Design Brut: Philia & Kids showcases sculptural furniture designed by "rather wise" children
Designers Antoine Behaghel and Alexis Foiny have created sculptural olive wood furniture based solely on drawings by children for a Galerie Philia exhibition.
Design Brut: Philia & Kids is the inaugural programme of a non-profit initiative conceived by international art gallery Galerie Philia that aims to engage children in design.
The project's first edition invited 19 kids from a primary school in the Breil-sur-Roya village in France to design sculptural furniture that was exhibited at Espace Meyer Zafra in Paris from November until last week.
Informed by the late French painter Jean Dubuffet, the initiative is named after art brut – or "raw art" – Dubuffet's name for art created outside of academic limitations, such as art made by children.
Participants aged six to seven took part in a workshop over five months, where they were asked to draw their own interpretations of sculptural design under the supervision of BehaghelFoiny Studio founders Antoine Behaghel and Alexis Foiny and their teacher Virgile Ganne.
The drawings range from a crocodile-like bench to colourful dining chairs and spikier, more abstract forms.
"Several shepherds' children drew hooves on the legs of the furniture, or horns on the backs of the chairs," noticed Behaghel and Foiny.
"Others, living near olive groves and the surrounding forest, drew leaves and branches on their furniture," they told Dezeen.
The designers explained that they encouraged the kids to "assert their own creativity" as well as observe their classmates' drawings and borrow forms from each other to make the design experience collaborative.
"Against all odds, we realised that, when faced with furniture design, the children's first intentions were rather wise, and copied the shapes of furniture they saw every day," they said.
After this, Behaghel and Foiny sorted the drawings into different furniture typologies including tables, chairs, stools, coat racks and pedestal tables, as well as categorising the creations by "spirits and styles".
The pair then worked with a cabinetmaker in Breil-sur-Roya to bring the drawings to life by making physical furniture out of local olive wood.
"In some places, we shrank or enlarged the silhouettes drawn by the children, to better distribute the weight," noted the designers.
During this process, the children were taken on a tour of a local sawmill and shown every stage of the production process in order to familiarise them with carpentry.
Behaghel and Foiny explained that olive wood was chosen for its cultural significance to Breil-sur-Roya, which is known as the "pays des oliviers" (olive tree country).
The designers painted the material in various colourful shades that aimed to subtly tint, rather than conceal, its veiny surface.
"It seemed to us very relevant to associate the intervention of very young children wiht a thousand-year-old wood!" noted the designers.
The pair hopes that the workshop will have taught the children about the importance of furniture design while showcasing their personal creativity without limitations.
"In the end, the children's drawings showed a real spontaneity," reflected Behaghel and Foiny.
"They are both free from technical reflexes and therefore led us to take risks and at the same time detached from the aesthetic automatisms that we impose on ourselves more or less consciously as professional designers," they added.
"They led us to extract ourselves from standardisation of tastes and beauty, to play more with imbalances and proportions."
This is not the first time that children have tried their hand at chair design. Third and fourth graders at a school in New York have designed a number of seating collections under the supervision of art instructor Bruce Edelstein, including chairs with horns and other wooden seats.
The photography is by Maison Mouton Noir.
Design Brut: Philia & Kids was on display at Espace Meyer Zafra from 10 November to 8 December 2022. See Dezeen Events Guide for an up-to-date list of architecture and design events taking place around the world.