Ronan and Erwan Bouroullec’s Partnership Ends, and Other News

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Ronan and Erwan Bouroullec. Image courtesy of Vitra

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Ronan and Erwan Bouroullec’s Partnership Comes to an End

Ronan and Erwan Bouroullec emerged as product design wunderkinds at the turn of the millennium, before either of the French brothers had even turned 30. (Ronan, five years older, was discovered after his prototype for a modular kitchen caught Giulio Cappellini’s eye at a Paris fair.) Despite their position as some of France’s most illustrious design stars whose rigorous yet approachable creations have become mainstays of Flos, Kvadrat, and Vitra, their professional relationship with each other has lately been marked by some creative skirmishes. 

The siblings recently announced their partnership would come to an end, a move made official by the vacating of their shared studio in Paris’s 10th arrondissement and settling into individual spaces nearby. “It’s really an organic happenstance,” Ronan told the New York Times; Erwan likened their duality to “a burning energy” whose “pressure was not possible anymore for us to cope with.” It’s tough to predict how separation will shape their respective practices, but the brothers have become comfortable with solo work. Ronan’s drawings and ceramics currently star in a Galerie Kreo exhibition until Jan. 13, and he recently published an eponymous Phaidon volume filled with hundreds of his snaps from his Instagram; Erwan was recently named creative director of Kvadrat Shade and debuted a set of column-like luminaires for Flos. —Ryan Waddoups

The Gucci Christmas Tree inside Milan’s Galleria Vittorio Emanuele II. Image courtesy of Gucci

Climate activists splash orange paint on Gucci’s Christmas tree in Milan’s Galleria.

A Gucci Christmas tree in Milan’s Galleria became a canvas for climate activism. Ultima Generazione (Lost Generation) splashed orange paint on the tree-like installation made of 78 gift boxes sealed with Gucci’s signature Horsebit buckle, criticizing the luxury brand’s “unsustainable” practices and calling for a €20 billion ($22.1 billion) climate repair fund. Gucci opted to leave the paint as a “catalyst for reflection” while reiterating its commitment to social responsibility. The incident sparked debate about environmentalism and corporate responsibility.

Drexel University researchers are using bacteria to create self-healing concrete systems. 

Drexel University researchers have unveiled BioFiber, a self-healing concrete system embedded with dormant bacteria. Inspired by human tissue’s ability to self-heal and the ingenuity of ancient Romans, BioFiber’s protective shell releases bacteria upon detecting cracks. The activated bacteria produce stone-like calcium carbonate, naturally sealing the damage. This bio-inspired innovation promises extended lifespan and reduced repair needs for concrete structures, paving the way for more durable and sustainable infrastructure.

Image courtesy of Virgin Hyperloop One

Hyperloop One, once backed by Richard Branson’s Virgin Group, has ceased operations.

Once hyped as the future of ultra-fast travel, Hyperloop One has reportedly ceased operations after years of failed attempts to make Elon Musk’s vacuum-tube dream a reality. His original pitch involved building lengthy vacuum-sealed tubes for transporting both people and goods at high speeds. Despite hefty investments and a pivot to cargo, the company, now stripped of the Virgin name and its Las Vegas test track, couldn’t secure funding or build a working system. Dubai port operator DP World will reportedly wind up with Hyperloop One’s intellectual property while the company’s remaining hard assets will be sold off.

Poland nixes its Venice Biennale pavilion after criticism of “anti-European” messaging.

Following widespread criticism, Poland has scrapped its Venice Biennale pavilion planned by the ousted PiS government, replacing it with an exhibition by Open Group titled “Repeat After Me.” The controversial Czwartos exhibit, featuring historical grievances against Germany and Russia, faced criticism for aligning with PiS’s nationalist agenda. Details surrounding Open Group’s pavilion remain scarce, leaving speculation about its focus in the post-PiS era.

The New York Times claims OpenAI copied millions of articles to train language models.

In a major lawsuit, the New York Times is accusing OpenAI and Microsoft of stealing millions of articles to train AI models like ChatGPT and Copilot. The Times claims the alleged content theft harms their business and journalism itself by creating free substitutes and eroding trust with readers. The publication is seeking billions in damages and court orders to block OpenAI and Microsoft from training AI models using its content. The move could spark legal battles defining how news organizations interact with AI companies.

A portion of the cover of “Mona Lisa Vanishes” by Nicholas Day. Image courtesy of Random House

Today’s attractive distractions:

Can the 50-year-old Endangered Species Act withstand today’s challenges?

The Mona Lisa’s infamous 1911 theft features in a new book for young readers.

Royal Caribbean’s nine-month cruise has become TikTok’s favorite reality show.

Fire-scarred redwood trees are rebounding by sprouting 1,000-year-old buds.

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