In Conversation: Erwan Bouroullec and Icon at Clerkenwell Design Week

While covering the vibrant Clerkenwell Design Week, Stylesight attended a very inspiring talk at the Vitra showroom, where iconic product designer Erwan Bouroullec and Icon Magazine Editor Chris Turner discussed the ways design is influencing the changing nature of the workspace.

“One should not forget that office environments are changing and that the furniture will outlast many office concepts. This means it has to take part in the evolution, not stand in its way. We are all for a mix of offers and experiences that are available to office workers during the course of their workday.” – Erwan Bouroullec on the Workbay Office installation at Salone Ufficio in Milan, April, 2013; a modular system of freestanding elements made of fleece and aluminum.

Offices and work environments have always been the focus of the Bouroullec’s work with Vitra: in 2002, Chairman Rolf Fehlbaum took a leap of faith and assigned the young designers the task of redesigning Vitra’s office space. They were given free rein, believing that their “virginity”, as Erwan defined it, could help them approach the projects with fresh, untamed eyes.

During the conversation, Erwan respectfully referred to icons such as George Nelson for Herman Miller and cited Antonio Citterio’s work as very influential in the design development, and in addition, Charles and Ray Eames, whose work we were surrounded by in the showroom space.

Erwan also quoted A Pattern Language by Christopher Alexander as the duo’s design bible, also warmly recommending audience members, including students, experienced professionals and design enthusiasts, to get their hands on a copy.

Speaking about the current retrospective at Les Arts Décoratifs in Paris, Momentané, as well as a brand new book by Phaidon, Erwan commented:

“When I look at the book and at the exhibition I feel a bit frustrated at not having been able to realize some of the original vision that I had. I would have liked to have gone further. We’ve got older and I think we expect more from design. There is more and more tension inside the work; sometimes this tension can be creative, and sometimes this tension is incredibly hard to live with. We’ve become, for some reason, more insecure when in front of our projects.”

It is very refreshing to hear such a world-celebrated designer be so honest about his work and his life. – Gemma Riberti

‘In Conversation With’ Erwan Bouroullec and Christopher Turner was part of the Talks With 100% Design series during Clerkenwell Design Week. 

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