Vitra Design Museum Gallery: Ronan & Erwan Bouroullec “Album”

February 5th, 2012

Having got up in the middle of the night to travel through the depths of the European winter just to get to Weil am Rhein for the “Album” opening, you can imagine our joy when we heard that Erwan Bouroullec had frozen to his core while waiting to board the 6.15 Basel bound TGV.

Not because we’re cruel, heartless beasts who take pleasure in the suffering of others. At least not on this occasion.

But because it is one of these nice reminders of how “normal” the design world is and designers are.

A personal insight into the banal everyday reality that is a designers lot.

ronan erwan bouroullec album vitra design museum mateo kries

Ronan & Erwan Bouroullec in discussion with Vitra Design Museum Chief Curator Mateo Kries

Featuring over 300 of the brother’s sketches, complimented by models, photographs and artifacts from the design process, “Album” isn’t a retrospective of the Bouroullec’s work. Nor is it an exploration of their place in European design history. But rather is a simple discussion about where design comes from and the process that leads to design products. Not from the cold, sober, considered “Gare de Lyon, 6am” business perspective from which we are used to seeing the Bouroullec’s work presented; but from the emotional, uncertain, “Got up far too early, left my family, why don’t we have fur??!!” human perspective from which we are not.

A personal insight into the banal everyday reality that is a designers lot.

Album does of course feature images of and references to many of their famous works, but also naive, abstract forms, projects that never got further than the sketchbook and child-like drawings that tend to reinforce that a chair is just four legs, a seat and a back-rest. In addition there are a few cuddly yet thoughtful looking fantasy creatures that suggest should the design contracts ever dry up, a glorious second career as kids books illustrators awaits.

Although unmistakably about Ronan and Erwan Bouroullec, Album is also a documentation of the essentially analogue nature of design. Computers and digital technology can help, can speed things up and aid the industry side of design.

But if you can’t visualise what you want and express that in a few simple lines then the chances of ever realising the project are slim.

In recent weeks we’ve focused quite a lot on “furniture architects”. One could argue that architects are suited to furniture design because they understand static and scale, can make things work. The Bouroullec’s background is classical art. And in Album one understands that what they may lack in technical training they more than make up for in an emotional connection to their work and understanding of visual composition.

Which of course brings us back to what Patricia Urquiola meant with her opinion that architects don’t necessarily make the best furniture.

bouroullec album vitra design museum

Vitra Design Museum Gallery: Ronan & Erwan Bouroullec "Album"

Having recently seen their work presented in spaces of 700 sqm and 1000 sqm; the foot and half they’ve got in the Vitra Design Museum Gallery is a bit like having U2 play in your kitchen: what it lacks in spatial scale is more than compensated by intensity.

You cannot escape the works. Cannot escape the connections and the randomness. Cannot escape being drawn in.

Album itself probably isn’t worth the trip to Weil to Rhein. But it, and indeed the Vitra Design Museum Gallery, aren’t intended as being big crowd pullers in their own right. Rather as an extension and consolidation of the existing Vitra Campus. And certainly as an additional attraction when visiting VitraHaus and/or Design Museum, Album is well worth exploring and getting to know.

Personally.

Ronan & Erwan Bouroullec “Album” runs at the Vitra Design Museum Gallery until June 6th

bouroullec album vitra design museum weil am rhein

Vitra Design Museum Gallery: Ronan & Erwan Bouroullec "Album"

bouroullec album vitra design museum sketch book

Vitra Design Museum Gallery: Ronan & Erwan Bouroullec "Album"

bouroullec album vitra design museum chairs

Vitra Design Museum Gallery: Ronan & Erwan Bouroullec "Album"

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