WSJ. Magazine offers an exclusive first look at Équilibre d’Hermès collection in their October 2020 edition. British industrial designer Jasper Morrison and fashion house Hermès collaborated on a three piece collection Equilibre D’Hermès, that was inspired by Jasper’s ‘La Tourette’ chair made in 1997. The collection features a table, a chair and an armchair.
“Morrison was in his late 30s and living in London when he was contacted by the monastery of Sainte-Marie de La Tourette, a community of Dominican monks living in hilltop seclusion near Lyon, France. The brothers needed dining chairs for their refectory. Could Morrison help? He was already up to speed on the building: La Tourette is a modernist masterwork, designed by Le Corbusier in 1953 and completed in 1960. A fortress in cast concrete and glittering colored glass, it speaks of solitude, reflection, humility and, above all, containment—even at mealtimes.
Morrison spent a day and a night at La Tourette, taking in the atmosphere and being wined and dined by a few brothers at a restaurant down the hill. “We drank a lot, we ate a lot,” he remembers. “We ended up drinking five different cognacs in some sort of altitude test—could you taste the difference given the high elevation, that sort of thing.” Later, as they repaired to the chapel for some music, Morrison looked down at the wooden pews and their sled-style runners, which extended past the back legs and prevented them from tipping over. “The benches seemed to be kneeling,” he says. “And that’s where I started with the design. Maybe the brothers are well enough behaved not to fall off the back.”
Morrison’s sturdy wood chair with sled-style feet won the competition. (“It turned out I was the only one who actually went to the monastery,” he says.) Conventional in some ways, it was exceptional in others—for one thing, there were almost no right angles. When seen from the side, the legs form a trapezoid that is slightly wider at the seat and narrower where it meets the floor, putting all the emphasis on the runners. A French woodworker made just 120 of them—Morrison didn’t even get one—and they are still in use at the monastery.
Morrison made multiple improvements to La Tourette, refining the detailing and improving its overall ease, which meant replacing the slatted seat and back with oak elegantly routed out, like lines of script in a notebook, to lighten its character. Once the new language had been established, he developed a matching dining table and an armchair with a leather seat pad, in a nod to the chair’s new patrimony.
Though Morrison isn’t one to look to the heavens for inspiration – ‘I don’t think any idea of mine has ever come that way, from the clouds,’ he says – he allows that the design of La Tourette has reached its natural conclusion: ‘There’s a crossbar that funnily enough forms a kind of H.’” – from WSJ. Magazine’s October 2020 Issue, on newsstands October 17th.
Photography: Romain Laprade for WSJ. Magazine – www.wsj.com