paul de livron crafts wooden wheelchair for the pope with burnt oak beams from notre-dame

paul de livron crafts wooden wheelchair for the pope with burnt oak beams from notre-dame

apollo wooden wheelchairs: an ecological approach to mobility

 

French craftsman and designer Paul de Livron has unveiled the Apollo Wooden Wheelchairs, an innovative approach to mobility aids that blends eco-conscious design with aesthetic appeal and high performance. Crafted from wood, the wheelchairs stand as the world’s first (and only) of their kind, with their first beneficiary being arguably the most famous person on Earth – Pope Francis. This papal model ambitiously  incorporates two pieces of completely charred 12th-century oak beams from the Notre-Dame Cathedral for the armrests.

 

Recognizing the potential to address mobility challenges on a global scale — beyond the Pope’s personal collection — de Livron seeks to provide accessible solutions in developing countries, utilizing locally available resources and inexpensive and incomplex tools to create a variety of customized wheelchairs. With no other such equivalents on the market, the Apollo Wooden Wheelchairs could thus be created as infinite number of new models catering to the diverse needs of children, the elderly, the active, the sedentary, the poor, and even the rich.

paul de livron crafts wooden wheelchair for the pope with burnt oak beams from notre-dame
image © Privat Millet

 

 

local materials and incomplex manufacturing for inclusivity

 

A jack of-all-trades on wheels with a background in engineering, Paul de Livron fell while hiking in 2013, breaking his spine and condemned to use a wheelchair for the rest of his life. Never satisfied with the high-priced, top-of-the-range wheelchairs he bought, he set out to make his own models. After studying a number of alternatives, in 2022 the French designer finally devised an innovative wheelchair architecture that makes use of a material that is very much in the air of the times: wood.

 

The allure of Paul de Livron’s creations, he unexpectedly found, lay in their transformative impact on perceptions of mobility. As he made his way around Paris, he found his first prototype drawing curious looks, rooted in admiration rather than the typical pity he encountered, for its sleek and warm lines. ‘A revolutionary discovery: this wooden wheelchair has a superpower,’ he remarks. ‘It changes the way people look at things. When you consider that many people in wheelchairs no longer leave their homes for fear of other people’s gaze, how could you not decide to devote yourself to the development of these new models likely to combat this destructive malaise?’ 

paul de livron crafts wooden wheelchair for the pope with burnt oak beams from notre-dame
Paul de Livron, wheelchair craftsman | image © Harold Passini

 

 

paul de livron crafts papal model for pope francis

 

In May 2023 at the Vatican, a third, enhanced prototype was presented to the Pope — someone who uses a wheelchair every day to deal with age-related knee pain. The papal model incorporates wood from the burnt-down medieval frame of the iconic Notre-Dame Cathedral, and was built in just four months, featuring technical innovations and a wealth of religious symbols and aesthetic details. It has since been confirmed that the wheelchair finds its home in Pope Francis’ private apartment, but he has yet to appear publicly seated in it.

 

For his next steps, Paul de Livron plans to take advantage of all the excitement associated with the upcoming Olympic Games in Paris to show that the eco-responsible, aesthetic, comfortable and high-performance wheelchair of the future is French. This inspired the concept of a fourth prototype — the self-proclaimed ‘most beautiful wheelchair in the universe.’

paul de livron crafts wooden wheelchair for the pope with burnt oak beams from notre-dame
three views of the first wooden wheelchair prototype | image © Paul de Livron

paul de livron crafts wooden wheelchair for the pope with burnt oak beams from notre-dame
three views of the second wooden wheelchair prototype, photomontage | image © Paul de Livron

apollo-wooden-wheelchairs-paul-de-livron-designboom-1800

image © Quentin Bitran

paul de livron crafts wooden wheelchair for the pope with burnt oak beams from notre-dame
Pope Francis accepting a model of his future wooden wheelchair | image © Andrea Simone

paul de livron crafts wooden wheelchair for the pope with burnt oak beams from notre-dame
the French authorities entrust Paul with pieces of wood from Notre-Dame de Paris | image © Paul de Livron

who except the pope would have thought wheelchairs could become sexy 7
Pope Francis’ wooden wheelchair under construction | image © Etienne de Livron

paul de livron crafts wooden wheelchair for the pope with burnt oak beams from notre-dame
image © Nicolas Friess

who except the pope would have thought wheelchairs could become sexy 8
three views of Pope Francis’ wooden wheelchair | image © Paul de Livron

 

 

project info:

 

name: Apollo Wooden Wheelchairs
designer: Paul de Livron

 

 

designboom has received this project from our DIY submissions feature, where we welcome our readers to submit their own work for publication. see more project submissions from our readers here.

 

edited by: ravail khan | designboom

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