Day 349/365 of Steel – Jean Prouvé

God bless Jean Prouvé! (b. april 8, 1901 , d. March 23, 1984).

I cannot possibly explain in the format of a LinkedIn post how much I admire Jean Prouvé. This autodidact succeeded like no other in transforming the qualities of steel into a seemingly endless range of applications.

He may not have had any diplomas (he started working for a goldsmith at the age of 15) but his talents were not lacking: he could draw and weld like the best, he was a great salesman, he had a firm belief in innovation and science and he was a visionary manager of his own companies.

Museum of modern art André Malraux - MuMa
Fig 1: Museum of modern art André Malraux – MuMa
Photo: © Kleinefenn

In 1924, he opened a small workshop “Jean Prouvé, ferronnier d’art à Nancy”. His first creations were ironworks for private buildings. Gradually heexperimented with more modern forms and new materials, such as stainless steel. He designed his “reclining chair” in canvas and lacquered folded steel sheet.

During the 1930s, after several prototypes, he designed numerous pieces of furniture combining metal and wood, but above all combining comfort and economy of production. For the chairs, he used the principle of a supporting structure in sheet steel. He developed the technique of the flattened stainless steel tube, which guarantees a high resistance of the structure.

Inside view of La Buvette
Fig 2: Inside view of La Buvette
Photo: © claudio merlini DR / EPFL-TSAM

He is one of the precursors of curtain wall constructions with the Maison du Peuple in Clichy. After WWII, in connection with the reconstruction program in France, he developed several prefabricated housing concepts, including the industrialized houses in Meudon.

In the 1970s, he finally gained international recognition and achieved great technical successes, such as the structure of the Palais omnisports de Paris-Bercy or the Ushant radar tower. In 1971 he was appointed president of the international jury for the competition for the future Pompidou Centre.

Vitra petrol station, Jean Prouvé
Fig 3: Vitra petrol station, Jean Prouvé
Photo: en:User:Sandstein, a.k.a. User:TheBernFiles

He imposed the project of Renzo Piano and Richard Rogers, who took up principles dear to Jean Prouvé: folded steel structure, curtain wall in modular panels, highlighting of constructive principles, flexibility of interior spaces.

About the Author:

Bruno Dursin – Managing Director at Believe in Steel. Bruno has more than 30 years of experience in promoting steel & steel solutions. His clients benefit from his extensive network within the building industry.

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