Jean Prouvé architecture goes on show at Marseille sculpture park

Jean Prouvé architecture goes on show at Marseille sculpture park

This summer sees the third open-air exhibition of lightweight architecture and sculpture at the Friche d’Escalette in Marseille. The park (a former lead mine) and its exhibits are privately owned by Éric Touchaleaume, a collector and dealer of the Fab Four – Jean Prouvé, Pierre Jeanneret, Charlotte Perriand and Le Corbusier. Touchaleaume’s dream was to restore this abandoned industrial heritage site to its former beauty, juxtaposing the works of architects and sculptors of the 20th century against the brick remains of the abandoned mine.

This year’s exhibition is entitled ‘Jean Prouvé North-South – In Praise of Simplicity’ and features two of Prouvé’s most iconic prefabricated houses, the ‘North’, Pavillon de Lorraine, and the ‘South’, Bungalow du Cameroun, both exquisite examples of his signature ingenuity and unique aesthetic.

The two iconic Jean Prouvé structures sit side by side with a sculpture by Gérard Lardeur. Photography: C. Baraja - E Touchaleaume, archives Galerie 54, Paris

The Pavillon de Lorraine was commissioned by Prouvé’s atelier immediately after the liberation of France by Raoul Dautry, minister for reconstruction, for Lorraine families whose homes had been destroyed by bombing during the Second World War. Several hundred units were produced, and this is one of just 20 of them to have survived. This model has been exhibited in Miami, Los Angeles and Shanghai and is particularly noteworthy for Prouvé and Jeanneret’s ingenious ceiling gantry crane, whose especially compact design was created as a response to the shortage of steel during the war.

The Bungalow du Cameroun is a single module residential design for tropical wet zones, built to house a teacher or to be used as a classroom (double modules were made for families). The particular structure is one of the very few not to have suffered damage from the extremes of a tropical climate, termites and looting over half a century of wear and tear.

In terms of the art included in the show, this year, Touchaleaume shines a spotlight on overlooked sculptors of the 20th and 21st centuries, including Parvine Curie, François Stahly, Gérard Lardeur, Shamaï Haber and Costas Coulentianos. The works were selected for their ability to resonate with the architecture, nature and landscape of the site.

Wear sturdy shoes for the steep climb on loose gravel, and take a wide-brimmed hat to protect from the scalp-searing heat. Follow up this cultural immersion with a plunge into the crystal clear Med from the little stone pier just across the road. And bring a picnic. §

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