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Wooden, Solar-Powered Street Lamps Reflect Paris’s Design History

Mathieu Lehanneur’s ‘Clover’ street furniture puts a contemporary spin on the city’s historic art nouveau street lamps.

French industrial designer Mathieu Lehanneur has a theory about the street furniture in Paris.

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“What’s interesting in Paris is that every decade and every century new street lamps appear, but the previous ones remain,” he says. “The buildings look pretty homogenous and the bus stops they recently decided to change, so they all look the same. But the street lamps . . . if you walk around Paris, it’s a design history in a way.”

Lehanneur recently made his own mark on Paris’s urban landscape with “Clover,” a combination street lamp, bench and series of stools located outside of the city’s Ministry of Ecology building. With its wooden base, solar panels, and energy efficient multi-functionality, it does seem to be a good representation of the design of this decade: The lamp was installed this week as the climate talks began in Paris.

“It uses very efficient LED lights [for the lamp], and by using them in a dome that is totally white inside, you maximize efficiently of the light,” Lehanneur says. “The top of the street lamp uses the same dome–we used to same mold to save money–but it’s upside down and contains the solar panel cells.” The lamp can stay lit for about three or four hours off of the electricity it collects from sunlight during the day.

Lehanneur was commissioned to design the ‘Clover’ lamp by the mayor of the Poitou-Charentes, a particularly wooded region of France. His idea was to design a series of wooden lamps–which looked hand-carved but are in fact digitally manufactured–with the different wood grains representing different cities within the region. The mayor who commissioned the lamp has since been promoted to Minister of Ecology, prompting the first lamp in the series to make the move to Paris, too.

Paris seems a good fit for Lehanneur’s lamp, a contemporary addition to the street furniture of decades past. The city’s historic art nouveau street lamps were designed to look like natural elements, but were rendered in metal. Clover is a less decorous take on the traditional Parisian street lamp, but is made of a natural element. “I didn’t want to design for futuristic forms or shapes, but to create a way to combine history of materials, shapes, and solutions that make sense for today,” he says.

About the author

Meg Miller is an associate editor at Co.Design covering art, technology, and design.

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