Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Prefabrication Before Prouvé

After WWI, modern architects became more interested in the industrial prefabrication of houses.  Their main goals were to produce cheap homes quickly that would allow beauty to be accessible to all.  However, most of these house did not go further than the prototype stage.  

In 1928, Buckminster Fuller filed the patent for the Dimaxian House.  It was a hexagonal shaped metallic house which was suspended by cables from a central mast.

  "Dimaxion means making the most out of the least... at the time, I realized that if we wanted quality housing for all, houses should be mass produced, and in large quantities just as cars... Why don't we apply the techniques used by the navy or aviation to terrestrial constructions?  To make all this possible I realized that I had to wait for aluminium, plastic and highly robust alloys to become available at reasonable prices." Fuller

In 1933, M. Ravaze studied prefab construction prier to Provue and became an influence on his later designs.  He completed a study of a bus terminal in 1933 which was the first architectural study concerning constructions entirely built out of bent sheet metal.  The project comprised of two buildings: the bus terminal itself and the waiting area for ticket sales.  Years later, Prouve designed coach terminals at La Villette, near Paris in a similar fashion and has continued to work with sheet metal in his buildings in a similar way.

Jean Prouve's Coach Bus Terminal at La Villette

Henri Sauvage and Andre Bloc proposed a solution to combat the disorganization at construction sites with prefabricated buildings.  In their proposition, buildings were made up of multiple metal-framed cells with vertical beam like posts on the the outside which could easily be stacked on top of each other to form the building.  These cells would be produced in the factories and then assembled on site.  This eventually developed into the idea of producing cellular parts in the factories which could easily be transported and the building would be constructed on site.  Jean Prouve may have never seen their work but the process he developed is nearly identical.  However, unlike Sauvage and Bloc, Prouve was able to bring the process into reality.

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