Two-seater school desk, 1935
Responding to a call for tenders for furniture for the École Nationale Professionnelle (ENP) in Metz in 1935, Jean Prouvé once again looked into the question of school equipment and the market it represented. The result was the principle for a two-seater school desk whose bent steel frame was composed of a lengthwise beam and bases supporting seats and a wooden top. The tapered legs mounted on transverse tubes were abandoned1 and replaced by a profile similar to that of the rear frame of the chair no. 4. The 1936 prototype shows the main characteristics of this model, which was produced in numerous series and variants until the 1950s: the tubular frame for the base was welded to the girder box, on which the wooden elements were mounted. Production of a large series for the ENP led the Ateliers Jean Prouvé to use the same—officially registered—principle for marketing three variants on a twoseater school desk for adults, which could be provided with sheet metal seats and fittings (no. 51, no. 52, no. 57). Another version allowed for assemblage in rows (no. 59). Catalogs and advertising stressed the items’ resilience and safety. After the War the model was slightly modified: the central beam was thinned down, a welded metal plate separated the compartments, brackets were welded onto the front legs to support the top, and the pressed metal seats were given wider backrests. Demand was such that the Ateliers Jean Prouvé had to resort to subcontracting.2 Several Ministère de l’Éducation rules—a ban on metal seats and closed compartments, for example—led to modification of certain details. In early 1952, a lighter version
(no. 850) in four sizes was commercialized, which complied with the latest requirements: the triangular section tapered legs were thinned down, the steel brace was replaced with a tube, and the plywood compartment was completely open. A sheet aluminum version of this model was looked into, but like the version with a cast aluminum base it did not go beyond the prototype stage.
1. However they were used again fifteen years later for the Maternelle model.
2. For, among others, the Société de Constructions Aéro-Navales (SCAN) at La Rochelle, their main competitor for mass-production school buildings.