The Bouroullec Brothers

31 Jan 2012
  • posted by Veerle Pieters

Ronan and Erwan Bouroullec probably sound familiar if you have been following what goes on in the world of industrial design. The Bouroullec headquarters are housed in a former clothing warehouse in Belleville, north-east Paris. The two brothers share an office and their desks stand side by side in a space that is closed off from the rest of the studio overlooking the courtyard with north-facing light.


Small creative studio

Their studio isn't a big one filled with many employees as there are only 8 people working there with Ronan and Erwan included. They don't want to expand. I share a similar philosophy. Expanding would mean more pressure to land a project and loosing the creative outlet and become a manager instead. I can totally find myself in what Ronan says:

We turn down around 90% of all work that we’re offered. That’s the benefit with being a popular designer, the freedom.

In the office you'll also find paper models of furniture that they created. Drawing is a huge part of the brothers work. In the Bivouac exhibition which I'll talk about below there is an 80m-long wall covered in small drawings in specially designed white Corian frames. The drawings range from obscure to figurative and are instantly attractive. Emotional, sinuous, quirky and humorous, they are extremely personal. Ronan says:

If I couldn’t design any more I think I would be alright. But if I couldn’t draw I wouldn’t survive. I think Erwan expressed it perfectly the other day when he said that the discipline of drawing is very positivist and it’s a quick outcome, very different from the long process of creating a product.

There is much more to be discovered about the Bouroullec brothers in this fine piece by Sight Unseen that features an excerpt out of the biannual magazine Disegno.

The brothers have been working together as joint partners since 1999. Their work ranges from small utilitarian objects to architectural projects with a large focus towards the design and organization of interior space. Over the past decade both brothers have built up a steady reputation and developed longstanding relationships with furniture manufacturers such as Vitra, Kvadrat, Magis, Kartell, Established and Sons, Ligne Roset, Axor, Alessi, Issey Miyake, Cappellini, Mattiazzi and more recently Flos and Mutina.

Video interview

Below you can watch an interview with the Bouroullec brothers. In this video The Bouroullec Brothers give a short insight into how they approach their projects, and that their jobs as designers is not to provoke huge change in society, but to find clever ways to manufacture everyday objects.


The two brothers currently have an exhibition running called "Bivouac" until July 30th across 1,000 square meters in gallery 3 of the Centre Pompidou-Metz. It's their first major solo show in France. Bivouac highlights an exceptional international career, during which the two brothers have worked with some of the greatest names in design, been crowned by numerous awards, and the presence of their work in public collections.

This exhibition draws from 15 years of collaborative work done by Ronan & Erwan Bouroullec. The brothers’ first major solo show juxtaposes furniture, housewares, drawings, and large-scale installations in an atmosphere that encourages visitors to learn through interaction. What follows is how the exhibition is described at the Centre Pompidou-Metz site.

Imagined as a temporary encampment - hence its name - Bivouac is deliberately divested of scenographic elements other than the Bouroullecs' work. Movement is imparted by contrasting scales, transparency and superpositions. Visitors are invited to wander around the gallery, moving between prototypes and finished objects, mass-produced and hand-crafted works. Bivouac highlights the immense diversity of these creations and economies achieved in production. It also addresses key concepts in the Bouroullecs' research: objects which are nomadic, ephemeral, modular, organic, flexible.

The exhibition is neither an inventory nor a retrospective of their work. Rather, it illustrates the current state of their designs and research, in constant evolution.

Photos by: Centre Pompidou-Metz and studio Bouroullec.