Since the beginning of December, the faithful as well as the visitors of the Saint-Eustache Church have discovered the new benches of the parish. Functional and timeless, they are the result of a particularly well-framed call for projects, won by Constance Guisset and Houssard Mobilier.
In the heart of the Halles district, in Paris, the Church of Saint-Eustache is well known to art lovers, for the collection of works it contains (from Rubens to Keith Haring), and for its openness to contemporary artists for installations and performances, as shown for example by its activity during the Parisian Nuits Blanches. It is difficult to imagine that this majestic church was originally a simple chapel built in the 13th century. Enlarged under François 1er in the XVIth century, then by Colbert in the XVIIth (one still finds there his tomb), in the post-Revolution times, it even became a “temple of agriculture”, before regaining its activity and its brightness in the 19th century thanks to the restoration carried out by Victor Baltard, who designed most of the furniture and the organ case. A challenge to intervene again in this place rich in history, but also a necessity understood by Father Yves Trocheris, parish priest.
A supervised call for projects for new benches
A particularly lively place, next to the religious services, the site of course welcomes every day its share of tourists, but also a large public for a rich concert program: it became essential to replace a park of benches extremely solicited and manipulated, with the necessity that the proposal be in harmony with the place. A working group was set up, initially to draw up precise specifications. Chaired by Isabelle de Ponfilly, he also had the mission of identifying – and even matching – industrialists and designers to respond effectively to a call for projects. Of the fifteen or so applications submitted, in January 2022, the proposal submitted by Constance Guisset and Houssard Mobilier was unanimously accepted.
Benches with a “noble sobriety
In a dialogue that began as soon as the project was presented, Constance Guisset and Houssard Mobilier pooled their know-how and experience to design benches that would reflect a “noble sobriety”.
All in solid beech, dark stained, they blend particularly well with the decor. Their curved lines avoid a too austere posture, and give an impression of softness and lightness. The backs are dressed with a pictogram symbol of the Church, which takes the antlers of the deer and the cross from the legend of St. Eustace (the latter would have converted after a vision occurred during a hunting trip) skillfully revisited by the French designer. Note that the choice of beechwood also met local production criteria (from the Normandy bocage), and the mortise and tenon joints avoid the use of glue.
Stunningly reversible benches
In addition to its well-mastered aesthetics, this bench meets various logistical requirements: it is light, easy to move, and can be stacked thanks to precise work on the design of the armrests. Its reversible backrest makes it possible to switch in a jiffy from a position facing the altar, for a liturgical activity, to a position facing the back of the church where a majestic organ is located and where a concert program is held throughout the year. The backrest position can be changed thanks to a balancing system located inside the bench, between the seat and the armrests. The backrest is self-locking in each position to avoid permanent movement. This reversibility will relieve the work of the church’s logistics teams. Constance Guisset relied on the expertise of Houssard Mobilier, a specialist in seating for places of worship, for the implementation of this mechanism: the challenge was to adapt the principle to a seat that is meant to be mobile, because the design was thought to deliver a structure as light as possible (18 kg for a three-seater) while maintaining the criteria of robustness necessary for intense use and a great durability.