Also doted on as the Designer of the Year by Maison&Objet, French designer Mathieu Lehanneur prepared his chances in advance by conceiving the Paris 2024 Games Torch ahead of time.
Once Paris earned its place as the host for the Summer Games of 2024—in 2017—, French designer Mathieu Lehanneur seized the opportunity to play around with concepts for the traditional torch. He never expected to be selected by Paris 2024 when he submitted his final design. Still, to his surprise, last February, the organizers announced its association with the French designer for the creation of the Olympic and Paralympic Torch and Cauldron, strong symbols of the Games.
The design of the Torch was revealed in 2023; however, Mathieu Lehanneur is taking much pleasure in the anticipated unveiling of his Olympic Cauldron. Although we must wait for the opening ceremony, when the Cauldron is lit by the Torch, at the end of the relay, to admire the design of the Olympic Cauldron; we visited Mathieu Lehanneur’s studio in Paris to see the Torch in person.
Lehanneur and his team worked solely on the design, but they also collaborated with a hundred other people including technicians, engineers, specialists in recycled steel, high-tech burner systems, and so on. Only when they held the Torch in their hands did they realize what they had accomplished.
“A member of my team turned to look at me, with an expression of disbelief and awe,” Mathieu Lehanneur explained during a conference at Maison&Objet 2024, “and said, ‘We just made the Olympic Torch.’”
On May 8, 2024, in Marseille, the Paris 2024 Torch’s Flame will kick off a four-month nationwide celebration, spanning from the Olympic Torch Relay to the Paralympic Games Closing Ceremony. The culmination occurs on July 26, 2024, with the final torchbearer igniting the Cauldron during the Opening Ceremony, officially launching the Olympic Games.
A Touch of Eco-design, Equality, and Remnants of Paris
Equality, an important value of Paris 2024, acts as the foundation for Lehanneur’s design of the Torch. In addition to evaluating candidates for the Games with equality in mind—between the Olympic and Paralympic Games, between men and women—, Paris 2024 marks the first time in the history of the Games that we have as many female athletes as male athletes participating.
“The idea of equality is beautiful yet abstract. The question, for me, was to ask, ‘How do I symbolize this?’” Lehanneur stated during the talk. “It led me to the concept of symmetry, especially considering the object itself is completely symmetrical between the upper and lower parts of the body.”
As the Seine will host the opening ceremony, the designer chose to include a Parisian context through a liquid effect, with water ripples, rather than translated versions of the classic yet over-consumed monuments. The soft gold coloring of the Torch was achieved through a fusion of gold, silver, and bronze.
“To reduce its ecological footprint, we used recycled steel. And by ensuring that the elements can be dismantled, recharged, and reused, we managed to produce just 2,000 torches, instead of the 10,000 to 12,000 used in previous editions.”
Regarding the Cauldron, Lehanneur cannot reveal any specifics. He only reassured the audience during his talk at Maison&Objet that the organizers of the Games responded with positive feedback to his design.
“We love the Torch, they told me, but the Cauldron, wow, we love it even more.”
M&O Designer of the Year: Essential Living
On the flip side, switching from an object that, despite the notion of equality, depicts the image of success and fame, Mathieu Lehanneur prepared an installation for the January edition of Maison&Objet in which we return to essential living. Impossible to miss, visitors flocked to the very yellow structure, curious and magnetized.
The Outonomy Project challenges our modern existence saturated with digital elements and omnipresent technologies, urging a reevaluation of our relationship with nature. Departing from the conventional narrative of humanity dominating over the environment, it envisions an alternative space for reconsidering our lifestyles—a realm for invention and reinvention. Drawing inspiration from the growing emergence of survivalist concepts worldwide, it doesn’t advocate for extreme measures like bunkers or contemplating apocalyptic scenarios. Instead, the focus lies on questioning the life we desire. While not striving for absolute self-sufficiency, the pursuit of independence prompts reflection on fundamental needs such as food, energy, activities, security, and comfort. Outonomy, in this context, represents a potential return to a primal refuge, albeit with the inclusion of the comforts we are unwilling to forgo in our modern lives.
Inside and out, the installation featured a healthy number of the designer’s exquisite pieces such as the Guernica pendant, Happy To Be Here table, Square sun chair, Hug chair, Andrea, Living Air Purifier, and the Chester Club punching bag; all in yellow.