Monday, 15 June 2009

Tile Panels, Michelin

In London there is a splendid building, designed by Francois Espinasse, and opened in 1911. It was built as Michelin, (the tyre company)'s headquarters in the Fulham Road, London.
Here were offices, stores, and of course, the Michelin tyre-fitting bay. Motor Cars were still a very recent phenomenon. Most of London remained horse-powered at the time. Many vehicles were shod with solid tyres, and of pneumatic tyres, Dunlop was the dominant name in the british (and empire) market. The french company of Michelin was determined to wrest a significant portion of the market from Dunlop. To that end, it built its palace of motoring, decorated with glazed tiles and stained glass windows. The building was richly decorated, and was the domain of Michelin's fiction character, a big, jolly man made of a stack of tyres. Monsieur Bibendum.
Michelin's advertising stressed their superior ability to "drink up" the sharp stones and nails that would puncture other tyre brands. -Their motto, Nunc est Bibendum, "now is the time to drink."

"Now is the time to drink, that's to say, to your very good health, The Michelin tyre drinks up obstacles!"
Tyre-Man, Monsieur Bibendum, making a meal of all those sharp things that puncture tyres. The Michelin tyre was, perhaps, slightly less-prone to puncture, but its other advantage was that it was much quicker to repair than its rivals which were glued to their wheel rims. Michelin made wheels and rims which required no glue, and were fast to detach and disassemble.

M. Bibendum shows off his new studded grip...

And what better way to prove your superiority than by crowing your successes in the new sport of motor racing, and 'reliability' trials?
To this end, the company commissioned a series of tile panels from the Parisian firm of Gilardoni, Fils et Cie, based on the art work of Ernest Montaut.
I first saw these panels in the early seventies, in 1985, Michelin left the building, and designer Terence Conran took it over, since when it has been turned into an up-market restaurant, called, appropriately enough, Bibendum. The panels and other decoration have been cleaned and restored, the place is out of my price bracket for a meal, sadly.
So the panels in my pictures? They're at the British Motor Industry Heritage Centre, at Gaydon in Warwickshire, (near Stratford on Avon), The museum is well worth a visit if machinery stirs your soul.

These are just a few of the 32 tile panels, -for further reading, others can be seen here.
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  1. Great paint and history on the tile

  2. Is it just me or does that second poster of "L'homme du Michelin" look a lot like Churchill?

  3. Trouble commenting on your blog again. We'll see if this one takes.

  4. Okay. I guess you are just moderating again. I am only testing. Don't put all these up. :) I hope your troll goes away.

  5. Damn!
    I forgot all that moderating stuff, thought the world had gone quiet, saw no incoming comments.
    We are immoderate again, Phew!

  6. Tile: They're even better seen from close by, great surfaces, tactile.
    If someone remade them I bet they'd sell like hot tiles!

  7. Trollop, I think Churchill was a Michelin man clone.

  8. Max:- sorry, forgot the moderation, never used it before, no comments hit my inbox....


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