Meet The Designer Behind The Paris 2024 Summer Olympics Torch And Cauldron

Arts & Celebrities

With the debut of the Olympic Games in Paris less than 100 days away, the countdown has begun for the world's most important sporting competition in which more than 200 teams, representatives of states and sovereign territories will take part. A symbol of peace and friendship between nations since ancient times, the Olympic flame was lit by the sun's rays on April 16, 2024 in Olympia, Greece, where the ancient Olympic Games were held. It kicked off the Paris 2024 Olympic Torch Relay, which will embark on its epic journey through all the regions of France on May 8, carried by 11,000 torchbearers, before what will be the opening ceremony largest ever on the Seine on July 26. I sit down with Mathieu Lehanneur, one of France's leading designers and the man behind the torch and cauldron design for the Paris Olympics and Paralympics, to discuss his creative journey and being part of Games history olympics

How would you describe yourself as a designer, your design language and approach, your sources of inspiration and what you hope to achieve at the end of the day?

I'm a designer who still doesn't know what design is. Or more precisely where it begins and where it ends. I see design as a gray area, a territory without fixed borders. It's actually a great opportunity; my job is a field of endless opportunities. I feed on complex geometries of nature and rational and irrational phenomena. I want my pieces to be living things: they seem to breathe, feel and continue to grow. I want them to be works of art and supports for reflection or meditation.

You founded your own design studio in 2001. What was your path to success like?

In 2001 I left school with a diploma, little money and no contacts. “My own study” was my bedroom with my office at the end of my bed. This is. It's been a long road, but at that point I knew I didn't want to work for another designer or company. I wanted to be independent and free, and I was ready to learn everything and try everything.

In 2006, my diploma project entered the permanent collections of MoMA in New York. Senior curator and design thinker Paola Antonelli, who supported me for several years, thus introduced me to the most prestigious collection in the world. It was, of course, a pride, but above all, the recognition of numerous researches and experiments, and the energy of a lifetime.

How did your partnership with the Paris 2024 Olympics and Paralympics come about and why did you enter the competition?

I hate contests. You didn't choose your friends because of competition; you choose them for who they are, possibly for what they did, but you never ask them what they have to offer before you friend them. Here, I had no choice and I really wanted to befriend the Olympics!

How did you feel when you won the competition to design the Olympic torch?

Designing the Olympic torch is a designer's dream: a dream that only comes true once in a lifetime, like a miraculous encounter with history. As ritualistic as it is magical, the torch is a mythical object. As a symbol of cohesion and sharing, it is the real key to opening the Games. It will travel thousands of kilometers, passed hand in hand, by land and sea. For Paris 2024, and for the first time in its history, it will play with perfect symmetry to better express a message of equality. I wanted it to be extremely pure, iconic and almost essential. Simple as a dash and fluid as a flame.

What factors go into designing a torch that is relevant to today's generation of athletes and what does this symbol of the Games look like?

The design and conception of the torch is built on three main pillars: equality, peace and water. They struck me from the outset as the best incarnations of the Paris Games. They are part of its values, but also elements of context. Equality, which is expressed both in the absolute parity of male and female athletes and in the equivalent place that is granted in the Olympic and Paralympic Games, is expressed through the perfect symmetry of the torch. For the first time in its history, the torch plays with this duality and balance. It is through a drawing all in curves and continuous lines that the idea of ​​tranquility is expressed because even if the Olympic Games remain the space of competition and high performance, the flame continues to be the object of transmission and embodiment of peace. In this sense, the Games are suspended for a moment, a fraternal ambition that sport can and must carry, whatever the current torments of the world. Finally, the water because beyond its monuments, Paris is an art of living by the water. The Seine is the link and the beating heart and will be the setting for the opening ceremony and several Olympic venues. The torch takes inspiration from this by playing with the undulations and reflections of polished metal that has become visually liquid.


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