Watch time delay footage of the build process of Jean Prouvé’s La Maison Tropicale currently showing at Tate Modern

La Maison Tropicale, the pre-fabricated house that has appeared outside Tate Modern, will open its doors to the public tomorrow. But on Friday a shivering crowd of journalists braved the chilly February morning and edged inside for the press launch.

Designed by French architect Jean Prouvé the structure was one of three prototypes supposed to provide housing for French colonies in Africa. It was erected in the Congo in 1951. After being abandoned for nearly fifty years it was found and restored by French antiques dealer Eric Touchaleume.

Inside the house was one open room bathed in an eerie, slightly retro-looking blue light (the result of the walls being spotted with portholes made of tinted glass to protect against UV rays). Touchaleume himself was there; a big, bold, boisterous man, regaling a scrum of young reporters with descriptions of his team’s adventures in the Republic of Congo as they transported the building back in its component pieces.

Also present was the current owner, hotelier Andre Balazs. He praised what he called the “machine for living in” as “an experimental, inspiring building”. Balazs said: “What led me to buy it was an interest in pre-fabrication in housing but, more so for me, in hotel and resort projects.”

Balazs has lent La Maison Tropicale to the Design Museum to tie in with their exhibition on Prouvé. The museum's director Deyan Sudjic described the architect as "one of those excellent figures who reminds us of a time when architecture was not just about making shapes and celebrity."

He added that the building's presence next to the Thames was "a chance to show what architecture can be. Not just in a case in a museum but in three dimensions".

Time lapse video of the build process for La Maison Tropicale