‘Micro-Architecture’ Is Focus of Bouroullecs’ First U.S. Exhibit

When the organizers of the Cologne Furniture Fair asked French design duo Ronan and Erwan Bouroullec to give them an Ideal House, the modest brothers balked. As they explained to Metropolis, “It’s a terrible idea, to have one designer create everything in an environment.” But with the simply titled Ronan and Erwan Bouroullec, an installation on view through October 18 at the Museum of Contemporary Art (MOCA) in West Hollywood, California, the designers pull together enough disparate pieces to create an ideal world within the museum’s two-story exhibition space.

Rather than try to give an overview of the Bouroullecs’ rise to design fame, or some insight into their process, the show—the pair’s first in the U.S.—concentrates on the brothers’ idea of “micro-architecture.” Less than a building but more than a room, micro-architecture creates fluid spaces that can be altered by the user. In keeping with that theme, we are welcomed to the exhibit by Lit Clos (2000), a mobile room on feet that must have been inspired by Japan and its capsule hotels. The space is partially shielded by a gently waving scrim of black Algues (2004), an interlocking system of parts look like stylized seaweed, and which are made of ABC and polyamids. In a short film playing in the exhibition space, the Bouroullecs call Algues “an open system of flexible geometry,” and show how it can be used as a room divider, an outdoor screen, or a tent-like drape.

MOCA’s outpost at the Pacific Design Center is a good venue for the Bouroullecs’ work. Dwarfed by the monolith that is the Center, the gallery space is immediately intimate and cocoon-like, so that you’re ready to take in new shapes. Cloud (2002), a modular bookshelf made of polystyrene and manufactured by Cappellini, is assembled to create an entryway on the second floor; the entryway leads into a playful indoor fort made of olive green Algues draped over a black felt Cabane (2001), an easily assembled structure shaped like a soccer goal box and designed to create separate space within a room.

Throughout most of the exhibit, there is no curatorial text, and the casual visitor would be forgiven for thinking that she has stepped into an eccentric’s apartment. The Grape Carpet (2001) anchors a meditative living room laid under the smooth Spring Chair (2000) and cool, dim lighting of the umbrella-like Parasol Lumineux (2001). If you lived here you would sit in the chair and watch the television-shaped fiberglass Vase (2001), lit inside to illuminate a spray of white orchids.

Similar to Algues, the polypropylene BETC wall system (2002) utilizes clothespin-like snaps and thin metal rods to create room dividers. The dividers were originally conceived for a shelter; here they frame the Joyn office (2002) and Brick shelving systems (2000). Both systems are used to display a somewhat haphazard array of valises, table ware, and jewelry that, like the orchid vase, seem to be shown to remind us that the Bouroullecs are more than furniture designers.

In all, the show demonstrates the adaptability of the Bouroullecs’ designs, as well as the brothers’ willingness to abdicate a certain amount of control over their creations. The pair makes it so that, in the end, users can reconfigure the objects to create their own ideal homes.

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