959. An original lamp that can be used as a console, a shelf or a bedside table. The legs are in brushed varnished brass. The sides can be black with a white cover or the opposite with white sides and black cover.
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Table lamp G61 re-edited by Sammode Studio. Design Pierre Guariche, 1959. This is the little sister of the equally elegant G60 model. A luminous cube, covered with a white lacquered perforated sheet metal cover to diffuse a warm light, ideal to enhance a contemporary interior.
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Among Pierre Guariche’s timeless pieces, it is impossible not to mention the emblematic G30 floor lamp, known as the “Kite”, with its inimitable shape, created for the publisher Disderot in 1951.

In addition to his collaboration with Disderot, Pierre Guariche designed chairs for the publishers Airborne and Steiner that have become great classics of French design. This is the case of the ” Tonneau ” chair designed for Steiner in 1953, or the Vampire Armchair with its incredibly fluid lines in 1954, also for Steiner. Guariche designs pure, intelligent and accessible pieces; his 1953 G1 rocking chair designed for Airborne will appear in the Prisunic catalogue in 1972.

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Barrel chair by Pierre Guariche for Steiner, 1st edition of 1953, with varnished wooden legs.
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Pair of barrel chairs made by Pierre Guariche, 1950s. Covered with leather, these 2 chairs have a great charm.
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Barrel chair by Pierre Guariche, Steiner éditeur, 1950s. Version with chrome base and original khaki fabric. The Tonneau chairs were edited by Steiner in 1954, today they are edited by Maison du Monde.
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Vampire chair, designed by Pierre Guariche for Steiner, 1954. A chair whose name evokes the spread wings of a bat in flight. Guariche took up the idea of creating a seat with a moulded shell that allows the seat and backrest to be made in a single block. The organically inspired Vampire has been reissued by Maisons du Monde since 2014. A must-have in vintage design.
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G1 rocking chairs also reissued by Maisons du Monde. Designed by Pierre Guariche for Airborne, 1953. A model proposed in the Prisunic 8 autumn/winter 1972-1973 and Prisunic 9 summer 1973 catalogues.

But he wanted to go further. Like other designers of the time who were asked to think about housing – France was in the midst of a period of reconstruction at the time – he wanted to create rational, industrialisable furniture in order to lower production costs and thus make it accessible to the greatest number of people. Without neglecting aesthetics, he wanted to break the codes of an overly classical style. This is why he founded the Atelier de Recherches Plastiques (A.R.P) with Joseph-André Motte and Michel Mortier, two designers of his generation.

From 1953 to 1957, the trio, under the signature A.R.P, collaborated with publishers that Pierre Guariche already knew very well: lighting, still for Disderot; Airborne, Steiner, for whom A.R.P designed armchairs, but also the furniture publisher Charles Minvielle. In their desire to design furniture adapted to the more cramped surfaces of the time, Guariche, Motte and Mortier created the very first modular and juxtaposable unit called Elément Minvielle.

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ARP storage unit. Edition Minvielle, design Pierre Guariche, Michel Mortier & Joseph-André Motte.
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ARP storage unit, view of the inside of the unit. Minvielle edition, design by Pierre Guariche, Michel Mortier & Joseph-André Motte.

In 1957, Pierre Guariche became the artistic director of the Belgian furniture factory Meurop, a manufacturer active from 1950 to 1970. For Meurop, Pierre Guariche adapted his style to the times and designed a series of avant-garde chairs using synthetic materials – he abandoned natural materials and wood – and with an aesthetic language inspired by the Conquest of the Stars between the United States and the USSR. His seats are called Jupiter, Luna, Polaris, Mars..

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Advertising image of the range of seats designed and produced by Pierre Guariche for the Belgian manufacturer Meurop
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Pair of armchairs designed by Pierre Guariche for the Belgian company Meurop during the 1950s. Mars model, original red and green skai.
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Polaris chair, designed by Pierre Guariche for Meurop, circa 1960. The seat is covered with an olive green jersey fabric and a black felt cover.

At the same time as he was developing Meurop’s range of furniture, Pierre Guariche gradually reoriented his activity towards interior architecture projects. It was time for large public and private commissions. This is why he will carry out several important projects such as the fitting out of the Essonne Prefecture and the Isola 2000 ski resort in La Plagne. He will also create the furniture for the Maison de la Culture Le Corbusier in Firminy in the Loire.

The Essonne Prefecture is a major project in the designer’s career. The aim of the project was to bring a new modernity to an institution of the Fifth Republic. Guy Lagneau, the architect directly commissioned by André Malraux, then Minister of Cultural Affairs, to direct the project, called upon his vision and sense of design. Guariche, supported by his collaborator Alain Marcot, was able to rely on the Atelier de recherche et de création (ARC) of the Mobilier national and propose a form of “total architecture”, symbolising the renewal of French furniture.

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Office of the Prefect, Essonne Prefecture, Evry. Guy Lagneau architect, Pierre Guariche interior designer. The Claustras are sculptures by the Greek sculptor Philolaos, made of Uginox stainless steel. The offices and seats are made by SADEM. Pierre Guariche archive. Pierre Guariche Archives.
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The Prefect’s private room, Essonne Prefecture, Evry. Guy Lagneau architect, Pierre Guariche interior designer. Pierre Guariche develops the idea of “living at ground level”, thanks to benches inserted into pits. Pierre Guariche archive. Pierre Guariche Archives.
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Prefect’s flat, reception wing: dining room, Essonne Prefecture, Évry. Guy Lagneau architect, Pierre Guariche interior designer. Composable table in brushed and polished stainless steel forming a checkerboard – shaped stainless steel base. For this space, Pierre Guariche designed the walls of the façade in glass held up by thin concrete pillars, an alliance enhanced by the natural light reflected on the polished white marble floor. Pierre Guariche archive. Pierre Guariche Archives.
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Session room, Essonne Prefecture, Evry. Guy Lagneau architect, Pierre Guariche interior designer. Design by Société Negroni. For the plenary session room, Pierre Guariche designed a monumental elliptical table (11 metres in diameter) with a central bowl in Macassar ebony marquetry. Pierre Guariche archive. Pierre Guariche Archives.
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Chevets, designed by Pierre Guariche for the publisher Négroni S.A, 1968. Designed for the fitting out of flats in La Plagne. Made of multi-ply (U-shaped bending) then covered with an ivory-coloured lacquer, with a wood veneered spacer

In 1965, Pierre Guariche received the René Gabriel prize. He also taught at the Ecole Nationale Supérieure des Arts Décoratifs and the Ecole Supérieure d’Architecture de Tournai

Pierre Guariche’s design is remembered for its taste for clean, meticulous lines, as well as his desire to make functional, elegant furniture accessible to the general public.

You can find all the vintage pieces by Guariche here: https: //www.design-market.fr/70_guariche

And the Sammode re-editions of Guariche lights here: https: //www.design-market.fr/29__sammode

François Boutard