The advantage the autumn edition of Maison et Objet has over the spring edition is Paris Design Week, a chance to not only explore French creativity in a wider context than can be found in the trade fair halls, but also to explore the French capital without the distraction of the city’s history.
A central component of Paris Design Week is Le Off, a platform for young designers and which for its 2018 edition was based in the Ground Control event and creative centre, tucked away behind Gare du Lyon.
Although for us it quickly became much more Gare du Nord…….
Rooted in north west France, Arthur Lenglin, Tim Defleur & Benjamin Helle, all Institut Supérieur de Design, ISD, Valenciennes graduates, all freelance designers based in Lille, recently decided to pool their resources in the form of the label Aequo Edition; so recently in fact that if we’ve understood correctly, which as ever with us, isn’t guaranteed, their presentation at Le Off during Paris Design Week 2018 was Aequo Edition’s première.
Our attention was initially attracted by an umbrella holder with integrated flower box. Which admittedly sounds extremely improbable, yet in its scale, proportions, material mix, uncomplicated ease and functional attributes is and was extremely probable. And extremely pleasing.
And was one of those objects which became even more pleasing when understood in its context: the region around Lille is, we learned, a largely post industrial landscape, the coal mining, engineering and heavy industry of yore having long since gone, leaving behind alone their physical structures, and the memories contained within. The umbrella stand-flower box is a reflection on the contemporary reality in the region: the umbrella holder a chimney, the base a factory ruin and the plants, nature slowly regaining that which was once its before man decided he knew better. If you will represents a functional 3D painting of the landscape in the contemporary département Nord.
Is there a channel that allows the water to flow from the umbrella holder to the flower box?, we asked.
You’re not likely to get that much water from an umbrella, replied its designer, Benjamin Helle.
As we’ve noted before, we’re creatures of rumination, our brains turn slowly, at times imperceptibly so. And yes, on reflection, an average umbrella is unlikely to drip enough water to sustain that area of plants, apart from possibly succulents. Even if you placed it in a shop/pub/cafe with a continual flow of wet umbrellas.
That said, while the umbrella-plant connection is essentially visual, there is a possibility of umbrella water reaching the plants; the chimney/umbrella holder is perforated, thus not only offering a line of communication between the two components, but also neatly allowing for both air circulation around the damp umbrellas to aid drying and a reduction in the visual mass of the object, an important element in establishing the objects thoroughly charming character, a solid tube next to the flowers wouldn’t allow for the necessary visual tension.
The base/factory ruin is made of a recycled brick powder sourced from EtNISI, a company who recycle a number of waste materials, including coffee grounds, concrete slabs and glass into new materials, and a company based in Marcq en Baroeul, a community neighbouring Lille. As we said, rooted in the region, and that not just in terms of products but also ethos: the name Aequo is derived from aequus and implies achieving a fairness/equality and in terms of Aequo Edition implies, again if we’ve understood correctly, helping the region achieve a level of social/economic fairness/equality though the cooperation of numerous local actors, including manufacturers, retailers, service providers and designers, pulling together in pursuit of shared goals.
As such the umbrella stand-flower box represents not just a reflection on the contemporary reality in the region, but also a vision for the future of the region, a proposal of new paths for the region, ways to new realities. Or as Benjamin notes in the product description, en attendant une resurection il y a une friche autour de sa mémoire: while waiting for resurrection there is a wasteland around its memory.
Beyond the umbrella stand-flower box, which is officially known as the much more poetic, Friche au pied du ballot [Wasteland at the foot of the stack], we were also very taken with Au dessus d’une nuée de cheminée – A cloud above the chimney: a doorstop with an integrated shelf. Again the form is a figurative representation of the post-industrial landscape in département Nord, again the base is recycled brick from EtNISI and again the scale, proportions, material mix, uncomplicated ease and functional attributes please.
Suitable for both commercial locations, for example, as a door stop in a shop or café where the shelf can be used for advertising material, or in domestic spaces, the shelf being a handy place for keys, post, loose change, conkers, et al, while it can also double as a small side table next to your sofa/favourite armchair, the shelf holding your beer/tea/gin/phone/whatever. Or indeed as a small makeshift bedside table during periods of illness when you need a sitting up height surface for food, drink, medicines, tissues, etc. As an object Au dessus d’une nuée de cheminée doesn’t do anything particularly revolutionary nor innovative, but does that which it needs to do, that which one would want it to, that which you didn’t know needed doing but are really glad it is being done, with great charm and character.
That from a new collection realised by a triumvirate of designers we’ve highlighted two objects by one designer could be considered embarrassing. Isn’t. On the one hand, what do we know? On the other hand, we did like other works, the two mentioned here were simply for us the most engaging, those with which we most naturally established a dialogue. And on the rare and decisive third hand, Aequo Edition exists parallel to the three’s other projects, all three are still active as independent designers, and thus Aequo Edition exists as a concept for itself, and that was what principally appealed to us. The wider concept.
Though only taking it’s first tentative steps, the Aequo Edition we saw in Paris is doing so with a great deal of assurance, and that, thankfully, not in the arrogant, cocky, sense but in the sense of people doing that which for them is natural, logical and self-explanatory, that which they understand as being essential, correct and necessary. And thereby not just in terms of the collection, but also, for example, in conversation with the designers and the general way in which the project carries itself, there is a lot to like
Which also means it’s early days and, and as ever, interesting and engaging as that start may be decisive is how the project develops and evolves, not only in terms of the objects in the collection but the principles on which that collection stands, and so it is currently very much a case of watch this space. But is we feel a space well worth watching.
At time off posting the Aequo Edition website wasn’t up and running, but at http://aequo-edition.com/ you could/can join their mailing list. Further details on Arthur, Tim & Benjamin can be found at www.arthurlenglin.com, https://timdefleur.com/ & www.benjaminhelle.com