Pavillon Marabout

Société Raymond Camus & Cie
Ateliers de Maxéville
Société Nouvelle de l’Industrie du Bâtiment
1958

 

 

50 m²
Aluminium & expanded polystyrene
Self-supporting structure
Dismountable architecture

Description

A modern-day icon

“Marabout C.M.S. (Camus-Maxéville-SNIB) is a mobile architecture project developed by engineer-constructor Raymond Camus from 1958 onwards, of which around a hundred were produced. This prototype, commissioned by EDF, is an advanced model of the series, with particularly advanced equipment.

This project is part of the culture of the Trente Glorieuses, a period marked by strong technological growth and a quest for mobility and communication. Architects and engineers – such as Jean Prouvé and Raymond Camus – came up with innovative housing solutions, adapted to areas far from the colonies and sometimes subject to extreme climates.

The Pavillon Marabout offers an image that is both futuristic – with its silvery metallic panels – and primitive. Its circular floor plan and flared roof draw on the imagination of the shelter house, evoking nomadic oriental dwellings such as the yurt.

High-performance architecture

The Marabout pavilion consists of 13 sloping wall panels and 13 roof panels. The trapezoidal wall panels are arranged in a tridecagonal plan. With a diameter of 8 metres at ground level, the structure offers a free surface area of 49.6 m² and a ceiling height of 3.2 m at its centre. Each pavilion has a door and 5 windows.

The Marabout has been produced in a number of models with variations to suit the needs of different customers (overhanging roofs, double roof, central ventilation stack, air conditioning, different windows, etc.).

The pavilion shown here, commissioned by EDF, was designed as a three-room flat to house the company’s workers. It incorporated wooden interior fittings, a kitchen and a bathroom.

Assembly of a Marabout prototype at the Maxéville workshops, archive image, date unknown, rights reserved.

Anonymous, sketch of the various stages in assembling the Marabout, date unknown

Technical prowess and simple assembly

The pavilion can be easily assembled by 4 people (non-specialists) in around 1 hour 30 minutes, and dismantled in 25 minutes.

All the panels are interchangeable, offering great design flexibility. A template placed on the floor guides the placement of the wall panels, which are assembled using steel joint covers. Cables are then used to hoop the structure like a barrel. For the roof, an assembly mast supports the structure so that the parts can be installed. The pavilion is then fixed to the ground.

Once dismantled, all the parts of the pavilion can be recovered and transported by lorry.

A Marabout converted into a bar (the “Cha-cha-cha”) at the Maison Verte base in Hassi Messaoud (Algeria) belonging to the Compagnie Française du Pétrole, archive image, date unknown, rights reserved.

Maison Verte base at Hassi Messaoud (Algeria) belonging to the Compagnie Française du Pétrole, archive image, date unknown, rights reserved.

A collaborative project

In 1956, the Central Engineering Directorate launched a competition for a demountable building designed for multi-purpose use (offices, refectories, dormitories, etc.) in the colonies and overseas territories. It had to be light, easy to erect and transport, and able to withstand extreme climates.

Société Raymond Camus & Cie is proposing a polyhedral construction with a self-supporting structure derived from the “Camus process”, a prefabrication technique developed by the engineer in 1948 for large-scale housing construction.

The first prototype, although promising, was too heavy to transport and too expensive to produce. The team, assisted by engineers from Aluminium Français, the Jean Prouvé workshops (later renamed the Maxéville prefabrication workshops) and Société Nouvelle de l’Industrie du Bâtiment, developed a 2nd, lighter prototype that met all the specifications. This was patented in 1958 and then marketed.

Diagram taken from the flag patent

The SHAPE village de Saint-Germain-en-Laye, Jean Dubuisson and Félix Dumail architectes, 1951, archive image.

The famous “Camus Process

The Camus process is a French-style model of heavy prefabrication that revolutionised the way buildings were designed in the 1950s. Patented in 1948 by the engineer Raymond Camus, it involves the factory prefabrication of large, self-supporting concrete elements, which include the finishing work (cladding, insulation, door and window frames, pipes, etc.). These sections of wall or floor are then transported to the site and assembled.

This technique was made famous in 1951 with the construction of the SHAPE village (Félix Dumail and Jean Dubuisson architectes) in Saint-Germain-en-Laye, designed to house the families of officers at NATO headquarters. Built in less than a year, it was visited by many dignitaries, including US President D. Eisenhower and USSR Construction Minister V.A. Koutcherenko.

By 1985, 170 million homes worldwide had been built using this technique, testifying to the “borderless” popularity of this French know-how during the troubled times of the Cold War.

Raymond Camus presents his prefabrication processes in Vienna. He is holding a photo of the Barhen housing estate built for the Lorraine coalfields. ©Archives Michel Camus

Raymond Camus, a French engineer

The son of an engineer and builder from Normandy, Raymond Camus was born in Le Havre in 1911 and died in Neuilly-sur-Seine in 1980. He studied at the Ecole Centrale des arts et manufactures in Paris, graduating in 1933.

In particular, he worked as an engineer for the Citroën factories, where he had to find solutions to the workers’ housing problems. There he became aware of the gulf between the car industry and construction, and wanted to “adapt the principles of industrial manufacturing to the construction of buildings […]”, in line with modern culture and the research of Jean Prouvé.

A partnership with Galerie Clément Cividino

Presented by Galerie Clément Cividino in partnership with Architecture de Collection, the “Pavillon Marabout” is the second act of this unprecedented collaboration.Since 2019, our agency and this gallery specialising in design have joined forces as part of a partnership focusing on the promotion and marketing of 20th-century mobile architecture.

Recognised as one of the world’s leading specialists in 20th-century design and architecture, Clément Cividino embodies the rising generation of “architecture-seeking” gallery owners.As a collector and curator for the past fifteen years, his keen eye has helped to bring to light the work of many architects, designers and artists of the second 20th century – notably Georges Candilis, Jean Paul Barray and the Simonnets. Over the years, Clément Cividino has built up a collection that is as demanding as it is diverse, from which he designs original exhibitions, structured and staged around the dialogue between works of art, objects and documentation.

Since 2015, he has been developing a collaboration with the Terra Remota winery in Spain, whose spaces he regularly uses to exhibit monumental works of art and open-air installations.

Additional information

Geolocalisation

Architecte

Raymond Camus