The ‘Standard’ Chair by Jean Prouvé is anything but
Written by Sara Black
Photography Supplied by Vitra
INDEX looks at an iconic design moment. Is it your typical, basic, common, normal, average chair? No.
At first glance, the ‘Standard’ Chair may appear a little underwhelming. Hell, even the name is self-deprecating. But look for more than a fleeting moment and you’ll soon spot some design nuances that fast-forward it to top of class. Its front legs reminiscent of those found at your local primary school but the hind suggest an architectural hand at play.
Jean Prouvé, the man responsible for the chair, was born at the turn of the 20th century, 1901 to be exact. French, a metal-worker, self-taught architect and designer, Prouvé was the epitome of a multi-disciplined creative. A ‘Jean’ of all trades, if you will. His career kicked off with decorative wrought-iron production but he swiftly settled upon a minimalist aesthetic of smooth-surface folded metal.
Beginning with storefronts and elevators, Prouvé’s commissions soon ramped up to include furniture, gates to the Verdun Memorial, and railings and gratings for Parisian mansions designed by architect Robert Mallet-Stevens.
In his 30th year, he founded Ateliers Jean Prouvé and began to collaborate with architects Eugène Beaudouin, Marcel Lods, Charlotte Perriand and Pierre Jeanneret. Prouvé leaned toward the public sector and, five years into his business had carved out a niche producing a catalogue of standard models for hospitals, schools and offices.
The origins of the ‘Standard’ Chair began in 1934 and was conceived as a portable, knockabout chair which could happily bear weight via the voluminous hollow sections of its back legs. The simplified bentwood base and backpiece adding to the utilitarian vibes so prevalent in mass public seating. Sadly, the design became so iconic and coveted that many modern-day furniture companies now offer a knock-off version, missing a moral beat and muddying the waters of design copyright and creative integrity.
Want one? Purchase via the official manufacturer, Vitra, who, in close cooperation with the Prouvé family, issue re-editions of this iconic design moment.
Prouvé poses in front of Maisons Tropicale’s façade detailing, an aluminium prefab house designed for use in Africa.