Code of Silence
BELGIAN DESIGNER ALAIN GILLES AIMS TO TURN THE VOLUME DOWN
This past spring, a new trend was clearly exploding at Light + Building, Frankfurt’s biennial lighting mega show. A multitude of brands, from Luceplan to Nimbus to Artemide, were having a go at combining acoustic control with illumination. Buzzispace – the Belgian brand that has long been building sound buffering into its office furniture – chose the show to launch its first acoustic solutions incorporating lighting. “I think quiet is a basic need,” says designer Alain Gilles, attributing the increased interest in controlling acoustics to the ubiquity of open-plan offices. Anyone who has experienced an open office knows how difficult it can be to focus in a space where conversations and clacking keyboards frequently distract. The importance of noise control is something that Gilles, who designed both of Buzzispace’s new acoustic lighting series, knows something about. “I actually had another life before this one,” he says. “About 15 years ago, I was working in international finance at J.P. Morgan. Not investing – I was back office – but I was in a big open space. It took me six months to learn how to concentrate in that environment. So I experienced it first-hand.” It was in this context that Gilles decided to switch gears and study industrial design. Not coincidentally, many of the objects he has produced in his second career are made to tackle clamour in the workplace. For Buzzispace, he has created soft seating with noiseblocking walls and artful partitions. His latest launches include the Buzzihat suspension lamps and the linear Buzzizepp pendant – fixtures that subtly incorporate sound buffering. The latter, he says, was originally conceived as an unobtrusive solution for an echo problem in his own studio. “The idea with these two products is to fill that overlooked gap between what’s on the floor and the ceiling,” says Gilles. “It’s not just a functionality; they’re real pieces that decorate and create an environment. I never want anything to look technical.” Gilles has also recently combined acoustic control with another element that supports well-being: greenery. He teamed up with Belgian brand Green Mood to introduce desk dividers, screens and wall panels that use plants to soften clatter. “I try to bring people to another place in their minds,” Gilles says, “where they don’t think about the stress.” alaingilles.com
One of Alain Gilles’ first acoustic products for Buzzispace was a screen of pivoting vertical fins (left). More recently, the designer launched Buzzizepp (top right), a pendant originally developed to buffer noise in his own studio. Green Mood’s G-circle panels (top left) use moss and lichen to absorb sound.