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Design Without Limits: In Search of Good Material

2 minute read
Julia Mason

Reshaping Light

François Azambourg, 42, always figured he would be an architect. Then, in 1985, while a design student in Paris, he had an idea for a disposable coffee machine made entirely of paper. The contraption won a contest at the Musée des Arts Décoratifs–and launched Azambourg’s love affair with unusual materials. Twenty years later, he is a leader of the French contemporary-furniture design movement.

Fascinated by the idea of “light as material,” Azambourg began developing a lampless lampshade in 2002. Created with the textile company Dubar-Warneton, the shade is wired throughout with fiber-optic thread typically used in the aviation and space industries. “My lamp glows by itself–it’s magical!” he says.

No less magical is Azambourg’s Pack chair. It initially looks like a brick but, when shaken, inflates into a full-size chair within five minutes. The shaking activates an emulsion that causes a special polyurethane foam to expand, thus unfolding a 3-D textile made by knitting together two parallel wire-linked fabrics. Several firms are negotiating to produce the chair. Meanwhile, this fall, Hermès will launch a series of ultralight suitcases, designed by Azambourg, that are fashioned from a unique mix of foam and leather.

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