Man for All Seasons pix
One of Europe's rising stars has a solution for every design need, from buildings to the bathroom sink. Now he's coming to the global marketplace
Sheila Kim-Jamet -- Interior Design, 7/1/2005 12:00:00 AM
A rendering of the architect's I'm Your Stamp sofa.
The hemicycle of the European Parliament in Brussels, Belgium.
The atrium of the European Parliament building.
A rendering for his CutUp prototype stackable chair.
The name might not ring a bell in the U.S., but in Europe, Belgian-born architect Michel Boucquillon is known as a wunderkind, garnering acclaim in 1988 when, at 26, he won a competition to design the European Parliament in Brussels, Belgium.
He created the overall plan and oversaw design of the facade, hemicycle, and atrium. Since then, his firm, Michel Boucquillon Workshop, has handled spaces ranging from a train station to stores in countries such as Belgium, France, and Italy.
Then, over the past three years, Boucquillon's interests took a fateful turn—product design. His Brussels office continued designing an average of 10 interiors a year, but he launched a product-design studio in Tuscany that's now credited with 50 creations. The most recent clients? Valli & Valli, Elma-Obreg and Technolux.
His latest Corian accessories prompted DuPont to invite him to present more—chairs, a sofa, a table—at this year's Salone del Mobile in Milan. With that broad introduction, Boucquillon is poised to sweep the global marketplace. On which household items will his name appear next? We sat down with the busy architect for a preview.
Where should we look next for your designs?
I'm developing products for several international firms, but it's too early to name them.
How about just telling us the types of products?
They include tableware, kitchen systems, and furniture.
What's already available for public consumption?
Valli & Valli's Slide collection of bathroom sinks with integrated accessories made from Corian. And a Belgian manufacturer, Aquamass, is producing my bathtub, called Strip. That's available in September.
What steps exactly led to your collaboration with Corian?
After seeing the Slide collection, they wanted to see other projects I had on the boards. Every year, DuPont holds presentations during the Milan fair, where designers push the limits of Corian. This year, I created furniture.
Having worked primarily as an architect for 20 years, why move into industrial design?
I've always been interested in it. In fact, when I worked on the European Parliament building, I was involved in all the little details, such as the benches inside the hemicycle—the main meeting room for the parliamentarians. Even the lamps, handles, and desks.
Many of your Milan prototypes are made from a single sheet of the material. Is that cost and manufacturing efficiency, or personal aesthetics?
Well, Corian is expensive. It's also important to get rid of joints for technical reasons—to make some of those pieces stronger.
But it's also my own design philosophy. I prefer simple and minimalist gestures. For example, my combination sink, mirror, and lamp for the bathroom forms one case piece. I believe all the different uses for a sink can be addressed in clean, pure lines.
Are your architecture and industrial designs closely related?
Architecture and product design are certainly related. The one dimension that's different is the context in which you have to construct something. With a building, you have to respect the surroundings. You wouldn't build the same way and with the same materials in Belgium as you would in, say, Italy. But I have the same design philosophy in both. I try to be as pure as possible, solving many things with one strong idea or form.
In a nutshell, what is your philosophy?
I'm all for a minimalist aesthetic, but also for creating an emotion. My design philosophy is about speaking to users subconsciously. For example, I've recently designed a prototype bathtub that's simple and clean, but also full, feminine, and inviting. It makes you just want to jump inside.
Do you think you'll ever leave architecture for product design?
No. My architecture practice is currently working on a lot of residences, mostly in Belgium. I'm also designing my own house in Lucca, Italy, with my wife, Donia Maaoui, who is also an architect. We purchased land full of olive trees for that site. It will be minimalist in design, of course.
You've advanced at a very young age for this field. When did you first know you'd become an architect?
Maybe 12 or 13, while living in the south of Belgium among a lot of farms. I was astonished at how farmland was neither designed nor planned. I went back home and shared my thoughts with my mother. Then I drew the "ideal farm"—my first time drawing walls on paper, rather than the other way around.