When French architect Jean Prouvé — the grandaddy of prefab — built his prototype homes in the 1930s and 40s, he intended them to become affordable solutions to Europe’s housing crisis. He’d be pretty surprised to learn that one of these “affordable” homes is now on sale for $2.5 million.
As part of Design Miami this month, Patrick Seguin — a French art dealer who has championed Prouvé for decades — took apart one of the architect’s prefabricated homes, packed it into 10 containers, and sent it across the Atlantic ocean by ship. The building arrived in Miami just in time to be reconstructed at Art Miami: First, the steel frame and foundation were put into place, then, workers installed each piece of wood facade by hand. The whole operation took less than two days.
So why is a house intended for Europe’s post-War masses being sold at one of the premier high-end design festivals? For one thing, these babies are scarce. The 1945 design in question — called the 8×8 Demountable House for its 8-by-8 meter dimensions — is one of only two that were ever built of that particular design. And of the 160-home series Prouvé designed in all, less than 20 were ever prototyped.
But in general, Prouvé has become something of a cult hero over the past two decades. Because his designs are so simple to take apart and reconstruct, it’s become more and more common to see them rebuilt as part of festivals and exhibits. In fact, contemporary architects often cite his 80-year-old designs as the basis for modern prefab work. Prouvé wasn’t a visionary in his day — but he’s increasingly one for ours. [Patrick Seguin]