Slow design, with Pierre Favresse

At 33 years old, Pierre Favresse is already head of design for Habitant. Before that, he was in charge of Mathieu Lehanneur’s design studio in Paris and even created his own studio. How did he manage to do all that at such a young age? I would bet on his personality. Pierre is friendly, funny and very open-minded. If I were in the position to hire someone, I would probably give him my own job.

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For his workshop in Boisbuchet, he decided to work around the concept of slow design. The concept is quite abstract, but could be translated by: take your time making the things right. In his process, he wanted to give us some time for reflexion and reconsideration.

Paradoxically, the Slow design workshop was the fastest of all workshops this summer. The main reason is that Pierre had already chosen the material, the process and the application (more or less the entire Symbiosis workshop). We were going to work with cheap pine sticks, use only nails and glue and we were going to make chairs and tables.

For the first exercise, he gave a wood stick to every one of us and gave us 15 minutes to analyse it. We were encouraged to bend, twist, shake and touch the material, but weren’t allowed to cut it, nail it or glue it yet. We weren’t even allowed to sketch, which was a new thing for me. I instinctively started exploring the material with Jennifer (a girl from Philippines) and Thomas (a cabinet maker from Germany). I assumed that 3 sticks were better than one, and I was proven right. Remembering a project I had done as a student a few years ago, I asked them to stack our sticks and split them using bamboos as spacers. We then clamped the ends and magic happened. The sticks took a beautiful and natural curve that we all understood right away as being the first step for a beautiful bench or table. We found some more sticks and added them to the first structure until the wood couldn’t take any more stress. Only 30 minutes of work and we had our concept. We spent the next 3 days refining it.

After this first exercise, we finally were encouraged to sketch, which made much more sense now that we understood the material and it’s limits. It took us a full day to choose the design for the legs. During this time, we also had to sand down the pine sticks to get rid of their nasty yellow surface. We found a way to minimise the parts by using the legs as spacers and support. In total, the entire bench was made of only 3 different parts.

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On Thursday, we spent the morning for the assembly and the afternoon for the varnish. On Friday, our team was free. Thomas and I helped Pierre building a picnic table (it was quite heavy). And we spent the rest of the day enjoying the lake and the presentations.

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