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Jean Prouvé & Atelier d’architecture LWD

(Lagneau, Weill & Dimitrijevic)

This sole prototype with metal frame was built by Constructions Jean Prouvé and the Travaux d’Afrique firm.

Designed on a module principle with 8,75 x 8,75 m as the centre-to-centre distance of bearing posts, it is composed of two modules.

It is the fruit of collaboration between Jean Prouvé, consulting engineer, and the Atelier d’architecture LWD (Lagneau, Weill & Dimitrijevic) and reflects their research into industrial habitat for tropical countries, in particular Equatorial Africa, with its hot and humid climate.

Unlike the Maisons Tropicales by Jean Prouvé (1949-1950), the process developed here did not aim at complete industrialization of construction, but at the series production of a set of standard components, easy to assemble by local labour.

These prefab components were:

- roof frame and load-bearing posts in steel, plus roof trays, initially made by Les Constructions Jean Prouvé, and later, for the series models, in Cameroun by the Alucam plant at Edea, a subsidiary of Péchiney-Aluminium Français ;

- façade panels in sheet aluminium, initially made in France by the Velam company, and later for the series models, in Cameroun ;

- lateral uprights in timber to frame the aluminium façade panels, made by André Chetaille, a master cabinetmaker, joiner and carpenter who also worked for Charlotte Perriand.

The concrete mats, gable walls and façade walls in cement blocks were built by local labour.

 

The steel structure

Bolted onto six tall and slender steel bearing posts (shortened and using thinner section steel in the series model) positioned around the sides of the building, the light weight but nonetheless rigid and sturdy frame was composed of lattice girders carrying purlins, on which the aluminium roof trays were laid and fixed by hooks. Posts, girders and purlins used folded sheet steel, Prouvé’s favourite technique.  All were given a navy blue lacquer finish identical to that of the Structure Nomade by Jean Prouvé.

 

The umbrella-parasol roof 

The design for the roof proposed a flat arrangement composed of aluminium trays with a wide overhang; it constituted an umbrella-parasol.

The wide overhang protects the living space from direct sunlight and throws off rainwater. Build-up of heat inside is avoided by constant ventilation of the free space between the umbrella-parasol and the dropped ceiling, and by cross ventilation activated by opening sliding panels positioned on either side of the house.

 

Foster + Partners, Marseilles 2011-2013.

There is a clear stylistic carry-over between the umbrella-parasol designed by Jean Prouvé and Norman Foster’s ombrière, erected beside the Vieux Port in Marseilles in 2013.

The façade waves in aluminium

Front and rear elevations are identical. A standard façade is divided into two modules, also identical, each having a sliding panel mounted on a tubular frame to form the door, on either side of which is a fixed panel. The fixed panel is composed of two lateral timber uprights lacquered sky blue, which carry eight large waves in ribbed sheet aluminium laid horizontally (reduced to seven for the series model). The waves were purpose-designed by Jean Prouvé and have circular holes along their flat bottom edge to let in daylight and ensure ventilation. Each of the two modules is also framed by a vertical panel with a blue lacquer finish, the higher part of which is fitted with lever-activated glass blades and wooden laths. The modular principle, which means that the structure is simply replicated, was put into series production for buildings composed of either one or two modules.

This prototype testifies to the visual quality of Prouvé’s standard aluminium modules, as much by the rhythmic geometry of their waves as by the filtered light they let into interior space.

 

Bibliography 

- ATEA, Système d’habitat en zone tropicale humide, c. 1964.

- Joseph Abram Le rêve du réel, de la maison du Sahara aux écoles du Cameroun, Faces, 1995.

- Joseph Abram, L’architecture moderne en France, Ed. Picard, 1999, pp. 264-265.

Jean Prouvé, la poétique de l’objet technique, Ed. Vitra, Weil am Rhein , 2004, pp. 222-223.

- Peter Suzer, Jean Prouvé Œuvre complète, volume 4, 2008, Ed. Birkhauser, pp. 180-181, 300.

- Eric Touchaleaume, Jean Prouvé / Atelier LWD, les constructions SOFRA,  2015.

©DR. Archives Jean Dimitrijevic - IFA, Paris.

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