Staging “Les Assises du design”

Samuel Bianchini, Adrien Bonnerot, Pernelle Poyet and Annie Leuridan – A scenic display for public speaking, 2019

Tennis Court Oath, on 20 June 1789, Draft, 1791. By Jacques-Louis David. Musée national du château de Versailles

The public restitution of a report on the place and future of design in France raises a number of questions: how can this public voice be coupled with a form that carries it in an original way? How can Les Assises du design be designed? How to give and pass on the floor, how to speak out in a public sphere in order to promote the development of this discipline, design, in a better way?

Les Assises du design’s basis is a report developed by six work groups, each one focusing on a specific theme. Each report leads to a discussion with the audience. The event was hosted at the Centre de conférences Pierre Mendès France, at the French Ministry of Economy and Finance. This room of 600 m2 with more than 6 m high ceiling offers a large volume composed mainly of warm wood, covering both floor and walls. This architecture by Paul Chemetov and Borja Huidobro features two configurations: amphitheatre or flat. The second option was chosen, providing a sort of large bare stage which suppresses the hierarchical, frontal, fixed and somewhat authoritarian arrangement embodied by the terraces and the unique location. The room is thus used not only as a flat space but also as a space free of frontal staging and of dominant axes, in order to distribute speech in space.

Inspired by improvised stagings for political speech – in particular the “Tennis Court Oath” – the project attempts to subtly answer a tough question: why and how do you get up on the table, in the middle of everyone, to speak out? This misplaced use sets the tone for a system based on creation and the coupling of two elements with oscillating function and symbolism: a coffee table that can become a platform and a mobile desk, easily accessible, conferring authority alternately to the various speakers and to the audience.

Placed on the floor, these objects, like all the seats welcoming audiences and speakers, form a horizontal and distributed scenography. In the middle of the room, six islands are made up of coffee tables around which the workgroups sit until one of them climbs up on the table awaiting their turn to speak behind the desk, converting the coffee table into a platform. The audience surrounds these islands of speech, and, in a porous and horizontal logic, avoiding any “stage/room division”. During the discussions, two mobile desks circulate in the room, in order to give the floor to whoever wishes to speak.

These scenographic elements are also covered with wood, fitting seamlessly into the room, creating a large homogeneous volume. The latter encourages us to raise our heads and pay more attention to its ceiling and the reflective glass galleries that surround it. A dense neon grid covers the entire ceiling and is extended by the galleries, thus further accentuating horizontality. By using these elements, a filtered lighting system can be created to plunge the entire room into an atmosphere that fully participates in the evolving scenography, following the unfolding of the presentations and discussions.

Display designed under the direction of Samuel Bianchini with Adrien Bonnerot and Pernelle Poyet (furniture design and space arrangement), Annie Leuridan (light design), Lucile Vareilles (production).

Project elaborated as part of a Cité du design’s commission for EnsadLab (research laboratory of Ecole nationale supérieure des Arts Décoratifs, Université Paris Sciences et Lettres), in dialogue with Direction générale de la création artistique du Ministère de la culture et de la communication, Direction générale des entreprises du Ministère de l’économie et des finances, Assises du design and Centre de Conférences Pierre Mendès France du Ministère de l’économie et des finances’s teams.

This project is part of EnsadLab’s research of new forms of “publicization” of art and design research.

Thank you to Ulysse Abelard, Steven Akoun, Edith Buser, Abdelbaqi Chelqi, Juliette Chevalier, Victoire Disderot, Jean-François Dubernard, Cécile Gigot, Camille Herody, Alice Hervagault, Gwenaëlle Lallemand, Guy Le Goff, Emmanuel Mahé, Marie-Séverine Piard, Béatrice Salmon, Emmanuel Tibloux, Isabelle Vérilhac and the team of The Centre de conférences Pierre Mendès France.