He is known for his cutting-edge, yet poetic designs. From laser-cut chairs to lamps that float like ethereal sea creatures, François Azambourg blends scientific exploration, technical skill and an eye for beauty effortlessly.
He has been called a designer, an inventor, a poet. François Azambourg is all three and then some.
Born in 1963, Azambourg had his initial training in electro-technics followed by studies at the College of Applied Art in Rue Olivier de Serres, Paris. His leanings towards simple and light objects took him towards the unusual right from the start. This was showcased effortlessly in 1985, when he won the Musee des Arts Decoratifs competition with a coffee pot made entirely of paper.
From 1989-1999, Azambourg worked with Hermès and Mandarina Duck researching new materials. This resulted in one of his earliest works of poetry – the Fireside Chair and Footrest “Bois-Mousse” (1998), a “flexible sandwich of aviation-grade birch plywood”. This iconic chair has won several competitions and has been exhibited all over the world.
In 1999, his focus on structure intensified with the creation of an unusual design called the ‘Pack’ Chair. This is possibly the world’s first 3-D chair to be made entirely out of textile. Created out of hand-sewn and woven polyester sailing canvas, this made-to-order chair is meant to be inflated before use.
In its compact state this chair is no bulkier than a soda canister. So that the chair can take on its ultimate shape, the fibres of the double-walled textile that it is made of harden on contact with an emulsion of two chemical products. Patented in 1999, this invention, which simultaneously represents shape and textured covering, considerably changes the industrialisation process for design items and allows for large savings in manufacturing costs.
Azambourg’s ‘Very Nice’ chair come in a range of colours, textures and looks. The first ‘Very Nice’ chair (2002) is a beautiful laser-cut Birchwood chair with Art Deco leanings. The 2013 version ‘Rouge’ is a glamorous chair wrapped in hand-stretched polyester especially created for Azambourg.
Beautiful poetic designs seem to be an Azambourg hallmark. His Mister Bugatti chair and armchair (2006) are made of deeply lacquered and crumpled tin metal. The metal is “only a few tenths of a millimetre thick that has had polyethane injected into it.”
The glossy body paint used on the Mister Bugatti chairs shows up in other alluring designs as well. The ‘Very Nice’ trestles, the ‘Grillage’ armchair and the ‘Quadrille’ chair are good examples of shiny, happy Azambourg furniture.
François Azambourg also has an extensive lighting portfolio with many of his designs now coveted worldwide. The Lamp ‘Inga’ (1999) was crafted out of hand-turned sycamore with an LED light and is a collector’s item today.
Playing with shape and texture leads us to the sensuous and other-worldly shapes of ‘Yvette’, ‘Vertigo’ and the ‘Spaghetti’ hanging lamps. Azambourg began his journey with fiber-optic lights in 2002 where the LEDs were embedded within the shape of the lamp itself. More recently, the Bouclette and Arc Lamps follow similar principles.
One of my personal favourites in his range of lamps is the ‘Sputnik’ (2009). Is it a sheep? Is it a rocket? The design is truly out of this world, pardon the pun. Made from plywood cut to three millimetres thickness, the lamp is then hand-wrapped with polyester with a ribbon of LED lights running through it. It is one of those designs that is a sure fire conversation starter.
Azambourg’s other eye-catching designs include the vibrant ‘Very Nice’ hanging light, the ‘Very Nice’ side-lamp (which really looks like it is made of bamboo, but isn’t) and the ‘Petit Theatre’ lamp which looks like a science experiment with its glass bell jar and strips of LED lights.
François Azambourg has recently launched his own collection, which is a result of over 20 years of research and experimentation, challenging the frontier between aesthetics, structure, materials and technique.
This collection includes 20 objects, as diverse as the Mobile Feuilles made of real leaves hanging from piano strings, the Inga Lamp, the Very Nice chairs, the Chauffeuse Bois-Mousse, ‘Animal Object’ (“Alligator skin wetted, stretched and shaped on an aluminium skeleton. Resulting shape is 3D scanned to create polyester resin coated shell. Skin is then re-formed over shell”) or the Douglas Vase, a fantastic glass jar blown in a wooden mould.
Azambourg’s focus on using the principle of lightness and economy of materials results in surreal yet entirely user-friendly and practical designs. This “weaver of furniture” continues to experiment – and the design world is all the better for it.
Text By Chryselle D’Silva Dias
Photographs Courtesy The Designer