Jean Prouvé occupied a unique position at the intersection of design, manufacturing, architecture, and engineering. Though he was revered by peers in the industry during his lifetime, the French visionary was largely unknown to the general public until Vitra began to reissue his works in 2002. Today, the Swiss manufacturer produces iconic pieces like Prouvé’s Standard chair and Cité armchair, which both encapsulate the striking simplicity and utilitarian quality of the designer’s oeuvre.
Prouvé’s training as a blacksmith influenced his preference for working in metal. He embraced the use of steel and aluminum to create cutting-edge furniture under the name of his studio, Atelier Jean Prouvé. Prouvé became fascinated by the concept of mass production, and he began designing a catalog of standard furniture models for hospitals, schools, and offices.
After WWII, he moved into his own factory in Maxéville, France, where he experimented with prefabrication of building elements, furniture, and even complete flat-pack houses, such as a series of residences he designed for refugees in the Niger and the Republic of Congo in 1949 and 1950. His ingenious work set a precedent for efficiency in design and manufacturing that would have a lasting impact on the industry.