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Progressive Prefabs of Jean Prouvé

By Dwell @dwell
The pioneering designer’s metal homes set a model for future construction. Slideshow Wooden housing for refugees in WWII designed by Jean Prouve

F 8X8 BCC House (1942)

Prouvé's skill at constructing and adapting to different situations wasn't limited to metal. While collaborating with Pierre Jeanneret during WWII, he helped fashion this mostly wooden structure meant to ease housing shortages and provide shelter for refugees, all built around an axial portal frame.

Image courtesy of Galerie Patrick Seguin.

Jean Prouvé always said to never copy—to go ahead and do something different. According to his grandson and architect Serge Drouin, that’s why, after dropping out of school at the age of 14, the future French design icon apprenticed with a Parisian metalsmith, seeking to master one of the few materials unfamiliar to his father, who was an Art Nouveau painter and sculptor. It led to Prouvé's mastery of steel and aluminum, and eventually a string of prefab housing prototypes that were generations ahead of his contemporaries. Even today, according to Drouin, when engineers dismount Prouvé's buildings, they can’t always figure out the bracing and support system that he intuitively set up within the structures he created. 

As the designer developed his craft, and later his own business, Atelier Prouvé, he became adept at fabricating, fashioning, and bending steel at scale, eventually graduating from smaller scale structures such as elevator cabs and furniture into prefabricated housing, beginning with the BLPS model (Beaudouin, Lods, Prouvé, Forges de Strasbourg) in the late ‘30s, a futuristic steel vacation home for French works. His homes were uniquely positioned to help cope with the post-war housing shortage of the ‘40s. 

“To him, there’s no difference between the structure of a building and the structure of a table,” says Drouin. “He had an absolutely intuitive sensation of metal. The shop was his office, his laboratory.”

Slideshow

Prefab house by Jean Prouve that's easy to assemble and transport

6X6 Demountable House (1944) 

Prouvé created these temporary bungalows as postwar housing for Lorraine, France, via a commission from the Ministry of Reconstruction and Town Planning. To reinforce the ease with which these structures were assembled and dissassembled on site, one model was built and then taken apart every day during Art Basel Miami 2013.

Image courtesy of Galerie Patrick Seguin.

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