Les Lamaneurs

Photography by Andreas Eikeseth Nygjerd


Les Lamaneurs by Ralston & Bau
Street Furniture


Real sustainability and function are mandatory considerations for designers working with street furniture. Our main focus is to introduce identity into spaces that's rooted in scenarios people can relate to and are willing to adapt to proudly. Street furniture is an important and relevant part of urban life as it has the ability to create a gathering zone that did not exist previously. The mechanism of identity is simple: if you temporarily or permanently share an experience with others, it creates a common identity. Urban furniture has that power: to create identity, and to consolidate a local community.

Ralston & Bau is a Swedish-French duo formed by Birgitta Ralston and Alexandre Bau. They met in Paris, where they each had their own design practices, and created a studio there in 2001, designing two restaurants there before discovering Norway, thanks to an artist residency. While Alexandre has a passion for anticipating fiction, and cultivates this through his interest in material innovation, Birgitta finds meaning in contemporary art and the potency of design to evolve society. Their different backgrounds and interests makes working together interesting and multi-faceted. As a consequence, they often find themselves involved in many different kinds of projects, but primarily craft future scenarios and design for product and furniture industries.

As a young boy, Alexandre already had a strong interest in products and architecture. He took a masters in Product and Furniture Design in Rennes, where he was tutored by Martine Beudin, a founding member of the Memphis group. He then worked in interiors for a Parisian architect before starting his own practice. Birgitta was born into a cabinet-maker family, “Lindome-snickare”, and her first passion was drawing, coached by her grandfather Algot. After first pursuing a career as a graphic designer and art director in Gothenburg and Paris in the 90s, she quickly moved into shaping furniture as part of the duos interior architecture concept.

Since most places are inhabited by indigenous and migrant populations destined to stay there, it’s important to have an inclusive local identity to create a happy and prosperous local community. The identity issue has become very relevant as more traditional borders disappear. Having a certain nationality as one's only identity does not suffice anymore. Humans are more and more connected to each other, above geographical and language borders, and choosing the right identity at the right moment is the best way to amplify these connections. We're much less likely to stay where we were born or where our ancestors came from. Humanity is migrating to the cities, and its populations, better educated now than ever before, can choose where and how they want to live. Helping humans to generate identities that allow them to connect easily to others is not a luxury anymore, but a common need. The Ideal Lab invited Norwegian and French creatives to immerse themselves in two unique places – Florø and Saint Nazaire. Both are distinctive, gorgeous and undergoing transformation – with similarities and differences. These creatives collectively and individually studied and observed these metropolis to project a new version of the local identityartworks and objects –all vectors of a “Replanted Identity”. The 12 works created within this theme formed an exhibition that toured France in 2015 and Norway in 2016. Among these works was Les Lamaneurs — a series of street furniture inspired by the investigative program and being immersed in the city of Saint-Nazaire in France. 

Situated by the post of Saint-Nazaire, six little docking houses made in ‘50s architecture (like most of the city that was totally destroyed during the WW2), are hosting the “Lamaneurs” (locks man in English). The locksman is a professional seaman, based on land, that guides the ships going in and out of the harbour and fastens them safely at quay. Guarding and monitoring the harbour, the locksmen empathically look after vessels passing through, day and night. Saint-Nazaire is a workers city. Its centre is a place you travel through or stop off at to buy something on your way home, without really lingering to take part in a social, urban life. We wished to offer spaces for Nazariens to indulge in a well-deserved break. We created Les Lamaneurs, a series of urban furniture that invites the inhabitants to slow down and enjoy their city. Like the lamaneur (locksman) that guides the ship, these furniture items are taking care of people. The shapes re borrowed from the docking houses, that have a rounded front provide wide angle visibility,  and metal and wood materials were selected from the artisan boat building industries we collaborated with. Four versions of Lamaneurs have been created, each with its own attitude, inspired by the workers rituals: Lunch break, coffee break, the long watch and power nap.

What is urbanism to you? 
Urbanism intervention has, more than any other design practice, the potential to break or build sustainable societies. From the One Million project in Sweden to the banlieue developments around Paris and the gentrification of abandoned industrial neighbourhoods, examples of this are everywhere. Today, Europe is hosting migrating populations, citizens move more often, and the big cities are growing–which is putting pressure on our existing structures. More than in any other design and space discipline, urbanism needs inclusive methods and imagination to create scenarios for the future that always position the person in the centre. As designers, we approach the city at the level of the citizen, while zooming out to view it as an interconnected organism.