These guerilla urbanists are taking their furniture to the streets. 2M26 is part of our Makers + Shakers series – a look at the next generation of independent makers who are tapping into new markets, exploring unconventional materals and using their skills for social good.
Developing an audience is one of the biggest challenges faced by designers. The usual channels include exhibiting at furniture fairs or seeking out receptive retail outlets. However, an architecture and design studio based in Nancy, France, has found alternative ways of engaging the public with its modestly constructed wooden seating, by bringing the pieces directly to the streets via theatrical installations.
Launched in 2015, 2M26 is run by a creative team of four who have worked in various capacities over the years, collaborating on intriguing mash-ups of architecture, art and guerrilla urbanism. Their latest seating line, designed by co-founders Mélanie Heresbach and Sébastien Renauld, includes chairs, stools and tables constructed from ordinary planks of Douglas fir or spruce fastened with screws. Modesty is their strength. The furnishings are meant primarily to act as catalysts for communal engagement and not necessarily as objects to merely covet.
One of the firm’s principals, Sébastien Renauld (who also runs the Boijeot.Renauld studio with Laurent Boijeot), has regularly set up 2M26’s furniture in public locations, as a way to spark unscripted gatherings, letting people do what comes naturally when they encounter an array of seats, chairs, tables and even beds: use them. The furniture becomes the focus, inviting pedestrians to slow down or stop to grasp the full potential of how behaviour can be changed just by introducing a place to sit.
Last fall, Renauld and Boijeot walked the streets of New York for a month, setting up impromptu arrangements of 2M26 pieces en route. On another occasion, they transformed the entrance of the Centre Pompidou-Metz in France, using chairs and stools from the collection to enliven and animate a static space.
The inspiration for mixing furniture with performance comes from French architect Patrick Bouchain, known for employing his theatrical background to engage the public with his structures. (In 2006, as curator of the French pavilion at the Venice Biennale, he simply invited the design group Exyzt to live in the space for the run of the exhibition.) While selling the furniture online is part of 2M26’s new business plan, the emphasis remains on how the pieces might activate cohabitation in fun and meaningful ways. “It’s about offering the chance for people to live together, and hopefully they will understand it,” Renauld says.