Jean Prouvé is one of the 20th century’s greatest designers, known for integrating engineering into the heart of his architectural and sculptural masterpieces. Alongside Charles and Ray Eames, Prouvé’s trailblazing methods and ideas are influential to this day and seen throughout contemporary architecture and furniture. Galerie Patrick Seguin, located in Paris’s Bastille district, is a gallery that has fostered the international success of French designers from modern architecture pioneer Le Corbusier and his cousin Pierre Jeanneret to Prouvé himself. All three designers have, at one point or another, set foot in Patrick Seguin’s substantial 3,200 square feet space, which featured Prouvé’s furniture, demountable houses, and was responsible for assembling the most unique and limited collection of the latter.
Now, some of the trio’s collaborative work is recorded in the gallery’s publication of the third installment of the “Jean Prouvé Architecture” box set, which snuggly fits the hardcover books into a silver metal casing, an appropriate appearance for the accomplished French metal worker. The release serves as a complement to two previous sets that, along with the latest, congruently form 15 monographic volumes offering a comprehensive Anglo-French dive for both the general public as well as avid Prouvé followers.
Vol. 11 is the first in the set, taking readers back in time to post-World War II France when Prouvé played a definitive role in advocating for an industrial revolution within the building and construction sector. Aptly titled “Bureau d’études Maxéville Design Office,” the book surveys Prouvé’s most recognizable work from the period: a demountable design office made up of a portable frame that encloses a modifiable space of partitions and panels. In recent years, the office was restored for display at the 2016 Design Miami/Basel. The process nearly served as a manifestation of the book’s chronological sections of The System, The Assembling, and Exhibitions. This sequential order is carried throughout the box set and used to follow the trajectory of projects through hand-drawn blueprints, illustrations, documents, and black and white photographs. These nuggets of treasure are dispersed throughout the set, offering archival glimpses into Prouvé’s persisting influence in the field of design.
A few years prior, the Ministry of Reconstruction commissioned Prouvé to design portable pavilions as temporary housing for war victims in eastern France. Prouvé responded by offering a simultaneously economical and fast solution that built upon his patented axial portal frame system used for his Maxéville Design Office. Vol. 12 features a look into the demonstration model behind the system, along with photos of Prouvé’s demountable houses situated in their respective natural environments.
Vol. 13 documents Prouvé’s entry for the Ministry of Education’s 1949 competition: a rural school that opportunistically provided a blueprint for mass production of functional yet affordable buildings. Galerie Patrick Seguin commissioned the Jean Nouvel/HW Architecture studios to create an adaptation of the original building in 2016, shown first in the book as modeled plans and later as photographs of the complete form exhibiting a full spectrum of Prouvé’s structural characteristics.
Prouvé and Jeanneret’s collaboration on the SCAL factory’s construction site was a major milestone in modern architecture and the subject of Vol. 14. The project allowed for a construction demonstration to be prefabricated and subsequently mounted on the site itself. In its entirety, the idea showcases the duo’s progressive methods, which offered an efficient and aesthetically harmonious approach that would set the ground for Prouvé’s later ventures.
The last volume closes the mid-20th century by wrapping up in the north-eastern French city of Nancy where Prouvé settled down with his family house. The Nancy house, mounted during the duration of three weekends, is evidence of Prouvé’s technical prowess and environmental sensibility. In this sense, Vol. 15 brings readers the closest yet to the French pioneer by stepping into his past home. Cementing him as a pioneer of the New Style, Prouvé’s portfolio of work embodies and expresses the age of his contemporaries, a period intimately referred to as the “Nancy Dynasty” by Le Corbusier after the very city that Prouvé called home.