PAVILLON 6×9 (1944/45)
Height to ridge beam 2,90 m.
Footprint 6 x 9 m.
‘We should build houses in series like automobiles…’
— Jean Prouvé
A brief overview of the history of progressive design is necessary if we are to understand why these small-scale constructions and their designers have played such an important rôle in shaping modern and contemporary architecture. The leaders of the Modern movement like Le Corbusier (1887-1965) and Mallet-Stevens (1886-1945) were exponents of reinforced concrete poured on-site, an invention made popular early in the 20th c. by Gustave Perret (1876-1952).
In the 1930s the younger generation took a different stand, with designers like Jean Prouvé (1901- 1984) and Buckminster Fuller (1895-1983) in the USA, who came out for prefabrication using standard factory-made components (metal/timber/ glass) able to be assembled dry in record time.
In the past 50 years, the hegemony of concrete has lost favour – notably as a result of highprestige cultural buildings that made use of the materials and techniques promoted by Jean Prouvé. The avant-garde project submitted in 1971 by Renzo Piano and Richard Rogers for the Pompidou Centre in Paris is examplary. It was selected by the jury of an international competition, whose honorary president was Jean Prouvé. Since then other leading architects like Jean Nouvel and Frank Gehry – to mention only two – have produced high profile contemporary buildings, most of them using prefab components assembled in situ like a gigantic Meccano set.
The Pavillon 6×9 originated as an emergency housing solution commissioned from Ateliers Jean Prouvé after the Liberation by the French ministry of reconstruction, to provide shelter for the people of Lorraine whose homes had been destroyed by bombing. 700 units were made, in various formats, of which some thirty have survived, painstakingly restored and now much sought after by collectors world wide.
This maisonnette is a perfect embodiment of the series construction concept dear to Jean Prouvé, which he first experimented with in the 1930s: it was made in a workshop, delivered in a kit, and assembled on site in just a few days.
It features the axial portal frame and various bearing components in folded sheet steel (Prouvé’s signature material/technique) used with sheathing/insulating elements designed as dual partition wooden panels, a postwar material later replaced by aluminium.
Some of these small, tough, functional and cheap houses were still being lived in in the early 2000s, even though they were initially intended to be temporary.