Présidence desk, 1948
The Présidence desk was a large desk made for company directors. Its shape and fittings meant it could be used both as a personal workspace and as a conference table for three to six people. The wide-angle return provided room for documents or, temporarily, for a secretary. The curved, L-shaped top was originally solid, then laminated wood, usually oak. Often covered with glass, it rested on an asymmetrical bent steel base comprising two portal frames corresponding to the differing widths and connected by a brace. The tapered legs were fitted with stainless steel “shoes”. A metal drawer compartment was attached to the underside of the top. Initially called bureau Haricot or H, this model1 was specially designed in 1948 for the head of Chèques Postaux de Bruxelles. Not long afterwards a second one was made for M. Bindschedler, director of the Ferembal factory in Nancy. The Présidence model that emerged from these initial versions became the emblem of the “architect’s as well as, chairman’s desk”. In the 1950s it was to be found in the studios of the top architects in Paris and the rest of France, many of whom were Prouvé’s friends and collaborators such as: B. H. Zehrfuss, Jean de Mailly, Jean Sebag, André Remondet and Louis Sainsaulieu. It was also supplied to industrialists—the one belonging to the head of the SCAL aluminum firm in Issoire is now in the musée des Arts décoratifs in Paris—and in some cases to high-ranking government administrators. At Maxéville, Jean Prouvé worked on a Présidence desk, after using a Standard model in his own office. During the twenty years it was on the market, the Présidence underwent no significant modifications.2 Its size, thickness and proportions did not change. Apart from the pull-out pen shelf built into the top, it was offered with a lacquered steel drawer compartment like those on the other desks in the range. In 1956 the Steph Simon gallery began marketing the Présidence desk, then took over the manufacturing, along with other Prouvé models. It was still to be found on price lists in 1965 and continued to sell sporadically until the early 1970s. In all, however, only some thirty were made. In 1960, Prouvé designed a “large desk” for the Oscar company, in the same spirit as the Présidence desk with a curved wood or metal top and a semi-metallic base. However, it would seem that the project never went beyond the prototype stage.
1. It features under the title Présidence in the catalog Les Meubles des Ateliers Jean Prouvé, published early in 1951, and as no. 201 in price lists from 1952 onwards.
2. Documents in the company archives make mention of plans for special versions. No conclusions can be drawn as to actual production, but the making of versions of different dimensions cannot be excluded.