By 1956, Jean Prouvé had established himself among France’s top designers of temporary emergency buildings, and as a result was commissioned to design a school complex in Villejuif, in the inner Paris suburbs. The specifications called for a lightweight building that could be put together quickly and would lend itself to being dismantled and re-erected elsewhere.
The construction principle Prouvé developed for the school takes from the principle applied to the Cachat pump room at Evian, which is now a classified historical monument. Based on prefabricated elements, the asymmetrical structure used sheet steel props to support a curved, cantilevered, laminated wood roof. The fully glazed facade was punctuated by sheet steel sections serving both as stiffeners and ventilation elements.
Designed to be temporary, the school was later demounted and its components used in other buildings. These elements are now acknowledged features of the history of twentieth-century architecture: one of the props was exhibited at the Centre Pompidou in Paris in 1990 and again in 2000.