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Object of Desire: An Urn That Displays the Age of the World

Designer: Mathieu Lehanneur

Object of Desire: An Urn That Displays the Age of the World

This is the stuff of life. We mean that literally: These urns by Paris designer Mathieu Lehanneur capture demographic data in enameled ceramic, with 99-year-olds at the top and newborns at the bottom. "My goal was to transform the demographic data into a more emotional object," he says. The diverse forms surprised him, but perhaps they shouldn't have: Many European vessels are slimmer in the middle due to World War II, and recessions usually produce inward curves. You can see the coming wave of the elderly in the U.S., while Egypt has huge numbers of youth. "The overall shape is determined by living conditions," says Lehanneur, who used 2007 stats for these 29.5-inch-tall urns but will make custom pieces based on a client's chosen nation and year. "History creates the odd details or accidents." And, in this case, the art. (6,000 euros/$9,000 at

A version of this article appeared in the February 2010 issue of Fast Company magazine.