Galerie Patrick Seguin, Paris
May 25 - September 29, 2012
5, rue des Taillandiers, 75011 Paris
+33 1 47 00 32 35

There is a story behind the Jean Prouve house that has been constructed within the walls of the Patrick Seguin gallery in Paris….

It's January 1954, the Paris winter is especially harsh and the housing shortage has been getting steadily worse since the war. Abbé Pierre, a Catholic priest, has called for an amendment to the social housing legislation: an immediate allocation of one billion old francs (1.5 million euros) for emergency housing construction. The amendment is rejected during the night of 3 January. The same night a child and an old woman die of cold in Paris. Abbé Pierre launches a poignant radio appeal for help and at the end of the month he founds The Emmaus Community to fight for the rights of the homeless.

It was to Jean Prouvé that Abbé Pierre turned for the design and construction of a low-budget housing prototype: some 50 square meters including kitchen, bathroom and toilet unit, two bedrooms and a big living room. The prototype was intended as the basis for mass production of individual and apartment-block accommodation. To finance the scheme he launched a fresh appeal – "Help us give them homes now!" – and the detergent company Persil weighed in with a back-up advertising campaign: every pack carried a voucher and for every voucher returned Abbé Pierre received 10 francs from Persil.

At the same time the first display prototype was built on Quai Alexandre III in Paris. The public was as enthused by the idea as the building's creators, but this 57m2 house that took seven hours to assemble was too revolutionary for its time and the permits needed for mass-production were not forthcoming: according to the bureaucrats the toilet area had to give onto the exterior. This refusal put a definite end to the project. Far from the original mass produced goals only a very few exemplary will ever be realized.