Mathieu Lehanneur

April 18, 2016

French designer Mathieu Lehanneur is world known for his fascination with science and a humanistic approach to his work, which takes him far beyond product design. During Maison et Objet Paris in January, visitors were able to experience two of his latest lighting projects – Clover and Les Cordes. darc discovers the man behind the designs.

Considered one of the world’s top 100 designers and influencers, Mathieu Lehanneur is a French designer at the forefront of the international design scene. He is also one of the few of his generation to use his talent in a variety of disciplines beyond furniture design. During Maison et Objet Paris in January, Lehanneur presented two major lighting projects in the city: his lighting feature Les Cordes, originally created for the Decorative Arts Museum of Marseille, France and his first urban lighting furniture collection Clover, on display at an apt location in front of the Ministry of Ecology, Sustainable Development and Energy in Paris.

Having grown up in the suburbs of Paris, a career in design wasn’t always on the cards for Lehanneur and before embarking on a degree in design at ENSCI-Les Ateliers / Ecole Nationale Superieure de Creation Industrielle, he longed to become an artist.

“After studying art for around six months, I realised that for me, inspiration came from working with a client and I preferred the idea of this, rather than being completely autonomous in the world of art,” Lehanneur tells darc. “I always knew I wanted to work within the creative field in some way and in the end decided on design.”

Fascinated and inspired by science, Lehanneur funded his studies through taking part in pharmaceutical trials, which in turn, brought inspiration for his first collection – Therapeutic Objects, a range of remedies that were easier to use than those he’d seen during the drug trials. By designing medicine Lehanneur was trying to connect directly with the ‘living element’ – the user. With Therapeutic Objects now part of MoMA New York’s permanent collection, this humanistic approach continues in his work today. Lehannuer considers human beings as complex structures that need more than just chairs, but also air to breathe, sustainable food, good health and love in order to live better.

Making its debut in Paris at the beginning of the year, outdoor lighting fixture Clover is an opportunity for the public to ‘break and recharge’ and is a follow up to the designer’s 2012 creation of Digital Break, a range of WiFi stations in Champs Elysees Avenue that offered a new way of experiencing the city and connecting with the rest of the world.

Clover is a series of ‘trees’ encompassing energy, functions and materials. Lehanneur describes them as “hybrid objects of excellence, combining light and seating, wood and solar panels, town and country. It (Clover) is a new living species – both wild and domestic, natural and technological,” he says.

Carved from a wooden mast, Clover comprises a floor lamp and bench that appear cut and polished by the hands of a craftsman; rather, they are digitally machined using an unprecedented industrial process that allows the designer to blend different species of wood together. Lehanneur aims to create a structure like a “replanted tree that should have always been there”.

Clover features large aluminium domes that release downward LED light to minimise light pollution and energy loss. An additional dome, faced upwards, is equipped with solar panels to produce enough energy to power the lamps for three hours. A small hatch is also available where passers-by can charge their smartphones. The Clover bench is designed to be adaptable and extendable – reaching over fifteen-metres long if required.

This latest project was launched to coincide with this year’s COP21, United Nations Conference on Climate Change in Paris and was initiated and sponsored by the Poitou-Charentes French region under the leadership of its President Segolene Royal.

The Les Cordes lighting feature was unveiled at the Carpenters Workshop Gallery also in January, in an exhibition entitled New Works (running until March 19). Having collaborated with the Gallery since 2011, Lehanneur is now officially joining its roster of represented artists, in line with his continuous artistic research and development.

Les Cordes uses contemporary lighting technology with handcrafted work to create a modern representation of a chandelier. The glass tubes contain strips of LED that puncture the underside of the ceiling and hang down like loops of rope. A lighting programme allows the lights to be dimmed or brightened independently of one another.

“The chandelier was conceived as a rope of light crossing the ceiling,” said Lehanneur. Only bands of light and glass are visible. Neither an object not a light fitting. It is the light itself that seems to live and circulate in the entrance space, as if stitched onto the actual building.”

The New Works exhibition will run until March 19.

Pic: Felipe Ribon