Jean Prouve was a 20th century metal worker who also became an influential architect and designer. He is best known for successfully transferring manufacturing technology to architecture, which would impact the industry forever.
Prouve was born in Paris in 1901 to an artist father and pianist mother. He grew up surrounded by the creative energy of his father’s art collective, L’Ecole de Nancy, which worked to bring art to the everyday and forge a link between art and industry. After training at the art school at Nancy he was apprenticed to both a blacksmith and metalworker before opening his own studio. His design process began with furniture: chairs, chandeliers, and elevators. He was commissioned to contribute to many buildings around Paris and his touch still exists in the city today.
In 1931 he opened the Ateliers Jean Prouve, which was sustained because of the war. He produced bicycles, stoves, and French barracks for the French army. After the war he opened the Maxéville Factory where he mass produced furniture and explored using different properties like aluminum and plywood in his designs. During this time he was very philanthropic and produced many structures addressing emergency housing that could be easily transported and assembled quickly. He was a leader in pre-fabricated housing, a technique that is used in almost all home construction today.
His design tenets included “knowledge of the materials at hand, a commitment to collaboration between artists and craftsmen, an attention to evolving technical developments.” He was also influential for being the first to address nomadic architecture, “likening a chair to a house and designing both with portability in mind.” A true intellectual, Prouve’s design ethos guided him through his life and left an indelible mark on French architecture and society.