- Art & Design
Expressing the simplicity of forms: as paradoxical as it sounds, according to Hervé Langlais, it is harder than you think. The French architect and designer already has a lot of design experience behind him and decided in 2020 to create his own collection in collaboration with Negropontes Gallery. These pieces are produced in limited editions and custom-made by French and Italian craftsmen.
With his work, the designer aims to present precious materials in their full glory, always accompanied by a great attention to the finest details. His pieces often contain references to 20th-century architects and sculptors such as Eduardo Chillida, Carlos Scarpa, Jose Luis Sert, Alvar Aalto, and Constantin Brâncuși. Architecture is never far away in his work and sculpture is close to his heart, so his creations are at the crossroads of both disciplines. The four collections we show here demonstrate what for Langlais is the essence of his work. Archetypical, pure forms and figures from architecture are characterised by tight symmetry, which provide balance in the design. Furthermore, he attaches great importance to using the natural colours of the raw material. For example, many of his pieces are made of marble, which offers a wide range of colours, textures, and shapes. ‘The uniqueness of stone never ceases to amaze me and makes me feel like I am on a treasure hunt every time I am discovering new pieces.’ As for oak wood, he prefers to use it raw, sometimes working the texture a little, as in gouged wood. With metal, too, he sticks to the original colour, but he polishes, brushes, or oxidises the texture. By keeping additives like paint and varnish completely out of his work, the designer stays true to an authentic palette. Besides finding the right materials, lasting collaborations are another important aspect of Langlais' work, although it is not always easy to build these and find the right craftspeople with whom he can engage in a dialogue about the details and materials. ‘Finding the right wood, the right grain in the correct place, mastering the interaction between the materials, managing to assemble them in the finesse of the details, that is the great difficulty,’ he explains. All of his designs are realised in workshops in France, except for the marble pieces, which are made in Italy.
'The uniqueness of stone never ceases to amaze me’
The Chill Collection brings together voluminous, sculptural objects that were inspired by Chillida's work. The coffee table is composed of a succession of layers of marble in the manner of a bas-relief and a massive pedestal table, forming a kind of diverse micro-architecture. In turn, the two consoles from the T Collection are, unsurprisingly, formal variations on the letter T. The minimal compositions constantly play with balance. Another striking inspiration, this time for the Silo Collection, are grain silos and water towers. The brutalist shapes of those industrial buildings, where technology comes before form, resulted in an inspiring console and stool, among others. Another eye-catching design is that of the Arches3 Console, which took its inspiration from the facades of the Doge's Palace in Venice. The model was carved from a solid block of marble yet has an impressive refinement. It gives this minimal, classic form a striking strength and lightness. Finally, wood is another material Langlais likes to experiment with. The Penta Collection, which includes the Penta Armchair and Stool, is an exploration of the nobility of solid oak. Langlais' pieces are regularly exhibited at international fairs and can be found at Galerie Scene Ouverte in Paris, STUDIOTWENTYSEVEN in New York, Miami, and Los Angeles, Objects With Narratives in Geneva, Freeman Gallery in Sydney and Collectional in Dubai.
You can read more in the summer 2023 edition of Imagicasa Magazine.
Header image: Penta Arm Chairs and Chill Collection, photography by Darya Litvinovich
Image 1: T Console, image courtesy of @standardtrack
Image 2: Silo Console, image courtesy of @standardtrack
Image 3: Penta Arm Chairs and Chill Collection, photography by Darya Litvinovich
Image 4: Silo Console, image courtesy of @standardtrack
Image 5: Silo Stool, image courtesy of @standardtrack
Image 6: T Stool, image courtesy of @standardtrack
Image 7: T Side Table, image courtesy of @standardtrack
Image 8: T Table, image courtesy of @standardtrack