Semina, with Patricia Urquiola

For the past 4 years, I wanted to come back to Boisbuchet. This desire was fulfilled with the help of Be Open award, a prize which  “promote and support projects that could eventually be realised and have a positive impact on the future”.

Patricia Urquiola, who was leading the jury of this competition, is giving my first workshop of the summer at Domaine de Boisbuchet. Great coincidence.

I left Paris for Poitier where a small bus was waiting for the participants (young designers and architects from all over the world). Le Domaine de Boisbuchet is an hour drive from the train station.

The Domaine was exactly as I remembered, with its exotic trees, farm animals and Vitra furniture. First thing I did when I arrived was to install the MakerBot 3D printers (Replicator Dual to get technical) sent by le FabShop a few days before.

MakerBot at Boisbuchet

Patricia was as I remembered from when we met in London: Cheerful, spirited and welcoming. Always wearing a little touch of green. Alberto, her husband and associate was also with us for this week of creation. Elegant and relaxed, even when attacked by hay fever.

Oliviero Toscani, Samuel Bernier, Patricia Urquiola

Patricia had a talk with me about my responsibility as designer/maker. She knew a lot more about the Maker culture than most designers I know. She even quoted Chris Anderson a few times.

Patricia seemed concerned but scared by what the people might do with this power given by 3D printers. I just listened, taking note of her advices.

First day, we had a guided tour of the propriety and its unique installations. At lunchtime, we started talking about the subject of the workshop: Semina (inspired by Wallace Berman’s work).


We went in one of Simon Valez’s bamboo buildings to brainstorm a few ideas. Patricia wanted us to play with the concepts of time, collage and point of view. She also required our work to be part of Boisbuchet’s landscape. We chose to work between the river and the Japanese pavilion. During the guided tour, you have to walk a 100m in the long grass without anything to look at but the far away house. The idea was to distract the view from this focus point during the path so that the remarkable pavilion would be revealed only at the end of the path.


We also had the opportunity to visit the BORO – the fabric of life exhibition, in Boisbuchet’s castle. It’s featuring a unique collection of rare garments and utilitarian textiles patched and mended by Japanese peasants between 1880 ad 1950. It was absolutely wonderful in every detail.

boro exhibition boisbuchet 2013

On the second day, I had some indefinite ideas about “time travel” and “dream machines”, so I just kept walking around Boisbuchet, collecting small chunks of nature. I also started a side project for the summer, something I imagined in the train going to Poitier: 3D printed toys merging plastic and natural elements. I made a small plane using cork for the body and blue ABS plastic for the wings. I knew that I was losing time for my workshop, but I had to build it. Otherwise I would have been obsessed with the idea the whole week.

Boisbuchet's woodsnatural elements boisbuchetDSC00771


At lunchtime, I had a conversation with Patricia and the idea of the mobile came out. I had no proper argument to explain why I wanted to make such an object for her workshop, but it was something I had on my mind for a long time.

I also had an idea for a miniature brick factory using the dirt and the hay from the field. The bricks could have been used to build small vernacular architectures, like the ones I saw my Bambara friends build in Korosso, Mali.


I worked on these two ideas during the afternoon, making a mould with my 3D printer and creating clips meant to assemble bamboo sticks together. The mould failed. The brick got stuck in it. But the clips were a success. The first ones were printed in black plastic, but Patricia suggested that I use colour to emphasis the contrast between the natural and the artificial. Great intuition.DSC00539

One problem subsisted… I still didn’t know what to hang from my mobile. I was using rocks and wood parts to balance it. By the end of the day, Patricia found the plane toy on my desk. Instead of getting mad at me for my procrastination, she told me that she liked it and that I should continue this way, making more flying objects and hanging them from my mobile. She didn’t ask twice.

Wednesday, I printed some more wings, wheels and rotors. I then transformed a rock into a bird and a carbonised piece of wood into a helicopter.  I had to find the hidden potential in the shape of static objects.

blue toy parts samuel bernier



On Wednesday evenings Boisbuchet has this tradition for costumed parties. This week, the voted theme was vegyboys and candygirls. I found a green motorcycle helmet and drilled a lot of small holes into its plastic shell. I filled them with wide plants. It was an improvised broccoli hat. The next day, Patricia walked around with the helmet on her head. It was so fun, it made my day.

vegyboys candygirls boisbuchet 2013

Patricia had this funny idea of making a cake out of our drawings. I don’t think anybody took this idea seriously at the beginning. Somehow, she convinced the kitchen staff to let us draw with toothpicks on pastry doe. We ate this cake all together. She has this talent of making ideas happen.

written pastry

In Boisbuchet, there was also this famous Italian photographer, Oliviero Toscani. This man’s work is simply amazing. I was even more impressed by his humour and the way he tells his stories. I spent hours listening to him, even when he was speaking Italian.


I also enjoyed meeting Paco Orti, a participant from Spain. From the first day, he knew what to do and he did it right. He was working on a long flying seeds curtain. It was beautiful. Patricia saw an opportunity in our two very different was to apply design. The Instinctive/poetic (Paco) and the technical/functional (Me). She asked us to collaborate. I made a digital replica of the seed on my computer. I then printed it on le FabShop’s MakerBot. Paco added my little touch to his curtain and the effect was great, still playing with the contrast of natural and artificial. Alexander Von Vegesack, the owner of Boisbuchet (and a famous design collector) even asked to install it in his gallery.

Urquiola Boisbuchet

Afraid that it would rain on Friday, Patricia suggested that the presentation should be Thursday evening. I managed to finish on time and install my huge mobile by the river. It looked wonderful, moved by the wind, with harmonised rotations.

For the installation I also installed my broccoli helmet among the grass and a flying teapot over a Boro inspired carpet realised by two girls of the team.

DSC00541Urquiola's teapot Boisbuchet

One of my favourite projects was a miniature forest done by a girl from Luxembourg.

I also loved the effect of the suspended mirror by Erika, from USA.

miniature forestsam miror

On Friday, it didn’t rain much, but we used our extra time to create a big fanzine with sketches and collages from everyone. It was eclectic, improvised and inspired. It was a worthy reflect of our workshop.

Patricia Urquiola Boisbuchet



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