She looks like a character from a graphic novel, with big black glasses and short bangs that have become her trademark. He, instead, with a less pop look, since childhood has always preferred sketchbooks to textbooks, a passion for drawing that is evident in his graphic approach to projects.
We are talking about Matali Crasset, industrial designer, originally from Châlons-en-Champagne and known for her over-the-top, playful and innovative ideas, and Patrick Norguet, also French, precisely from Tours.
Both work with Concrete Lcda, a French company that in a few short years has become a benchmark for the world of architecture and interior design. In the Made in Haussmann collection, Matali Crasset explores the decorative side of concrete and cites the interiors of French apartments: “I usually get inspired by observing life. The sociologist Marc Augé defined my practice as ‘anthropological design’. Furthermore, I rely on rituals and customs for developing projects. The modern mix I created for Concrete Lcda makes fun of the codes of interior design and integrates French bourgeois mouldings and decorations into the modernity of concrete, creating a sort of absorption of decorative codes in a contemporary language: a decorative oxymoron”.
Matali Crasset, famous for having created the first self-service hotel without personnel, the Hi Matic, starts from the rules to them move away from them with the aim of creating new types of objects and ways of living: “Behind every project there is intent. In When Jim comes to Paris, the rollable bed designed in 1995, the intention was to restore hospitality to the house. It’s not form that interests me, it is only the consequence of intention, just like the material. I think in terms of space and use, not in terms of colours, matter or form. Of course, objects do have a form, but their form is not what drives my work. I hope that the form is instead the consequence of the intention. Starting from a scenario, we say that we will do this or that, and the object will give us one function or another. So we create a specific idea and the form, the material and the colour simply and logically follow the specifics given.”
Patrick Norguet, on the other hand, is famous for his graphic approach to the project, from the product to the surfaces, and regarding the collection for Concrete Lcda, he says: “It’s primarily a sensory project, a work on concrete, material that over the years has become ennobled by names of the calibre of Le Corbusier and Tadao Ando. I wanted to take this material to a wider audience, democratise it and make it more accessible, introducing it into an apartment. So I worked on the ability that concrete has to be moulded, giving it a structure, a relief and a material texture. The result is a surface that captures the light.” And he continues: “I like well-constructed and well-designed objects because I am convinced that is what makes them timeless. It is a process that requires a great deal of work: for each project, I spend time looking for the right idea, the idea that will allow me to build the object and give it the opportunity to exist. This passes through many passages that are not Cartesian, but are the result of a chaotic journey where chance and rigour sometimes find a meeting place. Once this balance has been achieved, I have to keep it until the product has been manufactured: it is a decisive step so that it doesn’t lose its genesis.”
An obvious approach in contract projects, as in the Okko Hotels project, characterised by a contrasting mix of materials and colours. But there is really no standard formula: “I don’t have ‘recipes’, I do not keep an archive of much of my work. Some designers even file the smallest design in the hope of leaving a trace … is it fear of dying? (laughs, ed.) Seriously, I try to conceive objects and places of life with which it is easy to interact. I’m happy when I see how my products evolve with the use we make of them.” According to Norguet, the designer’s work is becoming more radical: “It reflects a need for efficiency without losing poetry and elegance, but in a world saturated with objects, it seems important to conceive useful products and above all, ones that have a sense to them.”
Finally, on future projects he anticipates: “I’m working on different subjects, and especially on very different continents and I am learning a great deal. I have the feeling of being in a period of transition and my work asks me many questions. I see all these companies that strive to produce objects that the “neighbours” already have in the catalogue, salons where we find the same objects, the same inspiration, the designers who copy them … It’s time to invent tomorrow.”