One to one: Bouroullec bros
Are you designers or creators?
I think i belong to the field of creators and i am a designer within this field. With my background, i come from contemporary art studies, i don’t really have the impression of using different energies in art as opposed to design. Designers just work in a specific field of creation.
What is the relationship between design and emotion?
The most interesting link between design and emotion is when you try not to control emotion too much. Through design we make objects of everyday use. Furniture, that’s what we do, and it has to be subtle enough to bringyou a lot of comfort, visual clarity, tenderness. It is very difficult to try to insert that (emotion) directly into design.
Design can be a matter of proportion, comfort, stability, if you manage to keep the emotion subtle. An old wood stool is full of emotion to me. The emotion comes when you manage to achieve a balance between tradition and innovation, technique and comfort.
Do you believe design has limits?
In design, we give shape to everyday life objects. It is incredibly open. A part of my job is also to understand reality. Some things are possible, some things are not, but this is not exclusive to design. Of course there are technical limits, but i really don’t care too much about them.
Do you believe that your latest design is your best design?
Maybe, i’m not sure. Of course we progress through time, maybe now we think differently. But you always have a lot of tenderness for many projects, for quite different projects in quite different fields. When you look at the work we’ve done you have quite a wide point of view. Diversity makes me happy. Maybe now that we are involved in much more serious projects, much more industrial projects, the approach has changed, but we manage to work in projects with the strength of the serialised approach and at the same time with the original innocence.
Do you prefer to design something you are familiar with, or do you always design what you don’t know?
As we get older it’s much more difficult to give an answer to that question. When we were starting, when we were “virgins” it was different.
The office system, that we’ve designed for vitra is a good example. We had never worked in such a big company with so many people involved in the project. We entered the project without prejudices, with a lot of freedom, a lot of openness. Then we designed another office system. In the beginning you’re quite proud of being a virgin but then when you are committed to a project, you don’t know how to answer that question.
What does an object need in order to be successful?
I really can’t answer, it depends on the point of view. I could tell you that an object needs to be beautiful, cheap and simple enough for everyone. But i could also tell you incredibly special, expensive and avant-garde. A good alchemy is very important, to see an object as a combination of many things that you manage to put together with a good balance, with no particular one being more important than the other.
After the starck boom, in the 1980’s, you’re the new stars of french design. How does it feel, is that a lot of responsibility?
It does not have any importance. People say it’s because we’ve been asked to so many things, we’ve made so many projects… i would say that we work a lot and people in the media talk about us because we do work a lot. But it does not change anything in our everyday life or from the design point of view. It’s more a result, not something we had been especially wanting or working for.
In the design world, full of egocentric stars, is team working a plus or a handicap?
It’s really a good fact, team working. One of the most important factors in making a good project. You need a little distance from the project, the drawing, the idea. When you’re alone it’s much more difficult to distance yourself and generate that kind of confrontation. In this sense teamwork is ideal. Of course there is not always harmony, we don’t always agree, but in the end this confrontation is good.
Your aesthetics are very simple, obvious, and unpretentious, yet not banal in any way. How do you achieve that?
We try to concentrate. You have to do simple things because when the object goes inside life you no longer know where it will go, the rooms it will enter. In the late 1980’s and the 1990’s the object was too expressive, it was saying “here i am, look at me” all the time. For me design is not an object for the future, it should not try to change the future, it has to be integrated in life. It is important to manage to create an object that is simple and subtle enough to create a difference. On the other hand we are not minimal, we are also looking for something new, something which didn’t exist, to achieve a balance between simple and new, clarity and research or avant-garde. A good example would be the algues, these are so incredibly simple and so beautiful, that if you put them in front of a kid he will know what to do with them and he will be surprised, too. It’s about a level of simplicity and complexity.
What is the importance of material and technical investigation in your work?
Ronan and i are not engineering trained. We don’t have that kind of capacity. We don’t have a special material we like to work with. That is something the company generally chooses and it really is not a big deal to us. What we do – this is the case of algues – is that we see a material that we find interesting and we try to move it. We did this with car paint in a project for an art gallery in paris. People were familiar with it, but in the process we had moved it from one context to the other.
Your designs are very flexible, adapting to the changing needs of the home or office. Is this a way of introducing “durability” to design? Is it a kind of political statement?
It’s not really political. It’s an “easiness” statement. Design has to be able to adapt to where people live. It’s a cultural question: making things simple enough to make people understand. It’s not as political as people could expect. It’s a simple design value that things are able to adapt.
You should never tell people “live like that”, “do this”. An object is just an object with many different possibilities. Just making people build things on their own, with their own hands without using a screw – like the shelves for vitra – to me this is great.
How did you come up with the idea of designing micro-architecture projects such as algues and twig?
We had two points of view in mind. One was a technical point of view where we wanted something that people would be able to make on their own. This wall had to be able to integrate itself in any space, and people would be able to make it simply, without thinking about it (this was the decision about plastic and the clips).
The other point of view was that we wanted to make a really subtle wall in terms of light, as for example when you’re under a tree and the leaves filter light and at the same time let the sun enter. A kind of “subtle reaction wall”. We wanted to explore a visual world which is a little more complex than this plain white world which we have around us, so as to bring a little bit of diversity, which used to exist and now does not, as everything is standard, from tokyo to spain. In the end, people understood the algues project as poetry, people understood it as form, not in a mathematical way. Maybe this happens because people see nature in it rather than technique. We’re happy about that.
Your experience with micro-architecture has been very successful, have you ever thought about doing macro-design?
We want to create architecture without being architects. We propose things like these walls of plastic, because we come from a designer background. Plastic is common for designers, rare for architects. But there would be no way we could make it as architects.