03 June 2007

prouve on the east river

Got a chance to stop by Jean Prouve's Maison Tropicale over the weekend. For those who haven't heard - the "large prototype" for a prefabricated house designed for French colonial Africa is on display through Tuesday in Long Island City. The house is being auctioned Tuesday evening at Christies (see link here) with an estimated selling price of $4 to $6 million. Needless to say, the structure is gorgeous and exquisitely detailed -- not to mention timely, considering the recent resurgence of interest in prefab architecture.
One can't help but recognize the irony, however, of this product of genuine idealism and faith in mass-producible modernism now reaching a state of such preciousness that it must be auctioned off by Christie's for such a huge sum. Such is the dilemma of preservation, I suppose. Surely Mr. Prouve, were he still with us, would enjoy the contemporary hipness of prefab; yet he must also be rolling a bit in his grave, knowing that his work has become yet another collector's item for the rich. Nevertheless - it's a beautiful piece of architecture, and it's well worth the visit if you have a chance over the next few days. The surreal tableau of Prouve in a vacant waterfront lot, the Queensboro Bridge, and the skyline of Manhattan makes for a unique experience, to say the least.

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