He lost everything or almost, but he can make us gain a lot. Renowned architect and designer, Guillaume Crédoz will leave an unsustainable situation in Lebanon and should set up his Bits to Atoms architecture and design office in Saint-Etienne within a year, very focused on 3D. Metropolis did, in fact, open its doors, allowing, as a preamble, the already effective start-up of “PIC”, a start-up that prints 3D furniture from recycled plastic.
A small “green” oasis in the middle of an immense desert. The FIFA World Cup in Qatar did not shine – understatement – for its human and environmental cost. It is more the case of the street furniture supplied by Bits to Atoms on the occasion of an exhibition (known as Expo 2023) in Doha linked to the event, it is hoped, however, that when the latter is completed, it was not sent to waste… And for good reason: it is made of plastic, more precisely polycarbonate, but 100% recycled. A demonstration of the many skills of the exploration fields of the Lebanese company of the Frenchman Guillaume Crédoz. But it’s not just Qataris who have had the right to experience it. Maybe you were from the Loire who put your buttocks, place Hôtel-de-Ville in Saint-Etienne, during the last Biennale du design, in one of its famous “Rocking Conversation”.
These Siamese rocking chairs – hence the reference to “rocking chairs”, rocking chairs in French – and promoting arguments between the occupants for two opposite seats because leaving their faces facing each other were usable from June until the end of September . One of the 17 Banc d’essai exhibitions, this meeting has become a great classic of the Biennial dedicated specifically to urban design, to see and of course to experience. “I discovered Saint-Etienne and the Biennial already exhibiting there in the 2017 edition through a call for projects”, explains Guillaume Crédoz. The architect designer with a very recognizable look – smooth skull and long white beard – was co-designer of an ali robot, an automated arm designed in Lebanon, whose sensors allowed to photograph and then instantly draw visitors on a wall. tall and two wide.
From digital data to atoms
Guillaume Crédoz didn’t know it at the time, but his Beirut-based company, Bits to Atoms, with 35 people at the time, was at its peak. The 2010s were not very good, far from it, for the country that was once called the Switzerland of the East. But there is a before and an after of 2020. Guillaume Crédoz’s look at the lamps that illuminate his installations in Saint-Etienne sums it up: “Here there is electricity all day and not even for an hour”, he observes without really complaining about what has continued to live. His adopted country – his Lebanese wife, he lived and worked there for a dozen years – is in full decline, in full economic and social chaos after the bursting of a gigantic banking bubble 2 years ago, preceding the terrible explosions in the port of Beirut. Enough to deprive everyone, overnight, of access to their accounts and what goes with them. That means everything. So, inevitably, Bits to Atoms, in addition to the absence of national markets and access to resources, suffers from a general loss of confidence in everything that comes from the Land of Cedars.
I was one of the first to be trained and use 3D to develop architectural projects.
Guillaume Crédoz, co-founder and co-director of PIC
Reduced to 10 employees, the company that also provided ideas and even furniture to the country’s protesters to help them better express their anger at this mismanagement caused by its pseudo-elite can no longer continue like this. Born in Nantes, even before Lebanon, Guillaume Crédoz had already visited the country. A globetrotter who has spent most of his career abroad: Canada, Syria, Turkey. “I was one of the first to be trained and to use 3D to develop architectural projectsguarantees the 49-year-old businessman. It’s a know-how that I practiced for a long time for many companies as a “mercenary”, independently before creating mine. » But Bits to Atoms – “From (digital) data to atomos” – was not content with being an architecture office with innovative methods, opportunities and international renown.
Arriving at Saint-Etienne, “ Made sense”
Guillaume Crédoz’s company, diversified in design creations, has invested heavily in 3D printing, developing its own printers, converting “robotic arms” from the automotive industry to create objects, furniture, in particular from natural or recycled materials: clay, paper, “spun metal”, wood or even plastic. It is in this last area that it is most advanced. And this is, therefore, the purpose of the start-up resulting from Bits to Atoms called PIC – “Post Industrial Crafts” – which has just been officially launched in Saint-Etienne in association with Olivier Ricard, in facilities temporarily provided by Saint-Etienne Metropolis . They are located in the same building as the Fabuleuse canteen, just behind it in the Cité du design. “When looking to leave Lebanon, I was knocked on the door of the Metropolis because of its History, an ecosystem around design and manufacturing, quite ad hoc with what I want to do. It makes perfect sense. I was supported by the Grands ateliers de l’Isle-D’Abeau and Xavier Chantre (Director of Mission Cité du design 2025, editor’s note) and very well received. »
We want to get production back on the right scale, more sustainable for the planet.
In addition to the facilities, Métropole supports the PIC through its Mind system, not a financial subsidy, but a strategy aid. In addition, Bits to Atoms should arrive in a year, a year and a half to settle at 2,000 mtwo in one of the last buildings in the Cité being rebuilt by Epora. PIC where a Lebanese employee of Guillaume Crédoz, who still goes back and forth to Beirut, is already assigned, would join her. Enough to generate more support. Starting with the Loire Entrepreneurship Network, of which the PIC is the winner. “This attracts the interest of local investors. I hope what we want to propose works. That is, a way out of an industrialized world and its logic that goes to the wall. We want to put manufacturing back on the right scale, the one that is most viable for the planet. » On January 11th, when we met him, Guillaume Crédoz had just installed an imposing 2.5 t “robotic arm”, bought from a German industrialist.
100% recycled 100% recyclable
A demo product intended for disposal after… 4 months of use! Instead, it will be reconfigured to print structures, like the one made for the courtyard of the castle of Châteaugiron (Brittany), always from recycled plastic (polycarbonate), if not furniture elements to assemble. Like this chair printed and then assembled in 1 hour in which we sat down to discuss with the designer architect. “My main source of supply is bottled water from local stores! I easily found a local recycler. The idea is to operate in short circuit. The plastic is reduced to granules before we tell the robot what we want to do with it.describes Guillaume Crédoz. This garden chair you are sitting on is much more expensive (90 €) than the average ones sold by current circuits. But it is infinitely stronger due to being 5 times thicker and therefore durable, made from 100% recycled materials – which is only partially made in the industry – and recyclable again if necessary. »
Another advantage: the possibility of modularity, at will, to tailor-made according to what the customer wants, this at no additional cost, even if it is a single unit ordered directly by a private individual, “Where a big brand, an industrialist will only make to measure from a minimum series or it will take months for you to get, for much more than the catalogue, exactly what you want”. In the meantime, the current PIC facilities will gradually be enriched with new objects and furniture, as a kind of know-how showroom that benefits, in passing, from the pedagogical background of the École supérieure de Arte e Design de Saint-Étienne (ESADSE), Nearby. It is currently being tested, for example with the Tôlerie Forezienne or La Fabuleuse canteen. We can only wish it for the future. For Saint-Etienne yes and far beyond.