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Behind the Design: Bover

Joana Bover, founder of Bover, surrounded by frames for Mei Pendants and Plafonet Fonda Flushmounts

Behind the Design: Bover

In the heart of Spain’s creative community, Joana Bover and her talented team
bring the Bover brand’s adaptive spirit to light.

Written by Kelsey Kittle

A labor of love, innovation and collaboration has given rise to one of the foremost brands in contemporary Spanish—and indeed, international—lighting design. Joana Bover’s namesake company reflects a spirit of timelessness, balance and adaptation in an evolving landscape. For more than 20 years, she has cultivated a modern, clean aesthetic that is touched by a distinctive sense of romance.

Handmade in Barcelona, the cultural heart of Spain’s creative community, Bover combines world-class design talent with artisan and high-tech manufacturing methods to bring the brand relevance and staying power for the foreseeable future.

We got a chance to find out more about the company and its creative philosophies from the woman herself, as well as a few of Bover’s other designers (Alex Fernández Camps, Christophe Mathieu and Gonzalo Milà).

Gonzalo Milà, Joana Bover, Christophe Mathieu, Alex Fernández Camps

(Clockwise, from top left) Gonzalo Milà, Joana Bover, Christophe Mathieu, Alex Fernández Camps

Your designs that debuted at Euroluce 2017 had you working with more different materials and fixture types than ever before. Can you tell us what you learned?

Joana Bover: At Bover, we have begun to work with product formats we have previously not explored. We have opened new directions that are more elaborate, requiring our technical office to play a more fundamental role. I believe that the efforts made by our professional team when presenting our products in international fairs and trade shows are also valuable contributions that allow us to learn and improve aspects of our products which, in some occasions, we had not perhaps identified correctly.

Generally, creative people are curious. We like to take every opportunity to discover and apply new materials and forms that we had never tried before. Discovering the behavior of a material or a product that was only an idea is always an illusion from which to grow and explore. Sometimes it works, and other times it needs a tweak here and there, but in general I truly enjoy every minute of the development process. For this reason, when we finally launch a finished product, it is essential to us to take into consideration all the reviews and critiques from the final users.

Alex Fernández Camps: [Using new materials] was a key point for Cornet, in fact! The high resistance polyurethane is a technical material: strong, durable, light and, especially, gives creative freedom for designing. It enables new shapes (and solutions) that only could be done before by artisans in the early 20th century—and in the future with 3D printing; but not yet.

Christophe Mathieu: You always learn something new, even with materials that you are supposedly used to. That is what makes our profession never boring. Materials always surprise, especially at the time of production, when joining one material with another. You learn to never take anything for granted.

Gonzalo Milà: The Moai is a series of bollard “characters” in various sizes, made in concrete. Its shape—organic and smooth on the lit front side and straight on the dark face—creates a sculptural effect. As the light source is invisible, it creates an ethereal floating effect when lit. Working with a heavy material, rarely used for lighting, was a new challenge when designing this piece. Finding the best shape and direction to light this material was an intensive creative process.

CHRISTOPHE MATHIEU talks about the DROP design process

CHRISTOPHE MATHIEU talks about the DROP design process.

“I was looking for a very bright light, and the translucent glass and its shape contribute to it. The light source is an LED that is hidden, so that light is the only protagonist. Then, when the light is projected and reflected in the materials that are found along the way, it creates a set of sparkles and shadows. All of which enriches the object.”

What is your favorite aspect of your process? Can you guide us through it?

JB: For me, the best moment is when nothing exists, and I imagine what I would like to accomplish. Thinking how we could meet this task and the designers who can best define the concept, beginning with a long conversation, and then little by little these are transforming this into sketches. The illusion and complicity in sharing an idea that did not previously exist.

Process.

AFC: Each project has different life and process. It’s like your friends.... Each one has his own character, tendencies and circumstances. Despite the differences, all projects have human scales, are made with same love, with the best intentions and, unavoidable for me, from a Mediterranean background!

CM: I honestly find it difficult to name one particular aspect. For example, I get excited when I can clearly visualize an idea, and not only its appearance but how it can materialize, what we call Eureka! Also, the relationship that you establish with the engineers that are responsible for the product, when we finally find the solution to problems that previously had us stranded.

ALEX FERNÁNDEZ CAMPS talks about the Cornet design process

ALEX FERNÁNDEZ CAMPS talks about the Cornet design process.

“Cornet surprised me during the process, and still amazes me every time I see it. The projects are generous with those who are a part of them, always creating experiences to remember. Especially Cornet.”

What’s the most challenging design you’ve ever attempted, and did you ultimately succeed?

JB: I think the most challenging design we have done so far has been the DOME with Benedetta Tagliabue. This came from an architectural project based on the Renaissance domes and was very difficult to find the best language and forms. To be able to create a light fixture with this dimension and scale, then to convert into a luminous object allowed us to play with the light by creating something unique in its own category. Dome breathes sensitivity and craft that gives a timeless character.

AFC: If talking about the published until now, no doubt it is Cornet. But this will not be the last one, because I’m already working on a new project for Bover that will overcome it. I’m anxious to present it soon.

GM: I had worked with cast cement before in street furniture, but it was the first time working with it for exterior lighting. It was a new challenge that I found very interesting. It is a very rich material that easily integrates into the environment. Moai’s sculptural and organic shape works well in repetition, ideal for marking paths. Without being very large, the aspect is robust and strong. The fact that is doesn’t look like a “lamp” makes it interesting as well when unlit, reminding us of silent vigilant guards guiding our way.

CM: I think that compared to raising my children, lamp design sucks! The truth is that I don't find lamp design particularly difficult. I have a good time, it is a great challenge. Of course, you get good products, but really good ones, a few times throughout life.

GONZALO MILÀ talks about the Moai design process

GONZALO MILÀ talks about the Moai design process.

“I had worked with cast cement before in street furniture, but it was the first time working with it for exterior lighting. It was a new challenge that I found very interesting. It is a very rich material that easily integrates into the environment. Moai’s sculptural and organic shape works well in repetition, ideal for marking paths. Without being very large, the aspect is robust and strong. The fact that it doesn’t look like a 'lamp' makes it interesting as well when unlit, reminding us of silent, vigilant guards guiding our way.”

What is your favorite thing about working for Bover and how it fits into your lifestyle in Barcelona?

AFC: ​Personal relationships, based on the same way of understanding light​ itself. Enjoying our dedication with no limits. It's a good mix of everything...Mediterranean style!

CM: Bover is a company that was born on the shores of the Mediterranean. And I live in Barcelona, which is also on the shores of the Mediterranean, so we both bathe in the same waters.

GM: The most interesting thing about working with Bover is their ability to dream, together with the designer of solutions for new needs in lighting. Their eagerness to experiment ceaselessly until the right direction is found and their strong determination to explore and create. The company is very personal, familiar and close, and this shapes a great environment for the creative process.

What keeps you excited (be it design inspiration or in life as a whole)?

JB: Maybe because I spent the best moments of my childhood on an island, the sea and the light of the Mediterranean are very important for me.

GM: Finding new ways to bring together materials and productive processes to convey light in a surprising and fresh way.

CM: Finding new ideas.

AFC: Life itself. Absolutely everything!