Jean Prouvré 23.08.11

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The work of Jean Prouvé (1901-1984) dominated Design Miami/Basel this year. At Patrick Seguin's booth, which straddled the entrance to the fair, Prouvé's 1945 Demountable House for refugees was assembled and disassembled each day. After the war, when Prouvé served as mayor of Nancy, he had ambitious plans to rehouse 
three million people in such "factoried" homes. (Last year, in collaboration with architect Jean Nouvel, Seguin erected Prouvé's prefabricated Ferembal House, 1948, in the Jardin des Tuileries.) Behind it, Philippe Jousse created his stand from the striking red, sculptural frame of a temporary school building Prouvé designed in 1956. Underneath an aluminium canopy rare examples of Prouvé's furniture were on display, including a Kangourou sofa, its chipped steel frame painted bright yellow, and a bed in the same red as the structure above. There is no difference between building furniture and building a house, Prouvé famously asserted.

At the Vitra campus just outside the city, where a small Prouvé petrol station sits on the main thoroughfare, there was an exhibition in Zaha Hadid's Fire Station of reissued pieces by the French modernist master. A collaboration between the fashion label G-Star RAW and Vitra (much as Diesel collaborated with Moroso on a furniture range in 2009), the collection features 17 classic designs that have been subtly updated. "I think the modernisation comes from the unity of the colours," says Catherine Prouvé, who dug out rare drawings from her father's archive for the designers. All the pieces are aluminium, or painted gun-metal grey (a favourite colour of Prouvé's: he drove a Citroën 2CV painted this hue), and are upholstered in off-white or smoke grey.

The majority of the pieces have Prouvé's signature sloping, tapered steel legs. He noted that chairs always broke at the point where the legs join the seat, and his Standard and Fauteuil Direction chairs have sturdy back 
legs to resist the strains and stress of heavy use. These functional shapes are echoed in the Table SAM Tropique, with its stainless steel top and triangular bent steel legs designed so as not to bother any diner. The Lit Flavigny daybed, originally created for a tuberculosis hospital, also has legs of tapered steel.

Many of the pieces, such as the Cité armchair, designed to furnish university dormitories, are already in production by Vitra in other colour combinations. The Cité has a stretched fabric seat over a pressed steel frame around which two buckled leather straps run to create the armrests (antiques were on sale at Philippe Jousse). After several decades, the original furniture made for Cité University is being retired and has been donated to Prouvé's home city, Nancy, where there will be a big retrospective of his designs in 2012.



Table S.A.M. Tropique 1950 00012B2F

credit G-Star/Jorma Muijtjens



Philippe Jousse



Christopher Turner

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There is no difference between building furniture and building a house, Prouvé famously asserted

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