Thursday, December 6, 2012


Jean Prouvé was commissioned to produce three prototype homes that could be mass produced for the French colonies of West and Central Africa to address the shortage of infrastructure in 1949. The hope was that these buildings could be applied to both residential and civic buildings.  Photos of Maison Tropicale in Brazzaville in 1951 and in its present state today show the increase in infrastructure in the region.  This house was also created to sell aluminum for Aluminum Français.  Jean Prouvé sold part of his shop, Atelier de Jean Prouvé to Aluminum Français in order to get government projects.  However, in contracts, Prouvé was required to increase the use of aluminum in his design.  As well, the design of these houses capitalized on France's ability to produce aluminum following the end of World War II.  
Brazzaville, 1950s

Brazzaville, now

Any such political move is done with underlying motives.  The underlying motivation can be seen as way to appease  and assimilate African colonies, which were moving towards independence and anti colonialism at the time. The French government attempted to improve the rights of French colonies, without actually providing autonomy. The need to appease and assimilate the French colonies of West and Central Africa was necessary for France to be able to stay in these colonies and operate them. These colonies have some of the greatest amount of bauxite resources available, and France required this bauxite to ship home to produce aluminum. As well, the loss of these colonies, would result in a loss of markets for French goods, which would follow the impending loss of the Vietnamese and Algerian markets. The situation in Africa needed to be approached with tentativeness as situations in Vietnam and Algeria were worsening, and France's violent resistance led to failure. France's approach to dealing with stalemate in Vietnam was to open fire, killing 6, 000 (1946). The approach to retaliating a riot by a mob in Algeria led to death of approximately 40, 000 in a killing spree by the French Army (Setif Massacre, 1945). Both approaches sparked independence wars: the First Indochina War (1946) and the War of Algerian Independence (1954). Maison Tropicale can be seen as a non violent political tool employed by the French government in order to retain control of the flow of resources and goods between the colonies and France.  

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.)

"The Architect," accessed November 10, 2012,

"Ruins of the 20th Century," accessed December 9, 2012,

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