Ionel Schein

Architect (1927 - 2004)

Ionel Schein is one of the leading figures in the field of experimental architecture in France. A student of Le Corbusier and friend of Claude Parent, in 1955 he invented the first “all-plastic house.” Schein was a major influence in the field of architectural innovation through his research on the industrialized fabrication of dwelling modules, with which he encouraged occupants to modify their own interior spaces. His research on the “alchemical” and revolutionary material of plastic, the use of which would enable the creation of new architectural forms, were meant to improve space in the home and therefore the quality of people’s lives. To achieve this end, architects, engineers, technicians and industrialists would have to work in concert. Ionel Schein’s prospective work, his all-plastic dwellings, the first window in Plexiglas, hotel guest pods and mobile libraries, etc., would influence an entire generation of architects around the globe, notably the Japanese Metabolists. In 1970, Kurokawa presented his capsule-habitat at the Osaka World Fair, defining the capsule as “cyborg architecture.” Undertaken at about the same time as the Pop Art was emerging in England, Ionel Schein’s research on the adaptable habitat anticipated new trends like mobility, assembly and modularity, which revolutionized architecture over the course of the 1960s. “It is a new kind of architecture, a new urbanism, new ethics and new aesthetics… Humanity will become unsettled” (Ionel Schein).

An architect, urban planner and architecture historian, Ionel Schein studied architecture from 1945 to 1948 at the University of Bucharest. In 1948, he left Romania and settled in Paris. At that time he entered the École Nationale Supérieure des Beaux-Arts where he met Claude Parent. In 1953, Schein and Parent, along with G.-L. Bureau, won first prize for architecture in the competition held by Maison Française. Their collaboration ended in 1955, the period during which Schein began to develop a constant interest in experimentation and research on new materials. In 1955 he founded the BEPH (Bureau pour l’Etude des problemes de l’habitat, or Research Office for the study of habitat issues) gathering town planners, architects, architecture students, painters, sculptors, engineers, visual artists and entrepreneurs. In 1965 Ionel Schein participated with Michel Ragon in founding the GIAP – Groupe International d’Architecture Prospective.

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