Architect Bernard Tschumi has donated forty-three drawings by his father, the Swiss architect Jean Tschumi (1904-1962), to the Architecture and Design Department of The Museum of Modern Art, New York (MoMA). Jean Tschumi, a key contributor toward the evolution of modern architecture and design in the mid-20th century, was known as an influential figure in both architectural education and the development of international architectural practice.
The works on paper cover the range of Jean Tschumi’s brief but fascinating career, from his early work while a student at Paris’s Ecole Nationale Supérieure des Beaux-Arts to his late masterpiece, the Nestlé Headquarters (1956-1960) in Vevey, Switzerland, for which he won the Reynolds Prize in 1960. All forty-three drawings were published in the recent monograph Jean Tschumi: Architecture at Full Scale by Jacques Gubler (Skira and Rizzoli International Publishers), which traces Tschumi’s multifaceted production as an architect, urban planner, and furniture designer who often integrated different dimensions of creative design into his individual works.
The gift includes twenty-two drawings from Jean Tschumi’s radical entry to the 1932 international competition for the redesign of Stockholm’s Nedere Norrmalm district; sheets of pencil on tracing-paper studies for furniture and door handles that reflect the architect’s work in the offices of Jacques-Emile Ruhlmann and Edgar Brandt; and a large-size, multicolored perspective, executed in collaged paper, of the Nestlé Headquarters. The Nestlé work on paper is notable not only for its daring angle and compositional skill but for its early use of collage, a rare and innovative medium in client presentations in the 1950s and ‘60s.
With this gift, MoMA becomes the only institution outside of Europe to house a collection of drawings by Jean Tschumi. The majority of his drawings, apart from those held by his family, reside in the Archives of Modern Construction at the Lausanne Polytechnique, whose architecture school he founded in 1942, and in Basel, in the collection of the pharmaceutical giant Novartis (formerly Sandoz), for which Tschumi built headquarters and laboratories in Switzerland and France. Because American glass-and-steel modernism in general, and New York architecture in particular, played a significant role in Jean Tschumi’s oeuvre, Bernard Tschumi is pleased to have MoMA as the sole repository of his father’s work in the United States. “My father loved American culture,” Bernard Tschumi states, “but he was specifically inspired by New York, making the long trip from Switzerland several times in the 1950s to show his clients the emerging architecture of Manhattan. He brought these references back to Europe to inform his work, producing his own contributions to international modernism in the process. It is only fitting—and I think my father would have been pleased—to have his drawings in MoMA’s extraordinary collection.”
According to Barry Bergdoll, The Philip Johnson Chief Curator of Architecture and Design at MoMA, “Our department was founded on the premise that architecture and design are interdependent arts—a recognition that was also critical to the practice and teaching of Jean Tschumi throughout his career. Our collection is wonderfully enriched by these drawings, made by an innovative master of mid-20th-century architecture and design. We are deeply grateful to Bernard Tschumi for making it possible for us to acquire them.”
Born near Geneva, Jean Tschumi developed his skills in drawing and woodworking at a very young age under the tutelage of his father, Johann Tschumi, an independent artisan. After a period of apprenticeship and study in Lausanne, Jean moved to France in 1922, enrolled in the Ecole Nationale Supérieure des Beaux-Arts in Paris and, while still a student, began working in the offices of designers Jacques-Emile Ruhlmann and Edgar Brandt.
Among Tschumi’s most notable works are the Sandoz Laboratories in Orléans, France (completed in 1953); the Nestlé Headquarters in Vevey, Switzerland; and the headquarters building of the World Heath Organization (WHO) in Geneva, a commission that Jean Tschumi won in 1960 through a competition in which he edged out Eero Saarinen. In addition to his work as an architect, Jean Tschumi also played an important role as a founder and president of the International Union of Architects (UIA) and as the founder of the architecture school at the Université de Lausanne.
Jean Tschumi died tragically at age 57, at the height of his career. His design for the WHO headquarters was completed posthumously in 1966.