Élysée Sofa, 1971
Tubular metal armature, foam, leather
28.35 H x 98.43 x 42.52 inches
72 H x 250 x 108 cm
Seat height: 14.5 inches (36.8 cm)
Designed for President George Pompidou's apartments, Palais de l'Élysée, Paris.
Favardin, Patrick, and Guy Block-Champfort. Decorators of the 60s-70s. Translated by Eileen Powis, Éditions NORMA, 2015. Similar example reproduced p. 256. Print.
Geel, Catherine, et al. Pierre Paulin: Designer. Paris, Archibooks, 2008, p. 226. Print.
We acquired our first pair of Pierre Paulin Élysée Chairs (edited by Alpha International) in 2004, decidedly ahead of the curve for this famous Élysée series now widely known. It was a small production. Since then, we’ve had fifteen pairs. In 2005, we acquired the three-seater Sofa. Subsequently, we discovered four more, including this one highlighted here in original brown leather. These original works are still rare and difficult to find.
In 1970, Paulin was commissioned by the Mobilier National to design George Pompidou's private Presidential living quarters in the Palais de l’Élysée—one of the most significant design assignments of the decade. Paulin created a series of objects—seating, tables and lighting—for the residence.
In 1964, the Atelier de Recherche et Creation (ARC) was created under the Mobilier National to promote a uniquely French contemporary style by engaging and supporting the work of French designers and artists, including Pierre Paulin, Olivier Mourgue and others. The ARC, under the direction of Jean Coural, built upon the dual mission of the postwar reconstruction effort to produce furniture in series and create an international market for French design.
The ARC provided a platform for artistic ideas. The ARC-sponsored prototypes gave way to editions through commercial entities (like Alpha International), allowing the vision and talent of French designers to emanate beyond the nation’s borders, influencing design internationally: these curved and softened objects heralded the beginning of a broader cultural design shift away from the more functional, hard-edged and streamlined Modernist aesthetic of the early 1960s, and toward an organicism still powerful today.
Some of the works of Paulin’s iconic Élysée series are now reproduced by Paulin’s estate, including the chairs and sofas, thus making the design more accessible. We believe, however, the original pieces represent the historical narrative greater than reproductions and present much differently because of the authentic materials inside, which, because of replaced and/or revised technologies and materials, cannot be duplicated today. Paulin’s designs exhibit soft, organic, curved forms that mask the inner supports that define the true functionality of its design.
In addition to its historical significance, the sofa represents rapid technological advancement between 1965 and 1975, that shaped a distinctive new aesthetic in French public and domestic life. The introduction of polyurethane foam and synthetic resins in the 1960s allowed designers to abandon orthogonal rigidity and create anthropomorphic forms that corresponded with the period’s broader social liberation.
Pierre Paulin revolutionized the look of seats by completely upholstering the structure with a single piece of fabric and hiding the base. He sought to create a spatial expression of translation: a simple domestic object, a seat, is related to the space it inhabits, conveying that the chairs' and the rooms' architectural volumes are spaces experienced both from inside and outside, creating an enveloping structure for the body.