written by:
April 19, 2011

A highlight of my trip to Paris earlier this year—and I can't believe it's taken me this long to share it with you—was a visit to the Bouroullec brothers' studio in Belleville. It was an exciting moment for the designers; they were in the midst of organizing the first major exhibition of their work in France, the epic "Album" show at the Arc en Rêve architecture center in Bordeaux (which is on view until April 24), and were developing a new wooden chair for Mattiazzi, the Osso, which is premiering at Milan as we speak. They were also preparing to work on a new line of ceramic tiles for Italian brand Mutina, which will launch in the fall.

After I toured the studio with their executive office manager, Fanny (I wish I could share more photos of their woodshop and workspace, but they requested privacy), Erwan sat down with me for a chat about the exhibition and their recent work. "All our projects are site-specific, created for a particular company," he said. "All have their own logic and character—none are a copy-and-paste of something else. They generate from a simple question: how do you build this, how do you use this?" As for their aesthetic? "We look for a softness of space, but with electricity inside." Click through the slideshow for a glimpse into the Bouroullec's world.

Entering off the street, you walk through a covered area and enter a large courtyard lined with three-story industrial buildings. A freestanding building in the center of the courtyard houses a printing press.
Entering off the street, you walk through a covered area and enter a large courtyard lined with three-story industrial buildings. A freestanding building in the center of the courtyard houses a printing press.
1 / 13
A glimpse at the map by the front gate confirms I'm in the right place.
A glimpse at the map by the front gate confirms I'm in the right place.
2 / 13
The Bouroullecs occupy a three-story unit on the left-hand side of the courtyard.
The Bouroullecs occupy a three-story unit on the left-hand side of the courtyard.
3 / 13
Inside, the main floor of the studio is pleasantly cluttered with books, sketches, chair prototypes, finished products, and a blackboard where the brothers hash out their ideas. On the floor is a poster for their "Album" exhibition in Bordeaux. Downstairs
Inside, the main floor of the studio is pleasantly cluttered with books, sketches, chair prototypes, finished products, and a blackboard where the brothers hash out their ideas. On the floor is a poster for their "Album" exhibition in Bordeaux. Downstairs is a woodshop and prototyping studio; upstairs are offices and a photo studio.
4 / 13
Here is the desk where the brothers work, with inspiration images and drawings pinned to the wall.<br /><br />Photo: © Ronan et Erwan Bouroullec.
Here is the desk where the brothers work, with inspiration images and drawings pinned to the wall.Photo: © Ronan et Erwan Bouroullec.
5 / 13
The Bouroullecs were feeling press-shy the day I visited, so the studio provided this portrait. Erwan is on the right; Ronan on the left.<br /><br />Photo: © Ronan et Erwan Bouroullec.
The Bouroullecs were feeling press-shy the day I visited, so the studio provided this portrait. Erwan is on the right; Ronan on the left.Photo: © Ronan et Erwan Bouroullec.
6 / 13
"Album" (on view at the Arc en Rêve architecture center in Bordeaux until April 24) brings together about 800 documents from the Bouroullec's archive, from rough sketches to preparatory drawings to photographs—many of them never shown before. The idea, sa
"Album" (on view at the Arc en Rêve architecture center in Bordeaux until April 24) brings together about 800 documents from the Bouroullec's archive, from rough sketches to preparatory drawings to photographs—many of them never shown before. The idea, said Fanny, was to "show the multiplicity of their work—opening drawers, seeing what's inside, and putting it out there almost raw."
7 / 13
Erwan said the show offered him and Ronan the chance to view their full body of work from a distance. Seeing all the pieces assembled in a single gallery "makes us realize what we're obsessed with… it shows us the red thread that runs through all our work
Erwan said the show offered him and Ronan the chance to view their full body of work from a distance. Seeing all the pieces assembled in a single gallery "makes us realize what we're obsessed with… it shows us the red thread that runs through all our work. It's not really a style, but a philosophy. We try to use new technologies, we try to find an approach that's specific to each company, to use materials properly, and to rely on the cleverness of the hand." They'll have an even bigger opportunity to consider their own work in October, when a 10,000-square-foot retrospective opens at the Centre Pompidou-Metz, running through the summer.
8 / 13
Discussing their latest project, a wooden chair designed for the Italian company Mattiazzi, Erwan said "sometimes innovation comes from misusing a machine, or putting two machines together." In this case, the brothers wanted to "think about construction,
Discussing their latest project, a wooden chair designed for the Italian company Mattiazzi, Erwan said "sometimes innovation comes from misusing a machine, or putting two machines together." In this case, the brothers wanted to "think about construction, and try to find a clever way to build with solid wood" while minimizing waste in the construction. He sketched this drawing for me, showing how cutting a curve from a solid piece of wood wastes a lot of the material (top); while creating a curve from two pieces of wood joined together (bottom) generates less waste. This idea was the basis of their design for the Osso chair.
9 / 13
A view of the completed chair, sculpted out of oak, maple, or ash using solar-powered, digitally controlled equipment. "Chairs have the same properties they had hundreds of years ago, but technologies have lives and deaths," Erwan reflected. "Resetting te
A view of the completed chair, sculpted out of oak, maple, or ash using solar-powered, digitally controlled equipment. "Chairs have the same properties they had hundreds of years ago, but technologies have lives and deaths," Erwan reflected. "Resetting technology is what evolves furniture typologies." Image courtesy of Studio Bouroullec.
10 / 13
Though the Bouroullecs "say no most of the time," as Erwan put it, they said yes to Mattiazzi because "they're a small brand that doesn't try to establish itself as a brand. They realize a single product each year that has the ability to stand by itself.
Though the Bouroullecs "say no most of the time," as Erwan put it, they said yes to Mattiazzi because "they're a small brand that doesn't try to establish itself as a brand. They realize a single product each year that has the ability to stand by itself. It's an interesting change in this too-much-marketed world." Image courtesy of Studio Bouroullec.
11 / 13
The Osso chair's component parts, laid out in an oddly anthropomorphic arrangement. <br /><br />Image courtesy of Studio Bouroullec.
The Osso chair's component parts, laid out in an oddly anthropomorphic arrangement. Image courtesy of Studio Bouroullec.
12 / 13
After a lovely and inspiring visit, Fanny, the Bouroullec's office manager, bids me adieu.<br /><br /><p><em><strong>Don't miss a word of Dwell! Download our </strong></em><a href="http://itunes.apple.com/us/app/dwell/id411793747?mt=8"><em><strong> FREE a
After a lovely and inspiring visit, Fanny, the Bouroullec's office manager, bids me adieu.

Don't miss a word of Dwell! Download our FREE app from iTunes, friend us on Facebook, or follow us on Twitter!

13 / 13
Entering off the street, you walk through a covered area and enter a large courtyard lined with three-story industrial buildings. A freestanding building in the center of the courtyard houses a printing press.
Entering off the street, you walk through a covered area and enter a large courtyard lined with three-story industrial buildings. A freestanding building in the center of the courtyard houses a printing press.

Join the Discussion

Loading comments...

Latest Articles

Modern prefab summer home in Madeline Island, Wisconsin
Prefab construction simplified the building process of this northern Wisconsin summer home, where all materials required ferrying across Lake Superior.
May 30, 2016
This unrealized plan reimagined the city’s downtown and included a large green area next to the capitol building and paths to bring people to the Delaware River
In her new book, Wild by Design, Margie Ruddick shows us how to get closer to nature.
May 30, 2016
young guns 2016 emerging talent joa herrenknecht berlin cstudio joa herrenknecht berlin loftsw livingr02 studiojoaherrenknecht 2015
Size doesn't intimidate this ambitious designer.
May 30, 2016
modern fjallbacka sweden pine boxes vacation facade
Architect Gert Wingårdh creates a passionately outfitted vacation home for two midcentury furniture dealers on the western coast of Sweden.
May 29, 2016
young guns 2016 emerging talent driaan claassen cape town south africa ccourtesy of driaan claasen dualpage82
Driaan Claassen combines a variety of materials and a love of history to create distinct objects.
May 29, 2016
energy star dirk wynants extremis poperinge beligium sustainable farmhouse facade
The owner of an outdoor furniture company updates a 19th-century farmhouse.
May 29, 2016
Modern small sustainable weekend home with flat roof
Two linked 1,000-square-foot pavilions are greater than a sum of their parts.
May 28, 2016
inside out los angeles home barbara bestor hollywood outdoor facade charcoal paint pool
Architect Barbara Bestor transforms a Hollywood Hills home by opening up its interior to the site’s dramatic backyard topography.
May 28, 2016
right of laneway vancouver garden sliding glass western window systems door outdoor
A Vancouver garden blossoms alongside fresh development.
May 28, 2016
20160229 dgd highhouse 1777 1024x683
A toddler, a pup, and their parents fit onto a 16.5-foot-wide plot in an inner suburb of Melbourne.
May 27, 2016
rec
Every week, we highlight one amazing Dwell home that went viral on Pinterest. Follow Dwell's Pinterest account for more daily design inspiration.
May 27, 2016
capitol gains seattle multifamily living dining room wassily chair chaise le corbusier cb2
Two Seattle architects design and build a dynamic multifamily structure on a formerly vacant lot.
May 27, 2016
modern beach house thatch roof living dining bar cart
By eliminating walls and incorporating a series of interior gardens, architect José Roberto Paredes creates an eclectic and inspired El Salvador beach house.
May 27, 2016
7
A two-story Eichler in San Francisco gets a freshening up.
May 27, 2016
Bathyard renovation in Madrid, Spain
In Madrid, Spain, Husos Architects renovate a turn-of-the-20th-century apartment for a client with dual passions: her houseplants and a nice, long bath.
May 26, 2016
Exterior of Huneeus/Sugar Bowl Home.
San Francisco–based designer Maca Huneeus created her family’s weekend retreat near Lake Tahoe with a relaxed, sophisticated sensibility.
May 26, 2016
starting over sturgeon bay facade tongue and groove new growth cypress  0
After a devastating fire, architect David Salmela designs a house to replace a beloved lakeside retreat in Wisconsin.
May 26, 2016
Modern home with brick base and cedar rain screen on top level
An architect reimagines an outdated brick garage by designing a graceful new family home atop its foundation.
May 26, 2016
sardenya lr 7
A renovation brings light and order to a Spanish flat, maintaining its standout ceilings.
May 25, 2016
pow 5 25 1
Each week, we tap into Dwell's Instagram community to bring you the most captivating design and architecture shots of the week.
May 25, 2016
young guns 2016 emerging talent thom fougere winnipeg canada cthom fougere studio thom fougere saddle chair 2
Designer Thom Fougere plays with scale and typology to create playful furniture.
May 25, 2016
prs my16 0067 v001 1
In the worlds of architecture and design, we’re always looking for the best ways of supporting sustainable building practices. This awareness doesn’t have to stop at our driveways but rather, it can extend to the cars we choose to take us to the places we go each day. With Toyota’s 2016 Prius, the daily task of getting from point A to point B can now be experienced with a new level of efficiency, safety, and style.
May 25, 2016
mountfordarchitects western australia
On a narrow site in Western Australia, Mountford Architects makes the most of a tight spot—with an eye to the future.
May 25, 2016
San Francisco living room with Wassily chairs
Materials and furniture transformed the layout of this San Francisco house, without the need for dramatic structural intervention.
May 24, 2016
shiver me timbers tallow wood kitchen
A pair of married architects put their exacting taste to work on their own family escape in the Australian bush.
May 24, 2016
in the balance small space massachusetts cantilevered cabin glass facade
When nature laid down a boulder of a design challenge in the Massachusetts mountains, an architect’s solution elevated the project to new heights.
May 24, 2016
Wooden Walkways
A home in Ontario, Canada, demonstrates how factory-built housing can be as site sensitive as traditional construction.
May 24, 2016
15 icff 5
From Corian furniture to immersive installations, here are some of our favorite designs we saw at the 2016 shows.
May 24, 2016
gpphoto44
A home and community celebrate natural remove in unison.
May 24, 2016
With our annual issue devoted to the outdoors on newsstands, we did a lap of Instagram for some extra inspiration.
May 23, 2016