Saturday, December 8, 2012

Attention to Detail

It is rare in architecture to have the same person or group design as well as manufacture the design. Atelier de Jean Prouvé was an example.  In this shop, Jean Prouvé designed and manufactured furniture and components for buildings, including Maison Tropicale.  In the design of Maison Tropicale, his goal was to develop a housing system that was suited to the tropical climate of French West Africa, and could be erected quickly and cost effectively. His attention to detail is very noticeable in the final design, from the building envelope that would act as a ventilation system to the connections of the components. Prouvé was able to combine the work of an architect and an engineer.  Prouvé took an engineering approach to all his designs, visually illustrating the transfer of forces, and choosing materials suitable materials. He approached the development of prototypes from the perspective of an artisan, paying close attention to materials, the feel of them and how they react when combined with other materials. The intention in all of his designs and developments, was to combine utility, an honest use of materials, and economy, with the high demands of mass production. Being involved in both processes allowed Prouvé to put as much care into the manufacturing and structure of the design as the design itself.  It was Prouvé's relationship with the design and construction, that allowed him to design every bit of the furniture or buildings down to what connections were used and how they interacted with the components.  

Instead of continuing to work in the typical format, where a building is constructed by many different people from many different places, he had the design and building process organized in the same place with a consistent group of supervisors including both designers and engineers.  The collective nature of Atelier de Jean Prouvé reflects Prouvé's ideals that the design and manufacturing process should be collective.  The quote below provides insight into why the building process should occur as previously described.  

"Every object except a building is made by a single organic entity, a single industry equivalent to one firm." - Jean Prouvé

The simple elegance of Prouvé's style is evident in all his designs, from his furniture to his buildings. He developed a timeless aesthetic, which is what made him so well-known and well-respected.  

The typical format of a building process is currently the design, bid, build process, the traditional process, where the design and construction are handled by separate parties.  However, Prouvé's process of combining design and manufacturing (construction) into one process, is becoming more prevalent, leading to the design, build process, where both process are carried out simultaneously, working off each other.

O'Day, Kathleen. “Tropical or Colonial? A Reception History of Jean Prouvé's Prefabricated Houses For Africa.” (Thesis, Louisiana State University and Art College, 2009.)

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