Perriand – Prouvé

Unité d'habitation Air France Brazzaville

1951


Architects: Hébrard, Lefebvre, Letu, Bienvenu.
Interior fit-out: C. Perriand and J. Prouvé.

‘This building in Brazzaville, Congo Republic, is designed to house Air France personnel in transit; the carrier flies links to major African cities.
It is built on a property of roughly 17 000 m², of which a park of 10 750 m². Minimally landscaped, the park creates a luxurious setting of tropical plant-life for the residence.
On each upper floor there are six types of apartments laid out identically, the ground floor comprising one-roomers for single persons (…). On the topmost floor, a penthouse opens onto the garden terrace, with views over the magnificent surrounds.
The main design objective was to achieve perfect ventilation for all rooms, so vital for living comfort in the humid climate of Brazzaville (…). Front and rear façades have adjustable louvers on every opening to catch the breeze and ensure ideal air flow. There are no cross walls dividing interiors; all rooms open front and rear. Where a bedroom has to be divided in two, a partition fitted with adjustable slats provides the best possible night-time ventilation.
Floors are covered in stoneware with slanted wall bases and drains to ensure run-off after washing with abundant water. In addition, apartments are equipped with simple, practical furniture as well as built-in storage units with a capacity of 10 to 15 m3, to facilitate housekeeping.
Hot water is on tap in kitchens, laundries and toilets. Household waste is evacuated by way of chutes (…).
This residential block is an interesting structure well adapted to the climate.’

In L’Architecture d’aujourd’hui, no. 46, ‘Contribution française à l’évolution de l’architecture’, pp.100-101.

© Courtesy Olivier Franquet, Paris.

The designers of the Air France Unité d’Habitation in Brazzaville, some of whom were affiliated to the A.T.B.A.T (Ateliers des bâtisseurs), were enthusiastic admirers of Le Corbusier and in particular of his Cité Radieuse in Marseilles, which they took cues from with talent and inventiveness.

Charlotte Perriand, who was in charge of interior decoration and fit-out, chose some of the furniture to add to her own creations from the Ateliers Jean Prouvé catalogue, having worked with him under contract since early 1952.

Her standardized kit-assembled cupboard known as ‘Placards Brazza’ was developed with Ateliers Jean Prouvé.
Most of the furniture, some being variants of models designed for the French market (three-leg coffee tables), others new creations (dumb-waiter hatches, bathroom cabinets), and the integrated parts (closet shelves, table tops) were made to her instructions in Brazzaville using local wood.

Vandalized during the Congo’s bloody civil wars, this once magnificent building is now ramshackle and slated to be knocked down. The furniture salvaged from it stands as a testimony to a colonial utopia, so near and yet gone forever now.

- Façade details, 2000.
- Hanging gardens on the terrace roof, 1950s.

© E. Touchaleaume. Archives Galerie 54, Paris. © Archives Eric Touchaleaume, Paris.

Charlotte PERRIAND – Jean PROUVE
« Brazza » cupboards, 1952

This innovative concept for built-in cupboards consisted of a front independent of the inside. The front was composed as a demountable frame, part folded steel sheet and part folded aluminium sheet, into which were set channels in ‘ironwood’ that enabled the anodized aluminium doors to slide easily. Depending on the model there were either two or four doors, with profiled grips in solid redwood, made by André Chetaille.

Inside a central piece in folded steel sheet fitted with four lateral angle bars had regularly-spaced perforations for hanging the carrier hooks that supported shelves in solid padouk.

In-situ, the ‘body’ of the cupboard was in fact formed by the masonry walls of the building; now reconstituted to the original dimensions in plywood with marine varnish, oak veneer or paint finish.

In its standard versions, the « placard Brazza » ran to eight different models designed on the same principle, which differed by the number of doors, size, inside fit-out, and adaptation to places and varied functions: clothes hanging space, book shelves, varied storage units, for living room, bedroom or kitchen.

The 19 one-room flats on the ground floor were equipped with a different type of cupboard, with 4 doors.

The director’s penthouse and guest house, on the terrace roof, were also equipped with cupboards with specific dimensions.

 

Charlotte PERRIAND et Jean PROUVE
2-door cupboards referenced BB (‘buanderie bas’).
L. 167 x H. 205 x Depth 25 to 53 cm

 

© Photo C. Baraja – E. Touchaleaume. Archives Galerie 54, Paris. © Archives Galerie 54, Paris.

© Photo C. Baraja – E. Touchaleaume. Archives Galerie 54, Paris. © Archives Galerie 54, Paris.

Charlotte PERRIAND et Jean PROUVE
2-door suspended cupboards referenced BH1/BH2/BH3 (‘buanderie haut’).
L. 167/189/221 x H. 73,5 x Depth 25 to 53 cm

© Photo C. Baraja – E. Touchaleaume. Archives Galerie 54, Paris.

Charlotte PERRIAND et Jean PROUVE
Storage unit, 1952.
H. 75 x L. 36 x Depth 50,5 cm

 

© Photo C. Baraja – E. Touchaleaume. Archives Galerie 54, Paris. © Courtesy Olivier Franquet, Paris.

Charlotte PERRIAND et Jean PROUVE
2-door suspended cupboards referenced BH1/BH2/BH3 (‘buanderie haut’).
L. 167/189/221 x H. 73,5 x Depth 25 to 53 cm

© Photo C. Baraja – E. Touchaleaume. Archives Galerie 54, Paris.

Charlotte PERRIAND and Jean PROUVE
4-door cupboards referenced A/B/C
L. 189/210/231 x H. 295 x Depth 53 cm

 

© Photo C. Baraja – E. Touchaleaume. Archives Galerie 54, Paris.

Charlotte PERRIAND
Fold-down consoles, 1952.
H. 90 x L. 67 x Depth 67 cm

© Photo C. Baraja – E. Touchaleaume. Archives Galerie 54, Paris. © Courtesy Olivier Franquet, Paris.

Charlotte PERRIAND
Large bathroom cabinet, 1952.
H. 70 x L. 160 x Depth 17 cm

© Photo C. Baraja – E. Touchaleaume. Archives Galerie 54, Paris. © Courtesy Olivier Franquet, Paris.

Charlotte PERRIAND (1903-1999)
Partition-cupboard with dumb-waiter hatch, 1952.
H. 220 x L. 223 x Depth 59 cm

© Photo C. Baraja – E. Touchaleaume. Archives Galerie 54, Paris. © Courtesy Olivier Franquet, Paris.

Charlotte PERRIAND (1903-1999)
Partition-cupboard with dumb-waiter hatch, 1952.
H. 220 x L. 223 x Depth 59 cm

© Photo C. Baraja – E. Touchaleaume. Archives Galerie 54, Paris. © Courtesy Olivier Franquet, Paris.

Furniture in-situ, 1950s.

© Archives Galerie 54, Paris.

Charlotte PERRIAND and Jean PROUVE
4-door cupboards referenced A/B/C
L. 189/210/231 x H. 295 x Depth 53 cm

 

Offices, New York.

© Photo E. Touchaleaume. Archives Galerie 54, Paris.

Charlotte PERRIAND and Jean PROUVE
4-door cupboards referenced A/B/C
L. 189/210/231 x H. 295 x Depth 53 cm

 

Offices, Paris.

© Photo C. Baraja – E. Touchaleaume. Archives Galerie 54, Paris.

Charlotte PERRIAND and Jean PROUVE
4-door cupboards referenced A/B/C
L. 189/210/231 x H. 295 x Depth 53 cm

 

© Photo C. Baraja – E. Touchaleaume. Archives Galerie 54, Paris. © Courtesy Olivier Franquet, Paris.

Charlotte PERRIAND et Jean PROUVE
Placards à 4 portes référencés A/B/C
L. 189/210/231 x H. 295 x P. 53 cm
Bureaux, Paris.

© Photo F CALMON – E. Touchaleaume. Archives Galerie 54, Paris.

© Photo E. Touchaleaume. Archives Galerie 54, Paris.

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