Case Study - La Maison Tropicale

From the Congo to CAD - Survey and 3D model creation, a Tate Modern


"...the drawings and CD is truly beautiful - it is a wonderful thing to see a job done with care and attention to detail. We are most appreciative."
- Sarah Carter, Director, André Balazs Properties, New York

La Maison Tropicale was created by the renowned designer and engineer Jean Prouvé in 1951 and transported to the most remote parts of West Africa - namely to Brazzaville in the Congo and to Niger - to house French colonials.

Manufactured thousands of miles from where it was first assembled nearly six decades ago, it was the first flat-pack home - long before Ikea came up with the idea.

Over the years it has survived blistering temperatures, tropical rainstorms and even gun battles. Not to mention being deconstructed, packed away in containers and shipped across the Atlantic several times.

When the house was constructed recently outside the Tate Modern on the River Thames, London for a temporary exhibition, Graitec Professional Services was given the task of recording and measuring every component, fitting and assembly and later modelling the construction in Autodesk Inventor, creating an entire digital model of the building.

This will continue to provide a visual lesson to builders in any location who need to construct the modular building in future, as well as a permanent audit of components and record of how the design works.


Before the team of French builders began constructing the house Graitec Professional Services had to record and measure in accurate detail every part of the building manually. This involved working swiftly and efficiently to take notes and dimensions as soon as every beam, panel and other assorted components were taken out of the transport container. Detailed photographs were taken of the entire assembly to help us in our task.

Due to its modular nature, the task of recreating the 100 square meter building in 3D was undertaken using Autodesk Inventor, which allowed us to quickly and accurately model every single item and place them into their assemblies to create a complete digital record of the structure.

From the 3D model, a detailed instruction manual for the flat pack building was produced providing an inventory of over 100 parts and pictorial details on how to construct the 54 assemblies.

To view the full Autodesk article on the Maison Tropicale project click here.
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