Ronan and Erwan Bouroullec: Bivouac, staged across 1,000 square metres in Galerie 3 of the Centre Pompidou-Metz,is a mid-career exhibition of work by two of the most exciting and innovative designers working today. Born and based in France, the Bouroullecs bring high-tech manufacturing ideas to standard furniture and design formats, such as the communal kitchen table and the basic dining chair, resulting in timeless, straightforward products devoid of trendy gimmicks.
The brothers not only design elegant and beautiful objects, but they also develop pioneering hybrid forms that defy categorization as they shape space in clever new ways. The title of the show is inspired by this multipurpose hybridity, as bivouac is a lightweight encampment or shelter that can be adapted to its environment just as Bouroullec products are activated by their end-users and the spaces they inhabit.
Many of the Bouroullecs’ products can be described as “microarchitecture”—items larger than furniture but smaller than architecture. Their award-winning Algues are molded plastic branches that can be snapped together to make translucent and organic screens. Their pressed felt Clouds can be slotted together to make multifaceted, colorful walls or enclosures.
In Bivouac, the MCA galleries are enlivened and divided by these products, including specially designed pedestals on which the brothers’ smaller-scale works are displayed. This signature approach to interior space creates a rich and immersive environment in which to view objects large and small from across their career.
The Bouroullecs work with the largest and most influential manufacturers in the design field—including Kartell, Vitra, Ligne Roset, Kvadrat, Cappellini, Magis, and Hans Grohe—to invent innovative solutions for cost saving, sustainability, and the preservation of traditional craft techniques. As such, Ronan and Erwan Bouroullec: is neither an inventory nor a retrospective of their work. Rather, it illustrates the current state of their designs and research, in constant evolution.
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.
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.