Ronan and Erwan Bouroullec’s encampment at the MCA, or their “bivouac,” covers the entire fourth floor, filling gallery after gallery with the French brothers’ contemporary furniture and housewares.
The Bouroullecs are equally inspired by natural forms and the Bauhaus’s machine-made aesthetic. Younger brother Erwan contends there is a level of naïveté to the duo’s designs despite their highly polished look. The exhibition’s display of more than 250 sketches, photographs of maquettes and prototypes reveal the designers’ intuitive thought process. During a recent tour, when asked which sketches he drew, Ronan tells me, “It’s a secret.” The brothers take pains to showcase their work as a unified team.
The Bouroullecs call the exhibition’s signature pieces, which ingeniously straddle the line between furniture and architecture, “microarchitecture” for their ability to define smaller spaces within larger interiors. Stunning examples include Algues (2004), a customizable scrim or wall hanging made of individual plantlike modules; Textile Field (2011), a large, low, cradled and carpeted platform that invites visitors to lounge on it; and Alcove High Back Sofa (2007), two of which create a room-within-a-room.
“Bivouac” should have pushed some of its ideas further. The show offers a tantalizing glimpse of one “macroarchitecture” project, Floating House (2006), but aside from a few lonely photographs, it presents little information about this intriguing structure. Is it a one-off or an indication of bigger things to come? Visitors are left speculating about what the brothers Bouroullec might tackle next.