Jean Prouvé

Jean Prouvé

Extended! — Due to its popularity, the Tropical House will remain on view at the Hammer Museum through the holidays.

A prefabricated metal house constructed by French designer Jean Prouvé, known as the Tropical House, will be installed in the Hammer Museum courtyard during October and November 2005. Installation of Jean Prouvé: A Tropical House will begin on October 4, and deinstallation will begin in January, 2006. The installation and deinstallation periods will last for approximately two weeks and are integral aspects of the display, allowing the public to observe, first-hand, Prouvé’s notions of prefabricated architecture in practice.
Prouvé designed the Tropical House in 1949 as a prototype for inexpensive, readily assembled housing that could be easily transported to France’s African colonies. Fabricated in Prouvé’s French workshops, the components for the house were completed in 1951 and were flown disassembled to Africa in the cargo hold of an airplane. The house was erected in the town of Brazzaville, Congo, where it remained for nearly 50 years. In 1999, the Tropical House was disassembled and shipped back to France for restoration.

Organized by Robert Rubin.

Related Exhibitions

The Museum of Contemporary Art, Pacific Design Center
Jean Prouvé: Three Nomadic Structures
August 14 – November 27, 2005

An exhibition featuring furniture, architectural elements, and photographs relating to three prefabricated Prouvé buildings—the Glassmaking School in Croismare, France, the Tropical House for Brazzaville and Niamey, Africa, and the Aluminum Centenary Pavilion in Villepinte, France.

For more information visit

Small Space Gallery, Perloff Hall, UCLA
Jean Prouvé: Drawings and Photographs of A Tropical House
October 17 – December 9, 2005

An exhibition exploring Prouvé’s lightweight-metal building system for the Tropical House through drawings, photographs, and construction materials. Components of the Tropical House will be displayed in the Perloff Hall courtyard.

For more information visit

About Jean Prouvé's Tropical House

By Robert Rubin

For nearly five decades, the French designer and constructeur Jean Prouvé (1901–84) built prototypes for industrialized building systems and pioneered architectural applications of steel aluminum and plastic. The son of a founder of L’École de Nancy, an industrial guild of the nineteenth and early-twentieth centuries, Prouvé grew up in a culture of craft and collaboration that fed a deep artisanal engagement with materials. Moreover, he trained as an ironworker, not as an architect or engineer. While today he is best known for his furniture designs, he made significant contributions to iconic twentieth-century buildings. His work in and around Nancy quickly led to significant commissions from Rob Mallet-Stevens, Le Corbusier, and other leading modernist architects. As he created ironwork for the most expensive private residences in Paris, Prouvé began his lifelong engagement with the industrialization of architecture, particularly its application to mass housing.

For example, when the French government announced the initiation of paid vacations for workers, Prouvé responded with the BLPS (1937–39), a prefabricated steel vacation home. Weighing less than two tons, the 3.3 square meter ( 35.5 square feet) structure could be put up or taken down by five workers in four to five hours. As World War II loomed, Prouvé made barracks for the French army, which prefigured his later housing for the wartime homeless. With the outbreak of war, in collaboration with Le Corbusier and Pierre Jeanneret, he conceived of Écoles Volantes (“flying schools”) for war refugees, with classrooms and dining facilities on the ground floor and dormitories upstairs. After the war he developed a more elaborate prefabricated steel house project, the Stahlhaus, with such highly evolved details as sliding windows that disappear into pockets.


Jean Prouvé: A Tropical House was curated by Robert Rubin and installed by Alain Banneel and Atelier Banneel; consulting architect for the restoration was Christian Enjolras. The Hammer wishes to thank Cristina Grajales; Mark Lyon; Dean Sakamoto, director of exhibitions, and his staff at the Yale University School of Architecture Gallery for their assistance in this project.

The presentation at the Hammer Museum is made possible, in part, by Sotheby’s and the Cultural Services of the French Consulate in Los Angeles.