Incandescence

2016
with Marie Lemenes
for Valmont Industries


Can urban furniture help create conviviality in the public space? We think a bonfire can.


Challenged by the public lighting company Valmont to trigger conviviality and togetherness in the urban space, my partner and I delved into the primordial symbolism of fire and its attraction to humans. It led us to develop a versatile range of logs, twigs and embers that passersby rekindle by interacting with them.









Case




Willing to expend their offer towards urban furniture and urban planning solutions, Valmont Industries challenged us to translate their main expertise - public lighting - into this new segment, keeping in mind a core notion: urban conviviality. The proposed solution should therefore trigger, encourage and facilitate social behaviours and playful experiences, allowing municipalities to envision the management of their public spaces in new ways.

This initial brief was further informed by a visit of Valmont’s French production site in Charmeil, giving us a sense of the technical possibilities and constraints that the project should comply with.





Approach

The very first part of our exploration dealt with building our interpretation of the notion of conviviality. We adopted the bonfire as our core concept, emerging from our individual imaginaries as well as from conversations with peers; it also merged ideas of togetherness, warmth, interactivity and light, our collaborator’s know-how.

Now focusing on this primordial fire and its symbols, we investigated the behaviours it carries and implies, and how those could be translated into a public space experience: gathering the twigs, building the bonfire, lighting up the fire, carrying a torch, warming up around the fireplace, rekindling the embers… Doing so, we built a repository of shared fire symbols that we would pick from for the development of the project.



Keeping the light, interactivity and modularity at the center of our approach, we decided to envision our furniture installation as a landscape of twigs, embers and logs that people could freely interact with.

Taking advantage of Valmont’s existing tooling, we shaped these logs as truncated cones of various lengths, becoming either benches, tables, masts or individual seats. In each of these, we proposed to cut out a pattern - this time taking the most out of Valmont’s water jet cutting installations - through which the light would be shaped as the glow of a gently burning ember. We then developed an interactive and engaging lighting program that, thanks to sensors, would “rekindle” the light intensity as people gather and interact with the furniture: the more people, the more light. This feature also allows a minimized energy consumption for the installation.















In the end, Incandescence is a versatile furniture range that equally performs on dense squares or elongated wharfs. The luminous and warm archipelagos it generates in the urban landscape are reassuring landmarks that prompt gatherings and social interactions, referring to the primordial human attraction to fire.







State of affairs




Incandescence was presented to a Valmont team, comprising technicians and salesmen, and received a very warm reception. It became one out of a few projects that, as part of an agreement with the Design School, the company held the rights of for a duration of two years during which they could decide to further develop the idea or not.



Louis Rose 2020
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Design of sustainable solutions