Book List of the Week

Objects Are Words: Jean-Marie Massaud’s Book List

By Steve Kroeter September 20, 2011

Jean-Marie Massaud

Product designer and architect Jean-Marie Massaud: Studio Massaud (Paris)
book list

Describing himself as “first of all a man with a vision,” Jean-Marie Massaud dreamed of becoming an inventor when he was growing up. His design vision extends from unconventional furniture and bathroom fixtures for major international brands such as Poltrona Frau, Axor Hansgrohe, and Viccarbe, to interiors and architecture. His work includes chairs with names like “Holy Day”; a triangular-topped table for seating seven; a cascade-like bathtub; and a mirror that is both reflective and transparent, in addition to a volcano-shaped sports stadium for Guadalajara, Mexico, and utopian architectural projects such as “Manned Cloud”—a flying hotel/dirigible that has had input from ONERA, the French aerospace agency. He sees design as a process, an “evolution” that has bettering the human condition as its goal—with designed objects and environments as an expression of human needs and relationships (relationships with nature, culture, technology, and space), both current and future.

Massaud has said that he finds inspiration in “anything,” especially in people, and that two of his particular reading interests are science and philosophy.* So our curiosity about his list for Designers & Books was piqued. He tells us that among the “books that can always be found on my night table” are an exploration of the personalities and thought of the visionary intellectual figures Albert Einstein and Kurt Gödel (in philosophy scholar Palle Yourgrau’s A World Without Time) and of Carl Jung (in Radmila Moacanin’s study Jung’s Psychology and Tibetan Wisdom). He also includes the philosophical theatrical monologue centered on a pianist, Novecento, by the Italian writer and director Alessandro Baricco.

“Objects are words,”** Massaud has also said, and this idea, or play on this idea, caught our interest when we saw another of his Designers & Books selections—The Aleph by Jorge Luis Borges, one of Massaud’s favorite writers. For Parador, Massaud designed a laminate floor covering that utilizes a network of irregular pentagons and named it “Aleph,” after the story’s title, which refers to a point in space containing all other points.

For further clues into his thought process, one should turn to the five monographs Massaud has authored or been the subject of, including one produced to accompany a 2006 exhibition of his work in Tokyo, whose title seems to encapsulate the designer’s vision: “Human Nature.”

Note: Massaud’s work was recently on view in the exhibition “WaterDream: The Art of Bathroom Design,” at the Museum of Design Atlanta (MODA).


* Jean-Marie Massaud interviewed by Bogoña Corzo, LaVanguardia magazine (Spain) online, June 26, 2011,

** Interni magazine, Cristina Morozzi, “Jean-Marie Massaud: Design as Gentle Evolution,”

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