Deco Icon: Patricia Urquiola

Portrait by Marco Craig

Born in Spain, Patricia Urquiola studied architecture in Madrid and Milan and honed her skills working along side some of Italy’s design greats. She opened her own studio in 2001 and since then she has designed for the most celebrated brands in Italian and international design…

Her designs have been realised in hotels, boutiques, restaurants and design fairs worldwide and form part of the permanent collections of several museums. The DECO team have also been shamelessly obsessed with Patricia’s work so when the opportunity arose to hear from her personally, we jumped, naturally.

Do you have any design rituals?

When I start a new project, I start with a white page. I like to know the company more, I try to create an empathy with the brand, the products and who will be using them. The concept of empathy is very important to me. The clients know this and appreciate a lot. I like experimenting. Sometimes I work with new materials that I am not familiar with. This creates challenges moving from concept to production. But I love the challenges as they are what move design forward.

What is your favorite material to work with?

I like to work with all materials because I feel that with each one of them I can do different things. I do not like to be defined by one or the other tendency or to limit myself to a material or a style. I believe in the opportunities. Brands give me the opportunity to design with the materials they use and I feel privileged because I can work with them. This is how else I have learned. I think every road or every project, always takes you to the learning.

ELLE Deco SA
Credenza by Patricia Urquiola
ELLE Deco SA
Credenza by Patricia Urquiola

What would your key message be to young designers?

I would recommend not to think to become a superstar but to try to understand what it is really important for you. What it is really close to your creativity and talent. Don’t imitate anybody, but find your way. It helps to travel, to travel light, especially when you are young and do not have many responsibilities. And I would suggest to the next generation of designers to focus more on behaviors rather than on physical products, to travel a lot and make good research.

Is there anything in particular that strikes you about African design?

I had a beautiful collaboration with Peter Mabeo for whom I designed different collections, the use of color and the manufacture of wood.

ELLE Deco SA
Kika Stool by Patricia Urquiola and Peter Mabeo

Are there any specific traditions/ crafts or ancient savoir-faire you use in your design processes?

There are three components of a successful design: transparency in the process, and a continuous research in renewing their formal qualities. More and more people want to know the origin of a product; will not purchase more than a chair produced halfway around the world, in China or Indonesia, if it does not carrywith it a certain genius loci palpable, preferring one made next door or so.

ELLE Deco SA
The Elle Decor Grand Hotel, Milan
ELLE Deco SA
The Elle Decor Grand Hotel, Milan

What has being a woman in the industrial design world – usually dominated by men – brought in terms of challenges and opportunities?

Historically men and women were different; they had different roles, different responsibilities, different challenges. But the time has changed, I think it is now time to blend the concept of gender. There are many sides to society, not only woman and man, and we have to approach these situations in a better way.

What role do you see design play in daily domestic life?

Make our daily lives a little bit better, even only by a degree. Fulfill all the critical elements of the design process, tangible and intangible. Offer solutions to existing problems or unexpected improvements.

You really know it works when you can use it in a space or habitat.

How does your background in architecture inform your industrial and interior design work?

It is a good exercise and test. You could think that your product is perfect, but do you really know how it works when you use it in a space, in a habitat. The other way around if there is no breakage but rather integration when you project in an organic way from architecture, to interiors, to product.

In your opinion, how has design evolved in the last five years?

I think technology has an important role in the evolution of design. It’s an important aspect continuously evolving. It can simplified our life.

ELLE Deco SA
Il Sereno in Como Lake
ELLE Deco SA
Il Sereno in Como Lake

Is there a dream project/collaboration on the horizon?

I’m always open to new projects and in this moment we are preparing a big celebration for the 90 anniversary of Cassina. I do not think it is important as a passive celebration, but rather as an action plan to respect and represent the company identity in a revolutionary way. We are also working on a new book to present with the help of visionaries the way of living of the future. We are presenting the company in a new contemporary way.

What current trend in design fascinates you?

Technology and sustainability are fundamental for the evolution of design. But I have also a I have a great respect for the vintage.

ELLE Deco SA
Room Mate Hotel Giulia
ELLE Deco SA
Room Mate Hotel Giulia

WANT MORE?

See Patricia Urquiola’s collaboration withCc-Tapis here.


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The 2017 Field Report is not about fleeting trends – its about quality and perfection, about bringing back traditional skills and craftsmanship. We speak to the visionaries, icons and experts who shape their unique, lasting and life-enhancing concepts for us to embrace through their designs, recipes, buildings and explorations. Pick up your copy today and tell us what you think on Twitter @Elle_Deco using #2017FieldReport.

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