Nicky Lobo caught up with one half of the Bouroullec duo, Ronan, at this year’s iSalone in Milan, discovering a Frenchman with a cheeky sense of humour and a love of Australian architecture.
May 7th, 2013
Nicky Lobo: Can you tell me a bit about the range, and what you’ve worked on for Mattiazzi?
Ronan Bouroullec: Well it is a very simple typology really: chairs, tables and stools. Three years ago Mattiazzi came to us with a desire to produce a new range and just as this was new for Mattiazzi, so it was for us. Normally we are used to working with large established companies, and because of that we were really interested in working with Mattiazzi. We thought we could help Mattiazzi grow, that we could invest in the Italian market, and help this family company evolve.
We knew that Mattiazzi loves to work with wood, and while they do use machines, they also invest a lot of time in hand-crafting and hand-finishing their pieces and for me, this passion for exceptional skills expressed perfectly what Mattiazzi wants to achieve. There are not a lot of companies that can do this, and that really is the basic point to the range – we wanted to reveal their amazing skills.
NL: When you are designing for a ‘new’ brand, how do you know what kind of aesthetic they are looking for?
RB: A good designer is almost like a travelling ‘embassy’, so to speak. That is, someone who arrives somewhere, understands and knows quickly what is a good project to do, and how to do it for that brand. For instance, a good project for Mattiazzi may not necessarily be a good project for Vitra, and a good project for Vitra may not be a good project for Mattiazzi.
OSSO Stool Detail
In fact, being a good designer is almost like being a good actor: a good actor is someone with a large palette, someone who is able to be ‘super charming’ in one movie and ‘evil’ in another. It is the same scenario for a designer.
Mattiazzi is excellent when it comes to wood products, so we had to understand quickly that this was to be our material and that Mattiazzi would be able to work with it. Really there are two points to consider: firstly, we have our own point of view about things, about aesthetic, about shapes that are essentially our own signatures which have to be clear across all products and brands which secondly, have to be intelligent within each context and within each brand.
NL: What was the first brand you actually started designing for?
RB: It was Cappellini. That was at the time when Giulio Cappellini himself owned it. It was a marvellous period, it seems like such a long time ago now. It was a great first project. In fact, I was 17 when I participated in my first ever exhibition.
Losanges II – Bouroullec for nanimarquina
NL: What was the biggest challenge with this new range?
RB: I think the biggest challenge was actually to make it successful. Nobody knew this brand; the company was not on the map of manufacturers or of other designers. I remember that I came for a meeting one time, and they were not working because it was the wedding anniversary of their daughter! Which is in a way extremely charming, because they are a family run company, but at the same time I had just travelled so far to see them, and they were off celebrating but our success started with Italy, with Cappellini, in this marvellous company. So while we are used to working with larger companies in different parts of the world, we are ourselves in fact a very small team, a family orientated team and along with the challenge it posed, it was ‘family’ that drew us to this project.
Quiet Motion – Bouroullec for BMW at iSalone
NL: And what about Milan? You have been here for so many years, do you still get excited about it?
RB: Of course, I still love coming here to Milan. But I actually think this kind of fair is a bit out-dated, it is an old way of doing things and may not be exactly relevant anymore. But in saying that, I don’t actually think I have a good suggestion on how it should be run. I still walk around though, and have a look at what is happening. Sometimes I get jealous of how good some other designs are!
NL: And finally I just wanted to do a word association with you…
RB: Oh no, I am so bad at these…
Dog: Shit (Only because it is such a problem in Paris!)
Sustainability: Of Course.
Bad Design: Everywhere.
Culture: Sometimes a Prison.
Australia: A Dream.
Milan: A Sad City.
RB: I also just want to say; even though I’m a very bad surfer, I really want to come to Australia. My favourite architect is Australian – Glenn Murcutt. In fact the first architecture book I ever bought was on him, and I just love his designs.
Mattiazzi is available in Australia through:
Table & Chair
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