Born into a farming family in Brittany, the pale, gaunt brothers emerged on the design scene in the late ’90s, winning awards and an impressive roster of clients, which today include Cappellini, Ligne Roset, and Vitra, to name a few. They quickly developed a strong signature style that set them apart in a crowded field: Instead of designing products that are merely functional and beautiful, the Bouroullecs have developed user interfaces–a concept rarely applied to sofas and room dividers.
That is to say, the brothers create products that encourage interactivity and flexibility; users can move the pieces around and, in effect, actively shape, rather than merely decorate, their surroundings. Case in point: Clouds, a series of geometric panels that can be constructed into a dynamic privacy screen. Another example is their Algue wall partition made up of modular seaweed-shaped pieces that, when screwed together into large installations, create a veil of delicate branches.
Which touches on another common theme in the Bouroullecs’ work: the penchant for creating privacy in even very public spaces–hence, their seeming obsession with screens, , and most recently, curtains (not included in the exhibition) that split the difference between industrial design and art, work and play. The exhibition title itself, Bivouac, refers to a temporary, improvised camping shelter that, as the MCA notes, “can be adapted to its environment just as Bouroullec products are activated by their end-users and the spaces they inhabit.”
Ronan and Erwan Bouroullec: Bivouac is on view through January 20. If you can’t catch it before then, take the above slide show tour that includes many photos taken by the Bouroullecs themselves. The catalog of the show is available here.