by Zohra KhanJun 25, 2021
“Design is a very frustrating discipline.”
– Ronan Bouroullec
For French designer Ronan Bouroullec (b.1971), the ability to stay naïve and to keep a certain distance from one’s art is very important. Being a designer, Ronan says, is about confronting new ideas and staying away from the label of a specialist. “It’s a position when you need to learn, to hear, and to consider that collective intelligence is the only way to do something interesting,” says the founder of Paris-based Studio Bouroullec – a multidisciplinary atelier that he runs with his five years younger brother, Erwan.
On UNSCRIPTED this week, 50-year-old Ronan tells STIR about the journey of a shy countryside boy making it big in the city of dreams. The 15-minute video interview reveals fond details of his childhood in Brittany and growing up years chasing his calling. Looking back at the moments that triggered his interest in design, Ronan says, “When I was five, I was choosing a bag for school, and I remember having a very precise point of view of why I chose a special one. It was another generation but buying a bag, or a shoe or a t-shirt was important…I remember very precisely when I was 15 that I wanted to work in the creative world. It could be a photographer, designer, artist, or architect, but I knew that my discipline would be a creative one.” And as the story goes, Ronan moved to Paris when he was just 17.
My career started only in the sense that I had to find my mind.
The world of Ronan Bouroullec is a mix of mess and meditation. Passionate about drawing to a degree that if he is given enough paper and pen, he can survive days locked in a room without denial. “I am a very messy person and it’s probably why I do very clear projects. I try to find certain harmony and calm, but I am not calm myself,” he observes.
Compared to his younger brother, who likes to take on long studies, the elder one prioritises clear results. “You can feed him (Erwan) once a week and he’ll be in front of his computer. He can be very concentrated on a subject but I have this need of doing 30 things together – drawing in the night, working on a chair in the morning, and perhaps a city plan in the afternoon,” mentions Ronan.
Over the last 20 years, works coming out of Bouroullec brothers’ studio has ranged from everyday objects such as furniture, lighting, vases, and textiles, to architectural and spatial interventions which include temporary pavilions and retail interiors. Straddling the fine line between poetry and functionality, some of the studio’s last projects comprise a concrete platform over Rennes’ river Vilaine evoking an image of a miniature lighthouse; a collection of mix and match ceramics in collaboration with Vitra, and six bronze fountains studded with over 3060 Swarovski crystals for Paris’ Avenue de Champs-Elysées.
Speaking about the process, Ronan shares that every project exposes the possibility to generate an atmosphere that can be both calm and sensual. However, the journey of manifesting an experience is never a merry ride. “Design,” he explains, “is a very frustrating discipline because it is between the first idea and the fact that the object exists in a shop, or a kitchen in front of you. The difficulty about being a designer is that one is always balancing between phases of enthusiasm and dejection because there is always someone who does not agree.”
Watch out for many more unknown and interesting facts about Ronan’s practice and his personal self, sprinkled throughout the UNSCRIPTED episode. This includes an encounter from years ago that could have taken his life, an alter ego that helps him revisit his inner self, and a dream that he is running after.
Hit the cover image to watch the full conversation.
Curated by Pramiti Madhavji (Consultant, Content Adviser, STIR), UNSCRIPTED is a STIR-original series of quick-witted video interviews with leading design professionals who give a peek into their undiscovered lives. A melting pot of quests, revelations and quirks, the series releases a new episode every Sunday as designers reveal unheard and unknown nuggets from their lives, in response to 30 questions.
All photographs © Studio Bouroullec. Images may not be downloaded, copied, reproduced, or used in part or whole without obtaining permission. The photographs in this video are not licensed for personal, commercial, or public use, or use in the public domain in any form.