Jean Prouvé’s creations “more relevant today” according to Catherine Prouvé

The daughter of the late French architect and designer Jean Prouvé says her father’s work has become more prominent lately.

From modular constructions to light metal furniture, Jean Prouvé’s designs were pioneering ideas and techniques that helped define the era of mass production.

Catherine Prouvé, who has managed the Jean Prouvé archives since his death in 1984, told Dezeen that the work is better appreciated today than when he was alive.

Above: Catherine Prouvé has managed her father’s archives since his death in 1984. Above: Vitra presents Jean Prouvé’s designs at Tramshed during the London Design Festival

“I see how my father’s approach to architecture and furniture design is better understood among younger generations,” Prouvé said.

“His works seem perhaps more relevant today than in his time.”

Now 82, Prouvé has spent the past 20 years working with furniture brand Vitra to update and reissue designs from her father’s archive.

She spoke to Dezeen ahead of the London Design Festival, where Vitra is showcasing products including the new Armchair Kangaroo lounge chair, designed in 1948.

The Kangaroo lounge chair by Jean Prouvé launched by Vitra
She has worked with Vitra to reissue designs, including the new Armchair Kangaroo lounge chair

Like many of Jean Prouvé’s creations, the Kangourou Armchair was originally designed for public spaces rather than the home. This is indicative of the designer’s ambition to make quality design accessible to everyone.

Prouvé thinks this attitude may have contributed to his father’s work being initially undervalued.

“When I was a child, my father made school and university furniture; he wanted to do the best at the lowest possible price,” she says.

“It didn’t generate a lot of interest in the context of the time.”

Jean Prouvé House
Jean Prouvé used the same principles of modular construction that he developed for his Maisons Démontables for the design of his own family home in Nancy.

She remembers being upset when people used the words ‘barracks’ or ‘cabins’ to describe the collapsible houses that Jean Prouvé developed to shelter the homeless after World War II.

“It wasn’t until later, when his furniture was salvaged by gallery owners, that vintage pieces became so sought after,” Prouvé said. “Now his creations are better understood.”

Interior of the Jean Prouvé House
The Maison Jean Prouvé is now maintained by the Museum of Fine Arts. It is open for viewing by appointment, but is also still used as a home

As the youngest of five siblings, Prouvé grew up in Nancy, France, with his father and mother, Madeleine.

Along with her friends and family, she helped her father build their own modernist house in 1954, the now famous Maison Jean Prouvé. “His creations were part of our daily life,” she said.

Prouvé said the biggest lesson she learned from her father was the value of simplicity in design.

“His thinking started with a sketch,” she said. “Creative and inventive, he was inspired by new materials – sheet metal, glass, polymers – and the innovative possibilities they offered in response to housing issues.”

Jean Prouvé Archives at the Vitra Design Museum
Furniture originals from the Vitra Design Museum were used to develop new versions

Since 2002, Prouvé has worked closely with Vitra to release more than 20 of his father’s most successful designs, including the Direction Chair, the Cité Lounge Chair and the EM Table.

The new versions have been developed through extensive examination of vintage originals from the extensive collection of the Vitra Design Museum in Weil am Rhein, Germany.

Vitra launches further Jean Prouvé designs at the Tramshed in Shoreditch during the London Design Festival 2022

Vitra presents the creations of Jean Prouvé at Tramshed
Vitra is relaunching the Tabouret N° 307 and Tabouret Métallique stools as part of its London Design Festival exhibition. The photo is by Taran Wilkhu

Vitra is relaunching some lesser-known creations by Jean Prouvé at the London Design Festival, including the Tabouret N° 307 and Tabouret Métallique stools, as well as the Rayonnage Mural wall shelf.

These will be on display in Vitra’s new London showroom in the Tramshed building in Shoreditch, which opens on 20 September.

Prouvé says she feels proud to be the guardian of her father’s creations.

“I believe my father would be happy and surprised to see his designs still alive,” she said. “It’s a big responsibility, but it’s important to do it well.”

The main image is by Taran Wilkhu