Agnès Jullian is in charge of Technilum, urban lighting street furniture designer and manufacturer. She shared her ideas about the role of creativity and innovation in France with us.
Agnès Jullian, you run the urban lighting company Technilum. What makes your offering unique in relation to your competitors?
There’s how we view ourselves and there’s how our clients and partners view us.
Our approach is slightly different to our competitors. We position ourselves as a partner helping enhance urban spaces. We aren’t philanthropists, but we find it challenging working on projects we don’t believe in. This does happen, but we always try to improve the design, or, as a minimum, the colours and finishes.
Our approach can be defined as “custom-made”. Although we have a catalogue of products, we usually adapt them to the unique features of each project.
Urban lighting is repetitive, but also one of the most visible element of the city. Ideally, we want to make it “disappear” by integrating it into the surrounding landscape and adding to the overall quality of urban space.
We are specialists in “emergences” – this is how I like to define our products including lamps, atmospheric lighting columns, functional candelabras or projector supports that we classify as “stage design” or dimensional lighting.
Over 20 years ago now, Technilum introduced its signature urban lighting furniture, at a time when the profession was limited to exterior public lighting or, worse, posts and metal covers. This kind of degrading terminology has no place at Technilum. As well as general lighting considerations, we also introduce unique and innovative features. We’re the only company to work exclusively with aluminium – we have more than 40 years of experience enhancing this, and other, materials.
Through our design and manufacturing techniques, we place great importance on the quality of the finish for our products, which are carefully constructed, high quality, technological and visual.
With extensive experience in making lamp posts, you now also offer a range of lanterns. What technological innovations did you develop for this?
The exterior lighting markets has changed rapidly over the last few years. The major players are still present, but there are more and more small manufacturers thanks to technological advances.
We’ve always been involved in the process from start to finish, even our “Fée” lamps at La Grande Motte were completely made by Technilum – this was more than 40 years ago. The same is true for the Palmier du Palais at the Cannes Film Festival 30 years ago.
Developments in optical fibres and mass-made products pushed us towards custom-made lighting which was, and still is, very different from the ready-made collections offered by our competitors.
Since then, the company has evolved and we now produce unique optical and home lighting.
Our approach to the Ceramic collection is very different. LEDS are very important, yet now increasingly accessible to everyone. We therefore wanted to concentrate on the design of the outer envelope and consider lighting from a different angle.
In order to make the products “noble” and above all aesthetically different, we decided to move beyond current light designs where it is difficult to distinguish between the Pierre, Paul and Jacques models, or rather, Peter, Paolo, John and Cheng.
Jules and Juliette are the jewels of urban lighting – perfect examples of French chic or the “French Touch” that is so popular at the moment. The efficiency of the light source is unquestionable, there is no need to prove the efficiency of LEDs or optical lighting. Although, of course, the success of a project depends on this.
However, its success is also linked to both the night and daytime mood created by new street furniture that introduce sensuality and refinement into public planning.
Aside from LED technology that transposes interior lighting standards onto public lighting, how else can we exceed users’ functional needs? Are well-being and aesthetics important, especially when the added cost is minimal?
You’ve touched on an essential part of design, that is to say, useful design that differs greatly from a more artistic approach. We wanted Ceramic to be an excellent value range that was accessible to all our clients.
Urban planning and aesthetic appeal are the most important socialising factors in our cities. The atmosphere created by an urban project is adapted to specific usages and therefore to our urban well-being and the way we use the city in the 21st century.
Ensuring quality, long lifespan and aesthetic appeal has never been overly expensive. On the contrary, quality minimises maintenance costs. If inhabitants want an urban project to be undertaken, this has positive economic repercussions.
Your “Ceramic” range explores the full potential of the lantern using an unexpected material, which turns out to be perfectly adapted to urban spaces. What processes where necessary to achieve this?
As soon as Marc showed us the ceramic technique in an urban context, we fell in love the material. It corresponds to a savoir-faire somewhere between craftsmanship and industry, which enhances everything that is precious in France – research, savoir-faire and luxury.
We asked Marc to design a range of ceramics, which he adapted around the concept of a lamp shade over a light bulb. This idea derives from interior lighting, but was easy to apply to exterior spaces.
Your experiences have given you a unique understanding of public spaces. What insights can you share with us?
Many industrialist talk about the fact we’re living in an era of globalisation. However, few refer to competing territories.
However, this is where the future of our cities, territories and even the French nation lies. Aesthetic appeal is currently the leading motor for economic development. The challenge is to create an environment that encourages investors, companies, tourists and new inhabitants whilst maintaining social cohesion.
This is the aim of urban projects and redevelopments.
Local authorities need to be sensitive to this challenge. Most already are, but there are still some badly thought-out projects in the heart of the city that don’t take into account advances in urban development, sustainable development and new ways of using the city. My dual role allows me to raise awareness and discuss these challenges – this has been fuelling my passion for architecture for a long time now.
Why are you so involved in cultural sponsorship?
I think it is important to raise awareness and discuss architecture, urban planning, landscapes, design and contemporary art, as I just mentioned. It is vital to make these kinds of encounters possible. Our annual cycle of events is appropriately called Heureuses Coïncidences (Happy Coincidences)!
In addition to the pleasure we get from organising these events each year, it’s also very satisfying to know that successful multi-disciplinary projects teams were formed at Lézigno.
New urban forms have been created thanks to the different artistic interventions, debates and speeches. Lézigno is a generous approach to design – we give without expecting anything in return.