Prouvé in Tijuana: Back to Necessities, Back to the Public

Jean Prouvé was a post-war French architect renowned for his development of prefabricated social housing. In the 1960s three prototypes of his Maison Tropicale were deployed in Africa. Years later they were salvaged: one now lives in the Pompidou (Paris); one in the Museum of Modern Art (New York).  NYC-based art collectors Bob Rubin and Stéphane Samuel obtained the remaining pieces of this third, and in 2016 they entrusted them to the Center on Global Justice.  Rubin and Samuels are eager to return Prouvé to his original intention of advancing public housing and infrastructure in sites of greatest need.

Prouvé arrives in Tijuana at a ripe moment.  On the one hand, as a provocation to remind the art and design world why Prouvé matters.  This is especially important now as his work continues to be commodified and desecrated.  We ultimately honor Prouvé by catalyzing a new community-based approach to economic development in the slums of Tijuana.

We are honoring Prouvé’s legacy in two ways:

1) We are incorporating these Prouve’s remains into the design of the UCSD-Divina Community Station – essentially, a public house (in the spirit of Prouvé’s Maison du Peuple ) to improve living conditions for marginalized populations in the informal spaces of Tijuana’s periphery, a few miles from the US-Mexico border.  The Prouvé remains will be integrated functionally, never decoratively, into the UCSD / Divina Community Station design, and will serve as an architectural homage to him, an authentic resuscitation and reiteration of Prouvé’s spirit.

2) We are inspired by Prouvé’s commitment to scaling self-built housing by linking prefabricated housing pieces (“an architecture of parts”) to rapid mobilization and local assembly.  We are engaging prefabrication as a strategy to confront the present housing crisis at the border, exacerbated by unjust US immigration and asylum policies over the last 18 months. The Mecalux system is an essential design element of the of the UCSD-Alácran Community Station + Housing Project (link to that page).  Mobilizing the factory-made Mecalux structural frame as an infrastructure that is infilled with recycled parts, built with the informal skills and scrappiness of Tijuana’s inhabitants and their sweat equity, is a unique approach to a social-economy of housing.  Bringing sweat equity into the economic model means that neighborhoods can be developers of their own housing, in control of the means of production.

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