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The Prouvé Standard Chair

December 17th, 2018

Category: WB Jamieson

Author: Darren Seymour

The Jean Prouvé Standard chair by Vitra is the products of the French, self-taught architect and furniture maker. His work often concentrated on mass-produced pieces designed for the public sector at a time when new manufacturing techniques allowed for comparatively quicker and cheaper methods of production, suited to a period of great growth. Commissioned to create chairs, stools and desks fro hospitals, schools and government departments.


Early standard chair sketch                           A Prouve hospital door  

Prouvé has become regarded as one of the most influential designers of the early modernist movement. His early beginnings in his first workshop located in northeast France saw the younger designer make everything from letter openers and door hinges to furniture and even prefabricated houses. Prouvé’s humble beginnings as a blacksmith’s apprentice gave him an understanding of the materials, he would go on to work with in his designs. Preferring to use folded sheets metal to the rods of his Bauhaus contemporaries, he developed one of his most well-known piece’s; The Standard Chair. The unusual form of the Standard chair’s hollow back legs were developed to take the strain of the user’s weight into the floor. Creating a piece of furniture that is both lightweight and strong.


Prouve's prefabricated house design, constrctued from dismantable Steel.  Interior structure of prefabricated house with signature tapering frame which can be found in the standard chair


During the second world war, Prouvé was an active member of the French resistance with his factory producing steel huts for the French army. In 1944, he created more that 1,00 collapsible housing units for the homeless and later a prefabricated steel house that could be built in around five hours. His contribution to society was recognised when he was elected as the Mayor of the French town of Nancy in 1944. Before his death in 1984 Prouvé played a major role in the election of Richard Rogers to design the centre Georges Pompidou in Paris. Rogers called Prouvé a major influence on him saying of Prouvé: “a pioneer in linking the process of construction to the language of modern architecture”. 


Petrol station design by Jean Prouve


Prouvé’s work is now collected by a number of people including famous names such as Brad Pitt, Martha Stewart and US art dealer Larry Gagosian. The Standard Chair now is produced with authorisation by Vitra, with new iterations of this iconic piece available in a range of plastic colours as well as the original wood finish. Giving the chair a more contemporary look and feel, further adding to its versatility.


The Standard Chair


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