Designing With Nature In Mind: In Conversation With Daniel Pouzet

We recently spoke with renowned architect-turned-product designer Daniel Pouzet. His recent projects include collaborations with Dedon and Sagegreenlife, the latter with whom he developed a favourite here at KHACHILIFE: the Ambienta botany lamp. 

What was the inspiration behind The Ambienta?

Bringing plants into living spaces, not only the kitchen—and sometimes the darkest living spaces—was a real challenge.

The products existing on the market still have a ‘kitchen’ look and feel — first, through the design, and second, through the unpleasant light quality. A growing light is good for plants, not for human perception. This was the analytic starting point of the product: a real lamp design, which gives a quality light for living spaces, using both growing and ambient light. The growing light is a necessity, but we can create a real ambiance by an indirect reflected light on the plants, and at the same time allow them to rest as this light has no impact on the living cycle.

The lamp’s body is like a shelter for the plants and allows for watering through the shape itself, the central funnel. The lamp gives a real quality light, but the most important element for me is that this light is reflected by the plants. They are the stars — the center of the interest.

How collaborative was the process between you and Sagegreenlife?

A very close partnership, from the beginning up to the prototyping. We used their background and experience in vertical gardening and adapted it to a smaller scale in order to be transformed into real products. I think we’ve learned a lot together and we are proud to see the result of our common passion, nature, on the market.

Had you designed anything incorporating hydroponic technology before?

Nature has always been an essential element in my projects, but I’d never before used hydroponic technology. So it is my first experience, but I love experiencing things for the first time! I am excited by the freshness I can bring by not being in that field. My way of creating is quite alternative and I love playing with it, as I did with the soccer stadium in Guadalajara, Mexico (designed with Jean Marie Massaud), kids products and sandals, and furniture such as the Nestrest…I started only 6 years ago. So this new technology was also part of my excitement on the project.

Aside from being a product designer, you’re also an architect. Which came first? How do these disciplines influence each other?

Yes, originally I am an architect, with 2 architect degrees completed in Bucharest and Paris, but I would define myself as an “architect under therapy”. I am deeply interested in forgetting what (or most of what) I’ve learned in order to be myself, and not see architecture through an architect’s eyes, but as a free person, with no barriers between the different aspects of the creation’s process – only playing with scales, materials, spaces, and feelings.

I wouldn’t say that something comes first in my creative approach. What comes first is imagining spaces as “living scenarios”, not physically defined spaces. We are part of these scenarios, actors, so most of the time I am thinking, “What would I like to feel?” A project can start with a simple feeling of being under trees…

The rest follows, architecture or furniture; everything fits together as a coherent universe.

You’ve described working with Phillipe Starck as a turning point in your career. Have you and Mr. Starck ever entertained the idea of working together again?

It has been a kind of wake-up call after my architecture studies, discovering that behind an architecture project, something is necessary in order to bring life. Architects are not used to living spaces…

For other collaborations, no. You know, under a big tree nothing grows, and I am looking to discover myself, my personal way, and this is so exciting…

The Ambienta is a great product for introducing nature to the indoors, and your recent designs for Dedon seem all about enjoying the outdoors in comfort (the SwingRest and NestRest). Are you a nature lover in your personal life?

I grew up in a city. This has been quite frustrating for me, but I was lucky enough to go to the countryside very often, so my best memories are swinging in the trees, lying down under the tree shadows and watching the cows, fishing in the rivers…so the contact with nature has always been important for me.

A couple of years after my studies, having travelled around the world with my family and having been in such a close and strong contact with nature, it is deeply part of me. We are now living in nature and it is so great to wake up every morning just surrounded by bird sounds and trees, listening to the wind, breathing fresh air…

With Dedon it has been this deep desire. All their products were great, but only for the terraces around the house. My proposal was to go deeper into nature — to hang on a tree, float, swing, turn around — and the success of the products has been amazing!

Any future collaborations with Sagegreenlife coming up?

Yes! We are currently working on a new collection, and also starting collaboration on an ‘XXL’ scale of green architecture.

What made you decide to write your book, Del volcán al horizonte?

It is all about sharing. I’ve done a dozen conferences these last years, with no pretentions of giving architecture theories, but only talking of my personal experiences, both in life and professionally, and it has been so exciting!

People loved to hear about this seeking in my life — of freedom, of self-discovery, of mixing family, travels, and work all together. Also, it is interesting to hear about how deep professional experiences can influence your personal life and choices. How much we can evolve by exercising our professional activity.

The soccer stadium in Guadalajara — the “Omnilife stadium”, inspired by volcanos — really changed my life. Discovering Mexican culture gave me the excitement to discover the world, so with my wife, Marilena, and our 3 kids, we left behind our established life in Paris and went about discovering the world in an RV over 3 years, between Alaska and Ushuaia in Patagonia, while homeschooling the kids and continuing working on my side, on the stadium and as an itinerant architect. An everyday contact with nature, indigenous people, local cultures…Amazing encounters on the roads…An experience of a lifetime! The entire family loved it, and it is just the beginning…Beyond discovering the world, we went much further in discovering ourselves!

My professional activity now is in this continuity, everything is new, projects are in all the fields around the world, and all of them are cultural experiences for me. I learn so much every day and this is so important for me!

It is a kind of speech you rarely hear in these professional fields, so the book came from the desire of sharing. Showing also what most times is frustrating in an art or architecture book — discovering the person behind the work, what life is he or she living, what are his feelings…It is all about the most important thing we should talk about: our personal experiences.

If you were invited to design your dream project – one with no budget limitations – what would you design?

I’m passionate about RVs, so I’d create the ultimate RV as a mobile residence and office around the world – I dreamed about this plenty of times while traveling around the world, and I’d really love to make this happen…