Cité chair, 1930
Chronologically, this was the third model to emerge from the Ateliers Jean Prouvé, having been designed shortly after the two “mechanical” models, of which only a few were made. Intended to meet very specific requirements, it was the first to be mass-produced under the terms of a public contract: the equipping of the new dormitory of the Cité Universitaire of Nancy.1 For reasons of economy and weight, the frame was made of tubular steel, in apparent contradiction with Prouvé’s convictions; but the material used was heating pipe with a diameter larger than that of standard furniture tubing. Despite its sturdy look, the base is not without an elegant lightness: contrast is obtained by the cross-shaped brace under the seat, to which is attached the curving arm of bent steel (flattened tubing) bearing the backrest, also curved. The seat and back are of polished solid oak and the metal frame is painted red, as are the other items in the series. Fewer than sixty of these chairs were made for the Nancy University dormitory; it would seem that the series was taken no further and never reissued. Two quite similar models, with a tubular frame trimmed with wood or sailcloth, were designed in the Ateliers Jean Prouvé for use in sanatoriums, but appear neither in the drawings nor the photos of the prototype rooms. Shortly afterwards, completion of the design of the chair no. 4, closer to Prouvé’s convictions, gave the firm access to the public sector market.
1. In 1930, Jean Prouvé, who at the time was solicited by the architect Jean Bourgon to furnish the large entrance gates of the Cité Universitaire (for which Bourgon’s construction project was drawing to an end), also submitted, alongside local renowned firms like Majorelle, a proposal for the fitting out of 360 dormitory rooms. Unlike the more established firms who proposed conventional wooden furniture, Jean Prouvé designs a bed with an integrated side-table, a desk and chair, a bookshelf and an armchair, and despite economic constraints, Prouvé presented comfortable prototypes of these pieces in metal and wood. He was awarded the realization of some fifty rooms, which distinguish themselves strongly from those of his colleagues