Since starting at It’s Nice That I have been fortunate enough to have some extraordinary experiences, yet few compare to the feeling of descending the stairs into the V&A’s Raphael Gallery during the London Design Festival press preview last autumn. Beneath the famous cartoons, Erwan and Ronan Bouroullec had created Textile Field, a 240 metre cushioned platform in various hues of blue and green.
I was so smitten I went back a few days later on a Saturday afternoon and watched as canoodling couples, rampaging toddlers and slightly uncomfortable museum aficionados shared the platform. It encompassed everything good design can be, simple, fun and able to reinvent both a space and the practices which usually take place there.
I was able to interview Erwan about the project and have been an evangelical follower of their work ever since. So when their new monograph Works was delivered this week the excitement was tempered with some trepidation – could it live up to my sky-high expectations. Yes, and then some.
From their early work in the 1990s right up to the V&A piece last year, it’s comprehensive, although the editors maintain they were not aiming to produce “a complete archive nor a manifest” but rather “a snapshot in the continuously changing and evolving career of two of the most talked about designers of our day.”
It is possible to discern an underlying design philosophy at work though. As Anniina Koivu puts it in her introduction: “The brothers design patters based on repetitions of a single element, and their actual design work lies in the creation of this one module, whether it is a piece of geometrically folded fabric, hot wire polystyrene or injection-moulded plastic…What the brothers create are not so much final products as open systems of flexible geometry.”
Interviews with key figures the brothers have worked with like Rolf Fehlbaum from Vitra and Anders Byriel from Kvadrat are interspered with the snippets from the men themselves, so we learn about Erwans’s admiration for the products used by nomadic cultures ““astonishing in their efficiency” and how the 1998 Vases Combinatoires were designed to “ escape authoritarianism, to hand the job over to the user.”
"What the brothers create are not so much final products as open systems of flexible geometry."Anniina Koivu
Delicately dividing the book into sections was just one of the decisions taken by designer Sonya Dyakova, who recently oversaw freize’s new look. As a long time fellow fan she was delighted when Phaidon commissioned her for the work, and went off to the brothers’ Paris studio.
“For me, it was important to listen and to look. I was overwhelmed and inspired by the amount of drawings Ronan and Erwan produce. So, I wanted to bring them to light – I thought they can really illuminate their work.
“The book is organised by theme, each chapter opens with a drawing on fine paper, tipped-in page is slightly smaller than the book. These quite accents gently introduce themes or ideas occurring in the work of Bouroullec brothers, such as ‘Module’, ‘Outline’, ‘Alcoves.’
“There is something very genuine and warm yet constrained about their ideas and aesthetic. The book, in my view had to have simplicity, restraint and tactile touch. It is a book to celebrate the work that he brothers have done and to look forward to more to come.”
About the Author
Rob joined It’s Nice That as Online Editor in July 2011 before becoming Editor-in-Chief and working across all editorial projects including itsnicethat.com, Printed Pages, Here and Nicer Tuesdays. Rob left It’s Nice That in June 2015.