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Exhibition - Something to Prouvé

‘Put down that mouse and be inspired, or at least curious,’ says Alex de Rijke, co-founder of dRMM Architects, of the Jean Prouvé exhibition at the Design Museum in London.

Until 13 April at the Design Museum, Shad Thames, London SE1.

Architects suffer various gaps in their education in the UK, notably any real knowledge of continental Modernism other than that assiduously published by Le Corbusier. The brilliant work of the French
manufacturer, furniture designer, self-styled engineer/architect and teacher Jean Prouvé (1901-1984) is a large gap in received history; one finally filled by this show at the Design Museum. The first serious UK presentation of his work, the exhibition originates from the Vitra Design Museum in Weil am Rhein, Germany, in co-operation with the Deutsches Architekturmuseum in Frankfurt and the Design Museum Akihabara in Tokyo, Japan. It’s a great show for anyone who likes making, and therefore drawing and thinking.
Ignore the Design Museum’s strapline of Prouvé as ‘the man who invented High-Tech’. This marketing label does no justice to the work, which is imbued with the socialist integrity of the author and his collaborators. With the exception of Richard Rogers and Renzo Piano’s Pompidou Centre (yes, Prouvé
chaired the competition jury), British High- Tech is mostly about the image of technology, whereas Prouvé’s work is about the practical, political and economic context of mass production. He was driven to make standardised low-cost products to improve life, particularly for public buildings. Furniture and components for schools, factories and social and refugee housing form the bulk of his early work. It’s about content, not (only) form, and is, unsuprisingly, far more interesting.

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