Title page for ETD etd-11112009-125538

Type of Document Master's Thesis
Author O'Day, Kathleen
Author's Email Address koday1@tigers.lsu.edu
URN etd-11112009-125538
Title Tropical or Colonial? A Reception History of Jean Prouve's Prefabricated Houses for Africa
Degree Master of Arts (M.A.)
Department Art
Advisory Committee
Advisor Name Title
Spieth, Darius Committee Chair
Desmond, Michael Committee Member
Parker, Rod Committee Member
  • Maisons Tropicales
Date of Defense 2009-10-30
Availability unrestricted
Known for his industrialized furniture, Jean Prouvé is recognized as an innovative and idealistic designer. Yet it was the recent sale of one of three Maisons Tropicales prototype houses built for the French colonies in Africa, that he gained real notoriety. Made entirely of aluminum and steel, these flat pack houses were built light enough to be transported by airplane from Europe to remote locations in Africa to address the 1950’s housing shortage in the French colonies. To understand the evolution of these houses from their design to their current resettlement and restorations, this thesis investigates Prouvé’s background and influences that drove him to innovate. Furthermore, as a designer and factory owner, it illustrates how the business and economic challenges he faced played a significant role in directing his designs and manufacturing processes. Rather than being a colonial condescension as some have claimed, this thesis proposes that the initial designs for the Maisons Tropicales incorporated vernacular architectural characteristics, which indicate a desire, on the part of Prouvé, to combine European and African design elements. Finally the resettlements and restorations of the houses speak to those qualities, which are currently admired and those, which are overlooked. In doing so, they highlight the wide-ranging views that exist concerning colonialism and post-colonialism today.

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