Sylvain Dubuisson : Get out of my sun
Sylvain Dubuisson
Get out of my sun
Yves Gradelet + Pauline Lacoste, September 28, 2009
Diogenes is a fiction, a utopia that reflects the real and everyday necessity of having to live in spaces with small dimensions - a reality that is one of the prime targets of VIA research programmes. From the outside, its shell wrapped in a translucent skin suggests the image of a barrel as much as a theatre set. Visitors enter at first level using walk-up gangways like those of a boat, the lowest level, which is for rest, is accessible via a trapdoor built into the first level floor. Aesthetics aside, the painstaking arrangement of the interior layout of Diogenes is designed to be perceived in context as a minimal living space. While responding to norms for security, hygiene and preservation of the environment, Dubuisson proposes an alternative view of ways of living - modes that in fact transgress the normative framework.

Dubuisson-bureau89© correspond au bureau 89
Dubuisson-bureau89© correspond au bureau 89

For example, the bedroom, or rather the bed, which is on the uppermost level (accessible by stairs built into a column), is in metamorphosis, simultaneously enlarging and confining like a snail shell. It provides the user with a backrest, so the bed becomes a lounge space. Whatever the spatial configuration, everything can be used in equivocal function: ‘Everything goes together without getting in the way’… Structure and fit-out furniture interact.

Dubuisson_chaise CP© correspond à la chaise empilable CP
Dubuisson_chaise CP© correspond à la chaise empilable CP

Diogenes also enables users to experiment positions of relaxation on the floor, the lower curve of the cylinder lending itself to the use of comfort accessories that are flexible enough to allow deformations and rigid enough to support body posture in laid-back mode. An experimental living space, Diogenes is also a cabinet of curiosities.

Dubuisson_Diogène 04©  correspond à une vue de l’installation Diogène, vu de profil, depuis sa gauche
Dubuisson_Diogène 04© correspond à une vue de l’installation Diogène, vu de profil, depuis sa gauche

Elsewhere in the 300 m² of exhibition space in the VIA gallery other pieces on display are eloquently enhanced by drawings, which for Sylvain Dubuisson constitute ‘a language… but which also sectorize representation, codifying it…’

They include ‘historic’ pieces like the ‘Composite table’ (1987), made of carbon fibre, a marvel of weightlessness, or the «L’Aube et le temps qu’elle dure» chair (1987), which upends the classic scheme of weight-bearing legs. More recent works include the «Douce amère» table (2003), with its name etched in the centre of its top and whose round legs feature phials that contain legendary plants such as mandrake, hemlock, belladonna and fly-agaric. There is also the ‘MDW’ desk (2004), whose thin aluminium plateau resting on four points of a surbased vault caisson represents a synthesis of Dubuisson’s formal and technological research since 1987.

Dubuisson_Porte vue Education nationale© correspond au porte-revue lumineux, issue de la collection Education nationale.
Dubuisson_Porte vue Education nationale© correspond au porte-revue lumineux, issue de la collection Education nationale.

Sylvain Dubuisson, architect & designer

Architect, designer and creators, he qualified at the school of architecture in Tournai (Belgium) and descends from a line of architects. His father was from Lille and his mother from Bordeaux. Born in 1946, Dubuisson is one of the most atypical creators of his generation. Blending a taste for advanced technologies with the precision of the craftsman, he has designed a wide range of objects and pieces of furniture as well as spaces: from ewer to standing lamp, from minister’s armchair to bishop’s seat, from a pen etched with the handwriting of Rimbaud to dishware in virginal porcelain, and from rehabilitated social housing to layouts for museum, church and luxury boutiques, not to forget exhibition scenography and the creation of urban furniture… A diversity that shows to what extent architecture and design are inseparable for him.

Drawing presides over each of Sylvain Dubuisson’s projects and is also part of his daily practise. ‘The hand thinks and carries all the grandeur and imperfection of sensitivity’, he remarks. This is how spirals come to figure in the legs of armchairs, torsades in candle-sticks or carafes, and volutes in stairs. Another constant in his work is literary reference. Each one of his lamps carries a line or a thought: «Beaucoup de bruit pour rien» refers to an inventory by Kafka, «Applique A4» contains a poem by Robert Musil. And there is also the «Lettera amorosa» vase, etched with verses by René Char.

Past master in handling industrial constraints, Dubuisson explores the possibilities of new technologies. ‘Matter enables us to reveal interiority’, he says, ‘and bring about a shift’. The ‘Composite table’ (1987) is one of the earliest and best examples of this. In works in which the material and the spiritual combine, Sylvain Dubuisson transmits ‘discourse that is sometimes clear, sometimes fragmentary, sometimes occult, and which records awareness of our daily reality.’

Most recent works

• Rue Watt, Paris 13, urban lighting with Bruno Fortier, architect, and Louis Clair, lighting engineer, in progress
• Bernardaud, ‘Anno’ coffee cup, 2008 + limited series dishes for Art Meets Matter, New York, 2009
• Dupont Café, Paris, layout in collaboration with Sandra Carigliano, interior architect, 2009
• European Parliament, Brussels, scenography of atrium and layout of salons for French Presidency, 2008
• Cartier Ginza, Tokyo, renovation of façade, 2007