This week, Quark met Lyon Beton, a French company that manufactures concrete furniture. Discover with us their responsible manufacturing methods and their inspirations to create innovative furniture!
Can you introduce yourself in a few words?
Lyon Concrete is a French design studio that creates pieces of concrete furniture and bold accessories using a different approach to design, based on the work of a molded material.
How did you get into the world of concrete furniture?
We knew the world of furniture more than 20 years ago. We were then intermediaries between major French distribution brands and factories or manufacturing workshops abroad. The only variable that interested our customers was the price, it had to be as low as possible. Hardly any respect for design work and products with a very short lifespan. We quickly understood that we wanted something else.
Why did you choose concrete furniture as your preferred furniture?
When you design furniture from molded material, you enter into a fundamentally different logic of creation. The starting point is no longer a flat panel machined or bent with a machine. It is no longer a question of assembling known elements. The shape becomes completely free. Creativity has almost no limits. We use concrete, a complex material to work with which imposes its constraints, provides a framework. This framework is our space of freedom, our playground. We are inviting a few bold designers who have understood our approach and its potential.
Can you describe your creative process and your way of working (especially with your designers and your concrete furniture)?
A Lyon Béton product must pass 3 filters:
- Being functional
- Being aesthetic
- Telling a story.
It is probably this last point that makes our products stand out. It is also the most difficult to grasp. We like to think that our achievements are unique while having an anchor in our collective memory. We are a bit nostalgic for certain eras of design without being backward-looking. If in addition our products can bring a little poetry into people's lives, then we know that we have achieved something. This is the case of the cloud-shaped toilet paper holder Cloud, imagined by the artist and designer Bertrand Jayr, which remains one of our best sellers.
We take this opportunity to wink at our friends from Popee
Do you think your job will have to reinvent itself? Especially with the pandemic we are going through?
Yes and no. We are quite convinced that people's basic needs have not really changed. We still have to adapt to certain new uses that have emerged, such as the boom in working from home or the explosion of online shopping. A few years ago people liked to touch or try before buying. This brake has been lifted and it is not uncommon today to buy a chair without ever having sat on it. It is for us an opportunity and at the same time a challenge because our products are much more convincing in real life than through a screen. It's up to us to be better communicators.
See this post on Instagram
Can you explain what FRAG is?
FRAG is a product that has been close to our hearts for a long time. Urban art inspires us a lot and we were looking for a relevant support to bring it into our homes. The existing supports were not convincing. Street art on a canvas, is it still street art? The concrete that we already knew well appeared as obvious.
A FRAG is 4 cm of raw concrete, fiber-reinforced to be more resistant and lighter. Its surface is flat and smooth to the touch while keeping the raw aspect of concrete that urban artists are familiar with.
The simple and invisible hanging system fixes the Frag to the wall. The effect is striking: a real piece of wall torn from the street.
The first to adopt this medium were the Lyonnais collective Birdy Kids with whom we still work.
This support is suitable for all street art techniques: spray paint, collage, chalk, stencil. and we are also able to print works directly on concrete in partnership with a printer specializing in fine art publishing.
In your opinion, do the decoration and therefore the furniture have an impact on our moods and our well-being?
The Corbusier, who inspires us a lot, once said: “Where order is born, well-being is born. “We tend to agree with this assertion. Well-designed and aesthetic furniture brings serenity and well-being. For decoration, it's a bit different. She can participate in this well-being, but the role we prefer her is to bring a little madness and the unexpected, a source of creativity.
How are your products sustainably responsible?
We are against the principle of disposable furniture and decoration. From drawing to manufacturing, everything is designed so that our products last a long time. Concrete is a material that works very well for this. If you take care of it, our furniture will outlive you. Our dream is to see in 40 or 50 years Lyon Béton furniture being sold in antique dealers or second-hand goods dealers.
We work to limit the impact of our creations on the environment at all levels: in product composition, manufacturing, packaging and transport. We are progressing every day. We still have a long way to go.
What are your sources of inspiration?
If our inspiration is influenced by the urban world and architecture, its source is deeper than that. We are absolutely fascinated by the aesthetics and logic of the Bauhaus school. We sometimes look at other movements that have explored the combination of geometric shapes in the service of a philosophy or an art of living: the De Stijl school, art deco, brutalism or more recently the Memphis.
And finally, what do you think of the Pegboard and the modular design? Should we prefer a single function object? Or does multifunction provide solutions in line with our lifestyles?
We like to see how people integrate our products into their daily lives even if they divert their primary use.
The Pegboard you made is a good example. At Lyon Béton, some of our furniture has this playful and multifunctional aspect. The Dice modular storage cubes have revealed their full potential in the hands of our customers. Some use them as hi-fi furniture (they are the right size to store vinyl records) or as log storage, others as a room divider or bedside table.
Our concrete flowerpot in the shape of a nuclear power plant chimney has also been repurposed many times to become a trash can, an umbrella stand or even a pencil holder.
We are currently working on a somewhat hybrid piece of furniture, part side table and part aquarium or terrarium. We don't yet know what our customers will do with it, but we can't wait to find out!
Do not hesitate to consult our latest article: Ekhi Busquet, creativity at the service of the common good
Interview by Clara Didier
Shaping by Coralie Mottu