The Ecole Cantonale d’art de Lausanne, ECAL, isn’t actually in Lausanne, but the community of Renens on the western edge of Lausanne.
Édith Piaf famously opined that, je ne regrette rien, but how many of this year ECAL graduates would be singing, je regrette Renens?
Or perhaps better put, how many of this year’s graduates would Renens regrette?
To gauge the mood, we anchored on the shores of Lac Léman to visit the 2017 ECAL Graduation Show………
As regular readers of these pages will be aware, here should stand a brief history of the the Ecole Cantonale d’art de Lausanne, ECAL. A few sentences which place the school in some sort of historic and cultural context. However, for a school that is regularly to be found towards the top of international comparison lists, ECAL is a school without a past.
Or at least not one before 1995 when Pierre Keller took over as director of what he refers to as an “anaemic, indeed bloodless” institution*. And there is something about the lack of a history which bothers us. Not that we would ever see any relevance in comparing what a school did in the early 20th century with what its doing today, far less with what an “anaemic, indeed bloodless” institution did. But nothing exists in isolation, everything and everyone is an evolution, a sum of experiences and fate, and understanding that histoire, that trajet is important in fully understanding anything or anyone.
With ECAL one has the distinct feeling the focus is firmly on underscoring just how uncompromisingly now they are. Which for us is the sound of marketing: a distracting background droning which accompanied us a lot on our recent #campustour, wading as we must though swamps of corporate identity, but which perhaps was most audible in Renens. Arguably because it is a school without a past. Which it obviously isn’t.
But that’s the one story. The other, and arguably the much more important story is the works ECAL students produce.
Offering Bachelor studies in Media & Interaction Design, Film Studies, Fine Art, Graphic Design, Industrial Design and Photography, in addition to Master courses across parallel disciplines, including the for us eternally troubling Master of Advanced Studies in Design for Luxury and Craftsmanship, ECAL was home in the 2016/17 academic year to some 600 students, and the 2017 Graduation show presented a selection of projects from some of those about to leave to set up new homes.
And from which one or two particularly caught our attention…..
We’ve all done it, bought a yucca, rubber plant, something of that ilk, generally an impulse purchase intended to make your flat look a little less pathetic, and which years later stands in the corner gathering dust, taunting, goading you, for your youthful ill judgement.
What however if it had a function?
Such, or we presume similar, thoughts led Marion Aeby to develop the lamps Ivy & Vitis, a family of (currently) two lamps which, and much like hedera and vines themselves, wind their way around, along and athrough the branches, shoots and leaves of house trees, thereby creating a singular and unique lamp, and illumination effect, an effect, and with only having experienced it in the ECAL foyer, we would imagine to be very distinct from, and much more pleasing than, that which can be achieved by the conventional lampshade.
And which, and arguably just as importantly, allows you to claim that such is what you wanted to achieve all along, just the technology wasn’t as advanced as your vision…..
Although practical, sensible, arguably desirable, an extractor hood doesn’t necessarily fit into every kitchen. Or at least not without looking like something that has been stuck on the wall out of force of habit rather than as part of a considered plan. A dictum that becomes truer the smaller the kitchen.
A mobile extractor fan with inbuilt filter, Portable Kitchen Hood is a very interesting alternative for that smaller kitchen, or indeed the kitchen where one doesn’t cook so often, or with so many pans. Or alternatively for the barbecue on the balcony, saving as it does annoying the neighbours with your barbecue smells and smoke.
Yes it has that unmistakable Dyson aesthetic, but there’s still plenty of time to change that.
Based around, or perhaps more accurately put, formed from, standard water mains pipes Bivouac by Christian Holweck is conceived as emergency accommodation for walkers and climbers. Stackable into something resembling those insect hotels people like to place in the garden, yet which insects rarely visit, the individual units contain a primitive elasticated surface for lying on, a little space for storing rucksacks, jackets, boots etc, and thus a minimum of comfort combined with a lot of practical features and a great deal of security.
Quite aside from the safety such offers those who get into trouble in the hills/wilderness, what particularly appeals to us is that should a walker/climber get lost in/trapped by bad weather and find such a module, and can then inform the rescue services that they are uninjured and safely in such a pod: they don’t have to come out, risking their lives, looking for you. And if you are injured, but safe and secure, the rescue can be organised much more efficiently.
And yes we hear you at the back, “Who wants mountain terrains and natural wildernesses spoiled by such monstrosities?” We refer you to Lucius Burckhardt and the brutal reality that the unspoiled mountain terrain and natural wilderness you so admire, never, ever really existed…….
Normally when we jump up and down at student showcases it is from sheer frustration at the lunacy we’re being confronted by. In the case of SopraBasso by Anna-Sophe Studer it was the pure delight that someone was working on a musician’s stool.
Yes, a stool, and so yes, with no backrest; but which in almost all other aspects explores the various peculiarities of the seated musician.
And is in addition a musician’s stool which looks good.
Yes, we also remember Wilde + Spieth CEO Thomas Gerber telling us musicians don’t care what the chair looks like, and we believe him, he travels the world selling chairs to musicians. But it is important to us. And as we once noted, “a visually pleasing, functionally responsive, chair may encourage musicians to take more interest in their chairs… [and] how their chairs can, potentially, help them maintain not only better posture, but better health.”
Only thing we are unclear on is if it is height adjustable, we presume so, would arguably need to be.
Much as we understood what Ronan Bouroullec told us about the reasons for the brutal analogousness of their Cyl system for Vitra, until such time as “mobile” electronic device manufacturers start taking battery life seriously, the continual charging of such devices is going to be inescapable. A-line by Adrien Cugullière offers a simple, elegant, and charmingly obvious solution in context of modular furniture intended for schools, colleges, conference centres, hotels and similar event spaces.
A singularly unremarkable table in its own right, A-line comes into its own when connected to its colleagues to form a network: the connectors containing USB charging points, either individually or as doubles.
As we say, charmingly obvious.
If from the presentation in Lausanne we were a little uncertain as to how the electricity passes through the system, but don’t doubt for a minute Adrien has worked that out and that the posed question is, as so oft, based on our non-understanding of something patently obvious.
When we read that Helix was an autonomous street lamp, we though that meant that it moved by itself to where it was needed; thus giving us a frankly traumatic vision of a street lamp following a pensioner down a rural lane as they took their dog for an evening stroll.
But no, autonomous as in “no need for an external energy supply”, that being supplied via a wind turbine.
Back at Light + Building Frankfurt 2016 we got quite excited about a wind powered street lamp premièred by German manufacturer Vulkan, noting that while “normally engineers like to use fairly robust, monumental, turbines for such projects … Vulkan’s unassuming, well considered, solution solves a lot of such problems, and thus makes wind powered street lighting a realistic option”
Helix is for us an even more “unassuming, well considered, solution” as the turbine is under the light and thereby unobtrusive, in the sense that it appears more like a decorative lamp shade than a functional element.
Such is of course only good, and indeed elegant, if it doesn’t rotate when the lamp is illuminated. Uncertain as we are if that would create a good effect. And fairly certain that it would confuse any dog walking pensioners. And their dog.
Maybe a solar panel on top? Or have we not thought that through properly? As so oft…….
Full details on ECAL can be found at http://ecal.ch
And here you can find all 2017 ECAL graduation projects