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Patrick Jouin at Centre Pompidou

EXP-JOUIN Text: Chris Holt

As one of the most beautiful cities in the world, Paris understandably takes design very seriously. This attitude manifests itself in the boldness of its many architectural landmarks, as well as day-to-day things, such as the Métro or the ubiquitous newstands on the sidewalk. It’s easy to take for granted that someone, at some time, put a lot of thought into what we see before buying a newspaper or getting on the subway. In recent years one of those people has been Patrick Jouin, the man responsible for the look of Velib stations and the hi-tech public toilets throughout the city. These are just two of the 20 design projects from Jouin’s design firm being highlighted at the George Pompidou Centre until 24 May, 2024.

The exhibition is really more of a presentation: a projector and a mock stage create the impressive (albeit obvious) illusion that Patrick Jouin is right there, talking about his work. The presentation is complemented by a display on the surrounding walls, featuring preliminary sketches, photographs, diagrams and material samples from each of the 20 designs discussed in the presentation.

The end result is a highly informative and fascinating look at the meticulous creative process of industrial design. Jouin and his colleagues describe in detail how products are conceptualized and manufactured, from items such as crockery, to the carbon fibre chairs commission by Le Jules Verne restaurant in the Eiffel Tower. As an homage to the great science fiction author, they are designed to look futuristic and weightless. While they might seem like patio furniture from Ikea, the strength and utility of each hand-made piece is quite impressive (as is, no doubt, the price).

The projects are carried out by people who take their crafts seriously. Not surprisingly, this lends itself to moments of hyperbole, such as when they describe a pot that actually makes pasta taste better and should be a lesson to the Italians in how to cook. In addition, the presentation is quite long, and the floor is pretty much the only place to sit. Consequently, it’s a bit slow and a little silly at times. Regardless, the exhibition is worth visiting, as it reveals a new perspective on how design influences our lives.

Centre Pompidou
Place Georges Pompidou
75004 Paris, France
Open 11am to 9pm

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