Event 2023

Atelier LUMA : Bioregional Design Practices

How can we use local resources in ways that make environmental and social systems stronger?


Atelier LUMA, the biodesign laboratory of LUMA Arles, has been exploring bioregional design practices in the South of France and elsewhere since 2016. In contrast to territories, which have human-made borders, bioregions are defined by ecosystems and environmental conditions, and by how people have lived in and alongside them.


All of the objects and furnishings presented in this exhibition were created by combining locally available material and human resources. Atelier LUMA honed its approach through a firm anchoring in its own bioregion: Arles, the Camargue, the Alpilles mountains, and the Crau plains. Its multidisciplinary teams continue to explore these rich and varied surroundings while expanding their work in Europe, the Mediterranean basin, and beyond.


Five large installations offer sensory experiences rooted in specific cultural and natural landscapes. Rice straw, salt, textiles, and wool provide glimpses into the bioregion surrounding Arles through sound, light, colors, motifs, and textures. Algae and agricultural byproducts take shape as bioplastic seating in the exhibition’s discussion space. Middle Eastern materials, including palm fronds, are used to reimagine a traditional sitting area, where fragrances evoke desert landscapes.


A series of installations showcases materials and prototypes generated by bioregional explorations. From construction materials to upholstery fabrics, and from plant-based shoes to molded palm sheath, all of the experimental objects resulted from careful investigation and extensive collaboration. Each one draws from local heritage and environmental surroundings, then reflects them back through appearance and form. Throughout the exhibition, artisanal and industrial techniques are combined to create new vernaculars.


Atelier LUMA developed a four-part methodology for building bioregional assemblages of materials and know-how: find, connect, engage, and share. During each phase, it works closely with local stakeholders and specialized partners. Currently establishing new partnerships around the world, Atelier LUMA is guided by the idea that production systems must be scaled to match local resources and needs. Going beyond the notion of a conventional circular economy, Atelier LUMA aims to build dense and complex networks, weaving ties between different kinds of stakeholders. These networks will contribute to resilience in the face of the climate crisis and societal pressures by making new paths forward possible.


In the United Arab Emirates, Atelier LUMA co-curates research with Irthi Contemporary Crafts Council (ICCC), chaired by Her Highness Sheikha Jawaher bint Mohammed Al Qasimi, wife of His Highness the Ruler of Sharjah. The research investigates the role indigenous crafts can play in designing and building the future of the UAE. ICCC operates a pioneering range of creative and cultural initiatives designed to foster a sustainable economy around the UAE’s heritage crafts, one of which is the Design Labs II initiative: a research fellowship with the American University of Sharjah’s College of Architecture, Art and Design. The result of this fellowship is a growing material library of recipes displayed within the cabinets of the exhibition.

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