Desk type CPDE, 1934
After an initial, unrealized design for a curved desk in 1932, the competition for equipping the new headquarters of the Paris Electric Company (CPDE) gave Prouvé the chance to create a set of office furniture that would lay the groundwork for his models to come. For the all-metal desk-tables, he came up with the idea of a frame usable for different models: made of welded bent steel, it comprised legs “in two perpendicular planes” with a broad strip of bent steel running around three sides. Suspended lateral compartments could be set each side of the central drawer and accommodate various kinds of interchangeable fittings. In addition to an unflinching sturdiness, Prouvé was out to provide user comfort: generous metal worktops in three sizes covered with plate glass or linoleum, and high enough to allow you to cross your legs; a special secretary’s worktop with a sunken area for the typewriter; soundproofed metal parts; and a host of possible combinations and details including a telephone tray, a wastepaper basket and a swiveling mail tray that could be attached to the frame. As a rule the metal parts were painted in black or light yellow enamel. A variant featured legs with a stainless steel protective shoe. This model was one of the Ateliers Jean Prouvé’s major sellers in the mass production furniture line: some 1 000 desks—800 of them for the CPDE—of which some were subcontracted out. Hailed as a rarity in the specialist press, this desk, a mass-produced item that could also be used in the home, continued to be made until 1939, when work began on modifications intended to lighten the frame. Fitted with profiled legs, the new model BM metal desk also sold very well in the post-war period.