La Maison Tropicale, one of the three existing houses from 1951, by the architect Jean Prouvé, is erected and open for viewing now, in front of the Tate Modern museum. It was discovered by Eric Touchaleaume who has been called the "Indiana Jones of furniture collecting". He has spent the last decade scouring remote parts of the world for valuable artifacts such as this house. Having bought 600 of Prouvé's chairs, he became obsessed with finding the house. Hearing that someone had seen one in Brazzaville, he travelled there and found two of them damaged by bullet holes and corrosion. It took six months to get the buildings out of the Congo because of the civil war and tribal conflicts.
He also found a former Air France headquarters building, furnished by Prouvé. As the word spread that he was looking for furniture from it, people gradually brought their pieces to him. He eventually wrapped the whole thing in banana leaves, in 15 shipping containers and got them shipped out to France. Martha Stewart, Brad Pitt and Marc Jacobs are big collectors. His next challenge: the restoration of a building by the French architect Robert Mallet-Stevens. Now for the house itself...
The house is made from folded sheet steel and aluminum. Designed as a prefab to be shipped to the tropics, all the parts were flat and could be neatly packed and shipped in a cargo plane. Unfortunately once the houses got there the French rejected them.
The house is on stilts so that one could have tables and chairs underneath, at ground level, and be sheltered from the rain and beating sun, but still catch the breezes.
The inside, as displayed, is one huge room. The walls are a green blue and the doors a creamy yellow. There are wood floors. The walls were metal and consisted of sliding doors on two sides. The round portholes in the doors have blue glass to protect against sun rays. On the other two sides are french doors that open .
At the bottom of each door are round louvres which open and close. There is a veranda all the way around with an adjustable aluminum sun screen with louvres.
A double roof structure was designed to produce natural ventilation. :: Guardian