Lecture hall chairs, 1950
The Ateliers Jean Prouvé’s first venture into lecture hall furniture was for the École des Sciences Politiques in Paris in 1934. The studies undertaken at this time led to the development of two systems: the one used for this project—a bent steel and tubing frame for wooden tables with fixed seats, separated by the same open-box crosspieces as on the two-seater school desks; and another type of frame made of vertical bent steel pedestals fixed to the floor with plates and supporting the tilting seats and the armrests. The latter system was reused fifteen years later, circa 1950, when the university market was booming; adapted in 1952 for the lecture halls in the Universities in Lille, Besançon and Dijon; and used at the Institut Français du Pétrole in Rueil, in 1956. These briefs emphasized listeners’ comfort: the tip-up seats were cushioned with imitation leather, as were the backrests, each fitted with a swivel writingtablet. At the same time, other systems intended for mass production were developed as part of projects that sometimes gave their name to the model in question: hence the Lisbonne type, whose tip-up seat was mounted on the front of the bent steel frame of the table. The equipping of the lecture halls at the Faculté de Médecine in Paris gave rise to a simplified combination of the two proceeding systems: vertical triangular-section uprights to which were welded brackets that supported the benches and writing surfaces. In addition to these three standard models marketed by Steph Simon, other items used the same system, with different connections between the steel supports and the horizontal elements. Adjustment mechanisms were sometimes included. This was notably the case of the furniture created in 1953 for the lecture halls at the Centre national d’éducation physique (CNEP) at Joinville: the triangularsection steel uprights, on which the seats and backrests were mounted, were horizontally connected by tubes on which the desks pivoted. By contrast the project for a lecture theatre at the Faculté de Droit in Aix-Marseille gave rise in 1951 to a brand new type of chair: the Bergère. In all cases these were major projects involving hundreds of seats. After Jean Prouvé’s departure and until 1959, they represented the main body of the furniture being made in the Maxéville factory.