Symbiosis, with Benjamin Hubert

Construction and materiality in industrial design

Benjamin Hubert is a rising star in the design world. No surprise that his workshop was completely full. He is a young and prolific designer that manages to get a lot of exposure on websites and magazines. He is profession driven and serious. Before meeting him, I already heard about his personality. Being a hard worker, he is demanding and only asks for the very best you can give. His workshop was no exception.

We started working as a big group, brainstorming on different proprieties that can define a material (elasticity, transparency, solidity…). He then created groups, which he assigned to one of these characteristics for a material hunt around Boisbuchet. Unfortunately enough, I picked “cold” with my teammate. It was over 30 degrees outside…

We still managed to find objects that one way or another can be related to the characteristic cold. To mention just a few, we got ceramic, the water from the bottom of the lake (which is always freezing), a dead bug, light blue tarp, liquid air and a frozen beer.

Benjamin then started merging subjects and teams. Hot and cold became temperature, which then got cancelled. Our two teams then became synthetic and light, which was the new subjects, created to contrast with characteristics natural and heavy. On our boards, we had some very random objects, found to fill the gaps. The brief was to then chose a material from each board and link them together. This led to about ten different experiments. One of them was using

Cork with 3D printing

Latex gloves attached together by the fingers

Assembled plastic cups

PU foam compacted with treads

Melted artificial grass

Bamboo joined together by bicycle inner tubes …

We all agreed that the last one was the best and we started exploring this assembly.

The original idea for this mix of materials was from Marion, a French textile designer who kept being the most productive group member all week long. By the end of the day, we had a board filled with different ways to connect bamboos with rubber.

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The next step was to find a proper application for this technique. We started with architecture, but quickly realised that our inner tube supply was limited. We then jumped from kinetic sculpture to water installation, to a simple hammock.

Even a hammock wasn’t that simple in the end since we still had to hold one person’s weight with nothing else than rubber joints. The team found some clever ways to make the binding as strong as possible, but it still wasn’t enough to support an adult weight.

Aware that our first design would not work, I started working on a plan B (we were Thursday evening and the presentation was due Friday at 1PM. I designed a drop shaped cradle made from various triangles. It was finished by Friday morning (while the other design took us 3 days and 4 people to realise). Unfortunately, it still wasn’t strong enough to be functional, but it was enough to show our assembly technique applied to an object. We decided to call the project BOA, for the capacity of the tube to stretch to eat much bigger than its own volume. We played on the St-Exupery story : “Le petit prince”.

Among the other teams, there were many clever sparkles coming directly from the design process taught by Benjamin. There was natural fibres reinforced with latex, pieces of wood assembled with melted metal, plaster that looks soft…

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The symbiosis workshop wasn’t about giving a final product in 3 and half days like most projects in Boisbuchet. It was about giving the students a strong tool for innovation.

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