Revisiting a Classic: The EM Table

Jean Prouvé

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Always striving for efficiency and practicality in his designs and strongly influenced by his engineering background, French engineer/designer Jean Prouvé designed the EM table in 1950. Using the principles of force vectors and static connections, the diagonally angled legs provide for an extremely sturdy working surface or dining table.

Jean Prouvé abandoned his engineering training to focus on more practical objects like doorknobs, letter openers, tables and homes. While his extensive understanding of metal focused the body of his work, he also collaborated with some of the most famous designers of the time, including Le Corbusier and Charlotte Perriand.

Prouvé designed a series of tables, including that EM table, using an innovative technique that involved folded sheet metal. As he considered himself more engineer than designer, the construction was governed by the science of bridges while the design has the presence of architecture. The slant of the legs adds an elegance that although aesthetically pleasing is present solely due to its functionality.

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The EM table was actually developed for the "Maison Tropicale" project, a commission he received to produce prototype prefabricated tropical homes to address the shortage of housing in the French colonies of West Africa.

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After Prouvé was forced to leave furniture design, he devoted much of his time to the design of prefabricated homes. In fact, his own home, designed as a prototype, is considered a major step forward in prefab design.

Recently, Germany's Vitra reintroduced a series of Prouve's designs. The Em table, as well as his Gueridon Table and Potence Lamp and others, are all available at Design Within Reach or hive.

(Image credits: 1 - Lena Amua / Vitra, 2 - hive, 3 - Inhabit)