A visionary creator, Jean Prouvé came to architecture indirectly: the production of technically innovative housing components led him to overall building design and the honing of construction methods. The resulting principles were put to work in response to France’s postwar reconstruction drive and the need for affordable, mass-produced housing.
Commitment to reconstruction and research into the potential of the axial portal frame system had in fact begun in 1938, when the Ateliers Jean Prouvé patented a “demountable metal-frame structure” using an 8 square meter (26.2 feet) module. The size was based on the capacity of the big bending press in the workshop, which machined 4-meter sheets of steel. This technical given meant a minimum area of 64 square meters (689 square feet) per module: a living space acceptable both to the occupants and to the constructor with their interests at heart.
In 1944–45, after meticulous transposition of Prouvé’s construction methods to family housing, a number of the 8×8 Demountable Houses were produced, with improvements aimed at greater comfort. The load-bearing structure was made entirely of bent sheet steel, as were the floor joists and the roof, unusually made of slabs. The use of this model for definitive reconstruction led to the manufacture of the Metropole house in 1949.