French designer Mathieu Lehanneur is going places with his futuristic designs.
In 2010, noted designer Philippe Starck named Mathieu Lehanneur as one of France’s top ten designers, “the future of industrial design”. It is easy to see why. Lehanneur has made a special space for himself in the design world with his edgy and futuristic designs for objects as varied as street furniture to chandeliers.
Lehanneur graduation project at ENSCO-Les Ateliers (‘École Nationale Supérieure de Création Industrielle) was entitled “Theurapeutic Objectc”, which explores the relationship of humankind and drugs. It is now part of the MoMa (New York) permanent collection, which also houses another Lehanneur design – Andrea.
Andrea (2009) is one of Lehanneur’s most iconic designs. Created in collaboration with David Edwards of Harvard University, Andrea is a “living air filter” which absorbs toxins from the air around us. The filter uses plants that are known for their air-purifying properties (the gerbera, philodendron and pothos, for example).
One of his early designs is ‘Gary Copper’ (2009), a radiator unlike others you have seen before. This stylish design looks like a piece of sculptural furniture but don’t be taken in by its good looks. Polished copper increases heat conduction and thermal efficiency can be improved by “multiplying the fins, thus increasing the surface area of heat diffusion”.
The dB (2006) is one device that should probably be widely popular for its noise-reduction properties. Shaped like a ball, the dB moves around constantly capturing the sound levels around it. When it finds a level ‘unacceptable’, it positions itself close to the source of the noise and emits ‘white noise’, which is the sum of all frequencies audible to the human ear. White noise creates a soothing frequency and one can literally ‘turn off’ the other loud noise.
The Les Cordes is a stunning piece of lighting doubling up as a work of art. “Conceived as a rope of light criss-crossing the ceiling, only bands of light and glass are visible.” Lehanneur further describes it as “…the light itself seems to live and circulate…as if stitched onto the building itself.”
The Sunflower Chandelier (2003) is another brilliant design for simple yet impactful lighting. The multiple lamps of the chandelier look like sunflower petals and bring a unique ambience to the space it inhabits.
In 2008, Lehanneur introduced Local River, a home storage unit for “fish and greens” which offered storage for live freshwater fish combined with a mini vegetable patch. The plants act as a natural filter that purifies the water and in return they get their nutrients from the fish. The same technique is used in large scale fish farms and this smaller version responds to the desire for fresh food that is “100% traceable and locally farmed.”
Similarly, the ‘Cellbag’ (2011) is making a difference to the communities it is used in. The second collaboration between David Edwards and Lehanneur, this is inspired by the way in which biological cells transport water and nutrients. The urban version combines a bag and water container and hopes to improve sanitary conditions for water transportation in poor countries. The Cellbag is currently being used in South Africa.
One of Lehanneur’s recently acclaimed designs is the brilliant ‘Clover’, a street lamp powered by solar energy. Clover (2015) was created for the climate change talks in Paris. Designed from a carved wooden mast, the Clover has a floor lamp and bench made of an amalgamation of several local woods. Fixed large aluminium domes at the top distribute light downward to reduce light pollution. A solar panel provides 3-hours worth of light. Another interesting feature is a small hatch which allows you to recharge your smartphone. The bench can be stretched to 15 metres if necessary, making it a flexible answer to an urban space.
Lehanneur’s innovative designs also extend to interiors. Cafe ArtScience, for example, is positioned between Harvard and MIT Universities and brings together ideas, a concept shop, an art gallery and a restaurant. It is an outcome of a new collaboration with David Edwards (of ‘Andrea’) and the space offers ample opportunity for collaborations and demonstrations.
Paola Antonelli, MoMa’s curator of architecture and design describes Lehanneur as “a champion of the intellectual agility of today’s design.” His thoughtful designs for urban spaces certainly prove that good design can be useful, practical and elegant, all at the same time.
Text By Chryselle D’Silva Dias
Photographs Courtesy The Designer