Ronan & Erwan Bouroullec, Bivouac

ExhibitionsRonan & Erwan Bouroullec, Bivouac

7 october 2011 - 30 July 2012

Locations : Galerie 3
Category : Exhibitions
Public price : 7€ (tarif unique)
Public : All ages
Author : Ronan & Erwan Bouroullec

The Centre Pompidou-Metz presents the first major exhibition in France dedicated to the work of Ronan and Erwan Bouroullec.

In partnership with

Wendel Mécène fondateur PSA Peugeot CitroënSites de Metz et Trémery

A fabulous Bivouac, staged across 1,000 square metres in Galerie 3 of the Centre Pompidou-Metz, this exhibition of works by Ronan & Erwan Bouroullec sets out the result of almost fifteen years of mutual collaboration.
Their first major solo show in France, Bivouac highlights an exceptional international career, during which the two brothers have worked with some of the greatest names in design, been crowned by numerous awards and the presence of their work in public collections.

Imagined as a temporary encampment - hence its name - Bivouac is deliberately divested of scenographic elements other than the Bouroullecs' work. Movement is imparted by contrasting scales, transparency and superpositions.
Visitors are invited to wander around the gallery, moving between prototypes and finished objects, mass-produced and hand-crafted works.
Bivouac highlights the immense diversity of these creations and economies achieved in production. It also addresses key concepts in the Bouroullecs' research: objects which are nomadic, ephemeral, modular, organic, flexible.

The exhibition is neither an inventory nor a retrospective of their work. Rather, it illustrates the current state of their designs and research, in constant evolution.

This first solo show at the Centre Pompidou-Metz gives pride of place to design as a fundamental and prolific discipline in contemporary creation, and an open field for research at the junction of experimentation and daily life. In keeping with the Centre Pompidou, it emphasises a determination to embrace "art in all its forms" so that visitors might discover a wide spectrum of creation.


The Ronan & Erwan Bouroullec, Bivouac exhibition benefits from the kind support of the PSA Peugeot Citroën sites in Metz and Trémery
PSA Peugeot Citroën

Ronan Bouroullec, born 1971 and a graduate of the École Nationale Supérieure des Arts Décoratifs in Paris, and Erwan Bouroullec, born 1976 and a graduate of the École Nationale Supérieure d’Arts in Cergy-Pontoise, began working together in 1999.

Their designs are manufactured by such major names as Vitra, Magis, Alessi, Established & Sons, Axor Hansgrohe, Kartell, Kvadrat, Cappellini, Camper and Ligne Roset. Ronan & Erwan Bouroullec are also involved in more experimental design with Galerie Kreo, and occasionally architectural projects.

Named Designers of the Year at the 2002 Paris Furniture Show and the 2011 Maison & Objet show, their other awards include the City of Paris Grand Prix du Design (1998), the New Designer Award at the New York International Contemporary Furniture Fair (1999) and the Copenhagen Finn Juhl Prize (2008). Their work has been shown in a number of solo shows, including at London's Design Museum (2002), the Los Angeles Museum of Contemporary Art, Rotterdam's Museum Boijmans van Beuningen, La Piscine, Musée d'Art et d'Industrie in Roubaix (2004), Villa Noailles in Hyères (2008) and Le Grand Hornu, Belgium (2009).

Their work is part of the collections at institutions such as the Centre Pompidou - Musée National d'Art Moderne and the Musée des Arts Décoratifs in Paris, the Museum of Modern Art in New York, the Art Institute of Chicago, the Design Museum, London, and the Museum Boijmans van Beuningen in Rotterdam.

For the London Design Festival and in partnership with Kvadrat, their Textile Field installation is on display
at the Victoria and Albert Museum in London from 15 to 25 September 2011.

Ronan & Erwan Bouroullec were also awarded this year’s commission to design a contemporary addition to the Gabriel staircase at Château de Versailles.

Erwan & Ronan Bouroullec © Ola Rindal
Erwan & Ronan Bouroullec
© Ola Rindal

Within the space of a few years, Ronan & Erwan Bouroullec have constructed an edifice that towers over the landscape of international design.
Since their earliest appearances in the late 1990s, their work has brought a new energy to design. At barely twenty years old, they were driven by a determination that few would expect in such young men.

As part of a generation that works under pressure from time, in constant demand for media projects and high-profile events, the Bouroullecs stand out for their long-term view. The consistency of the objects they produce reflects this extended vision. Partitioning, seats and objects occupy the long transparency of the gallery space, dividing, framing, qualifying, giving character. By questioning our everyday habits, the two brothers raise interesting possibilities as to modern lifestyles. Algues, for example, invites the user to organise their living space how they want, by building their own partitions irrespective of conventional architectural logic. The Bouroullecs create objects for a changing, flexible environment that echoes a peripatetic world. A world where nothing is set in stone. Ronan is captivated by nomadic peoples: "Arriving, leaving, simply, pragmatically. I like the softness of Berber tents, the carpets on the ground… These are practical, self-evident, subtly ergonomic solutions, and at the same time they create a backdrop, an atmosphere. They show respect for the environment, leave no trace. It's refined, light, humble."

This freedom is evident in the materials and textiles they choose. Erwan is fascinated by jersey fabrics that adapt to the body's curves without restricting movement. They used this type of ultra-stretch textile to cover Ploum, a sofa whose homogenous form blurs the transition between seat and back. Its comfort comes from a combination of soft memory foam and this highly elastic fabric. The result is a gentle, nest-like form.

Comfort is one of their foremost concerns; in their eyes a responsibility even. Slow Chair is characteristic of this belief. At first glance, this transparent chair suggests none of the comfort of a traditional leather or fabric armchair, Chesterfield or any other well-stuffed seat, and yet… As Erwan explains, "It has the bounce of a tennis racquet. The impression is more sports shoe than slipper! It's a slightly different comfort that will inspire an inevitably different and, I hope, modern behaviour." These references to sport in a domestic context reveal a sign of the times that also emerges in the growing popularity of sportswear which, thanks in part to technical fabrics, has brought a new brand of elegance and well-being to urban dress. This mix of genres – in this case by introducing a hint of sportswear to the home - is one of the brothers' favourite practices. Their work seeks out variety.

Both brothers are intent on making their contribution to diversity in the world, as this is precisely how the world grows. Hence they devote much of their energy to drawing out an object's singular nature, which they might call "fantasy," "surprise," or "astonishment." This form of difference is important, insists Ronan: "It's like meeting some amazing person." This singularity never occurs by chance; it is never a random attribution. It slowly hatches, emerging from a precise definition of the object and a careful balancing of its constituent parts.
Through intense concentration, the two designers pinpoint this singularity
 which they then take to maturity.
Their studio is a laboratory. They and their assistants shape, cut, glue, sew, draw, calculate. They make, undo, make again, putting what they have made to the test to take it further still. Adjusting, improving, perfecting. Every detail is the object of infinite attention. Potentially a process without end…

Constance Rubini, head of cultural programming at the Musée des Arts Décoratifs, Paris;
general commissioner for the 2010 Saint Etienne Design Biennial.


Algues 2004 Vitra. Polyamide injecté © EricandMarie
Algues 2
004 Vitra. Injected polyamide © EricandMarie

Algues is a system allowing the user to freely build more or less dense partitioning that can either filter light and insulate or instead loosely structure space, by assembling a module. The elemental pieces of this module, a sort of biomorphic pixel, are manufactured in a plastic injection mould from which identical pieces can be reproduced on a large scale. The Algues proliferate quasi organically, addressing architecture at the level of the millimetre.

North Tiles

North Tiles 2006 Kvadrat. Mousse thermocompressée, textile. Centre Pompidou Paris, Musée national d’art moderne - Centre de création industrielle, Paris, achat en 2006 © Tahon & Bouroullec
Nort Tiles 2
006 Kvadrat. Thermocompressed foam, fabric. Centre Pompidou Paris, Musée national d’art moderne - Centre de création industrielle, Paris, purchased in 2006 © Tahon & Bouroullec 

Originally conceived for the Kvadrat showroom, the North Tile—like Algues and Nuages—is part of a larger reflection on lightweight options for partitioning spaces. In this example, the fabric “tiles” are formed into suspended partitions, somewhere between a wall and a screen, ensuring complete visual insulation and a muffled atmosphere. The tiles can be assembled by hand using a folding technique, enabling the user to create an endless amount of partitions of all sizes and colours.

Slow Chair

Slow Chair 2007 Vitra. Textile tricoté; structure tubulaire, acier; pieds en aluminium laqués; coussins, mousse de polyuréthane; tissus polyester. © Tahon & Bouroullec
Slow Chair 2
007 Vitra. Knitted textile, tubular steel frame, lacquered aluminium legs, cushions, polyurethane foam, polyester fabric. © Tahon & Bouroullec

The specific properties of knitted textiles inspired the design of the Slow Chair. The designers intuitively felt that a knitted fabric could offer sufficient support while subtly adapting to the contours of the body. Two pieces were industrially manufactured that fulfilled these expectations. The seat and back form one knitted piece, stretched over a tubular frame, the feet attachments providing the piece’s rigidity. Here, form, material and function are interrelated.


Losanges 2011 Nanimarquina. Laine © Archives Ronan et Erwan Bouroullec
Losanges 2011
Nanimarquina. Wool © Archives Ronan et Erwan Bouroullec

For Ronan and Erwan Bouroullec, Losanges was an opportunity to use the crafting techniques of the traditional Persian rug, called a kilim, which has always fascinated them. This four-piece collection was produced by carpet weavers from northern Pakistan who spin, dye and weave the wool used in Losanges by hand, bringing out the carpet’s unique colours. Thirteen colours are combined within the geometrical rhombus shape of the rug.


Nuages 2002 Styrofoam © Ronan & Erwan Bouroullec
Nuages 2002. Styrofoam © Ronan & Erwan Bouroullec

The polystyrene Nuages, designed to create temporary configurations, are reminiscent of a construction set. They interlock organically like “a growing plant, persistently reproducing its articulating nodes”(¹). The piece is easy to install, without the need for a set plan or particular skills. Nuages make it possible to intuitively and dynamically partition a space, guided simply by one’s imagination.

¹ Phaidon, 2004.


Lianes 2010 Galerie Kreo Fibreglass, Corian ®, Leather Collection Galeries Lafayette © Tahon & Bouroullec
Lianes 2010 Galerie Kreo. Fibreglass, Corian ®, Leather Collection Galeries Lafayette © Tahon & Bouroullec

Spaces such as Galerie Kreo represent an alternative to the constraints of industrial manufacturing by making possible the production of a limited number of experimental objects. Lianes lamps are completely sheathed in leather, concealing the technical aspects behind a natural material and an unusual shape. The sewing technique and the length of cable leave room for a certain amount of adjustment, offering the user a great degree of freedom in their use and composition.


Clouds 2008 Kvadrat Thermocompressed foam, double-injected elastic bands, fabric © Tahon & Bouroullec
Clouds 2008 Kvadrat. Thermocompressed foam, double-injected elastic bands, fabric © Tahon & Bouroullec

Clouds is a fabric-based modular system. With these foam and cloth petals combined with elastic bands, the user can build threedimensional volumes to be suspended in a room or hung on the wall. Similarly to a living organism, Clouds creates surfaces that are both even and chaotic, able to evolve according to user-defined geometries. The system’s infinite possibilities offer complete freedom in creating customized pieces.


Ploum 2011 Ligne Roset Polyurethane, knitted textile, metal frame © studio Bouroullec
Ploum 2011 Ligne Roset. Polyurethane, knitted textile, metal frame © studio Bouroullec

The Ploum sofa is an exercise in comfort and combines two materials: stretch-fabric upholstery and ultra-flexible resilient foam. The shape and proportions were specially studied to allow the body to recline in many different positions on the sofa’s supple, quilted surface without edges. According to the designers, "the use of a stretch fabric is symbolic of our contemporary lifestyles, in which versatility and comfort seem to us to be essential."


Alcove High Back Sofa 2007 Vitra Fibreglass panels, foam, textile, metal frame © Tahon & Bouroullec
Alcove High Back Sofa 2007 Vitra. Fibreglass panels, foam, textile, metal frame © Tahon & Bouroullec

The Alcove collection features an unusually high backrest, allowing the user to withdraw physically and psychologically from surrounding activity. The collection’s comfortable contours introduce new ways to occupy a room. Easy to install, match and move around, these sofas represent an island of calm, a place to relax or enjoy a private conversation, especially in collective environments such as work spaces. 


Joyn Office System 2002 Vitra Lacquered MDF, metal frame and elements, various materials © Vitra
Joyn Office System 2002 Vitra. Lacquered MDF, metal frame and elements, various materials © Vitra

Joyn Office System started off the collaboration between the designers and Swiss manufacturer Vitra. With this first piece of office furniture, they wished to create a common platform for work spaces. Their proposition is both universal and streamlined: a collection of vast, shared tables large enough to accommodate several people, without hierarchical markers. A series of accessories characterized by pure contours enable the user to adapt the table to his needs.


Ovale Collection 2010 Museo Alessi Stoneware, glass and stainless steel © Studio Bouroullec
Ovale Collection 2010 Museo Alessi Stoneware, glass and stainless steel © Studio Bouroullec

Ovale Collection : the name is misleading, since none of the pièces is perfectly oval-shaped. Though based on the same principle, each piece is slightly different. These containers were not designed for a unique, fixed use or a specific culture; rather, they feature interchangeable and universal shapes. Their familiar appearance and versatility place Ovale within the simplicity of everyday life.


A digital catalogue will be published as an interactive presentation of many of their research designs and prototypes. This catalogue provides additional information and images extending the exhibition beyond the gallery and into the creative process behind some of the works. Published as an iPad app, it can be downloaded from Apple's App Store.

It uses the digital medium to provide a new perspective on the subject which other media, print in particular, cannot achieve. This application is an opportunity to explore the work of Ronan & Erwan Bouroullec in an engaging and different way.

The catalogue targets a wide audience. As well as a downloadable application, it can be consulted on iPads inside the exhibition itself.


A catalogue will accompany Ronan & Erwan Bouroullec, Bivouac.
Scheduled for publication early 2012.

Published by Éditions Centre Pompidou-Metz.

Editors in chief
Hélène Guenin and Laurent Le Bon
Andrea Branzi, Alex Coles, Christine Colin, Valérie Mrejen, Alice Rawsthorn
and Eric Troncy
Claire Bonnevie, Elsa Belaieff
Paul Tahon

Graphic Design