Pauses in Urban Landscapes - The Fermob Legacy
Good design is routinely taken for granted, underappreciated, invisible. In an urban environment we regularly expect to be able to sit down; pause; take in our surroundings. Invisible design elevates life often unnoticed. It allows us to transit through this world smoothly, commonly attributing our intuition rather than paying attention to the small things put in place to make this smooth transition possible.
Fermob, the French outdoor furniture manufacturer is one of those companies responsible for good design. The company began in 1889, officially founded as “Fermob” in 1977, with one humble, functional invention; the “de bistro chair.” A simple easy to fold chair designed by Edouard Leclerc, to place on the sidewalks in front of cafes as needed. The understated and practical outdoor furniture that Fermob produce, you have likely sat on in many major cities around the world without even realizing.
Fermob is in some of the most highly trafficked areas in major cities around the world; Times Square in New York, The Forbidden City in Beijing and Versailles in Paris, silently put in place to elevate experience and allow pause during the urban hustle. The furniture is both subtle and robust which enables inclusion across a wide range of contexts. There are possibilities for large scale public urban environments, as noted above as well as arrangements for more intimate shared spaces in multi-residential domestic contexts.
As cities become more populated, these shared amenities are increasingly sought after; with the number of occupied apartments in Australia has increased by 78% over the last 25 years. With this increase urban population, many Australian cities are looking to Europe for precedent models of urban planning, infrastructure, and architecture. At an architectural scale, models of European apartment and communal living are being introduced as a new paradigm of urban living. These examples often incorporate provisions for shared indoor and outdoor amenities; communal gardens, public rooftop and even laundries which encourage interaction between residents and assist in creating sense of community.
Fermob have been designing for these spaces in French apartment living since the early 19th Century. The introduction of the brand to the Australian market could not have come at a more appropriate time. They offer alternative choices of outdoor furniture to the more common choices, like timber or plastic, seen in many Australian backyard barbeque settings. Their range includes cleverly designed outdoor tables, chairs, foot stools (that often double as small tables!), and garden benches in a vast selection of colours. In fact, the company is the only outdoor furniture manufacturer to offer 24 colours as standard.
A catalogue of over 200 products offers variety of choice for public spaces and reflects many of the movements and fabrication methods of production during the 20th and 21st Centuries. There are several collections offering classic pieces, true to the very traditional making methods of early 20th Century. They are softer in appearance, incorporating curves and fine details, perhaps more suited to a domestic or public garden context. There are also modern pieces with clean lines and more pronounced structural elements, which are more commonly seen in public urban environments. However, each design is more than just a reflection of a change in technology, cultural taste and context. Perhaps the reason why these understated products work so well within the urban landscape is due to Fermob’s rich history of working under the public eye, where we have become accustomed to their form and their colours; to have them removed would surely be observed.
Sustainability is inherent to Fermob. With an increase in consumer awareness for a transparent production line and knowledge of where products are made, who makes them and how much environmental waste is left behind, Fermob stays contemporary with more than just colour. The company goes much deeper than the surface with values established over a decade ago. Fermob has a zero-waste paint line, recycles 99% of the metals used and uses Outdoor Technical Fabric, made in France which is recycled. Many Australian brands pride themselves on products that are locally designed and manufactured. Additionally, many Australian consumers pride themselves on knowing the history of the products they surround themselves with at home.
Next time you are travelling, allow yourself to pause, take in your surroundings as usual, however, this time, be sure to pay attention to what has allowed you to sit down to do so.
View the Fermob brand page.