TEN QUESTIONS: PATRICIA URQUIOLA
One of the international design world’s stars of the first rank, Patricia Urquiola produces work that consistently surprises and delights, never repeating an idea twice. By Lucie Young
The Spanish born designer has created some of the most poetic and practical furniture of the 21st century – including her Clip bed for Molteni&C and her Antibodi chaise for Moroso. Her work often references craft techniques such as crochet, weaving and appliqué, but all of her objects are made using high-tech industrial processes.
1 How important is memory in your work?
Ferran Adria [Spain’s top chef] said to me, ‘Memory is everything.’ It is the only thing we have. In everything I do, I begin with memory, but I rethink it. When we did the smock chair [for Moroso in 2006], I took a smock worn by my first baby and incorporated it into an office chair. We took something made by a craft technique and found a way to do it industrially. Usually, there is not a lot of memory in industrial objects.
2 What inspired your Night and Day sofa for Molteni?
I love the idea of Manet’s painting Le Dejeuner sur l’Herbe – me and you lying on a blanket, eating something and reading a book – it is paradise for me. When I think of cold sitting rooms, I always wonder how I can have my dejeuner sur l’herbe in there. So I told Molteni that instead of another sofa, I want to create a place like a little island, where you can have all your things around you and be comfortable and read a book or even sleep overnight. If you have two sofas facing each other, it becomes an island for two.
3 Is your work about creating new ways of living?
I am not interested in old typologies of what a bed, a sofa or a bath is. I am only concerned with new and more sophisticated ways of living. A lot of things on the market are outmoded – full of obsolete ideas of luxury, like a big bathtub with bubble jets, like something out of Pretty Woman. Water is gold nowadays. So if you have this super-size tub, you can’t use it on your own; it is too wasteful. You have to get in with all the family!
4 People describe your designs as very sensual and feminine. Do you agree?
People often say that sensuality and sensitivity are feminine qualities, but they are not gender specific; they are individual qualities. Tord Boontje is more sensual than I am. Where women are different from men is that women are more flexible, adaptable and able to multi-task. We have to be, to survive.
5 Why did you wait to open your own studio until your late thirties?
There was a huge change in my life in 1999, after my divorce from my first husband. I had a moment of great energy and I realized I could tell my own story. When I was younger, I preferred to work for other people, like Achille Castiglioni, Maddalena De Padova and Vico Magistretti. Then I went to work for Piero Lissoni and really got to know the big design companies. Afterwards, these companies approached me to work with them.
6 Describe your house in Milan?
My house in Milan is very simple. I work eight to ten hours a day making things and spaces for living, so when I get home, I need less, because I have a lot in my day.
7 How long does it take you to develop a product?
It is a lot like gardening. Sometimes you wait three years for a plant and sometimes it appears immediately. I have had the Night and Day sofa in my head since I did the Clip bed six years ago. So, after I started talking with Molteni about the design, it took just three months to complete.
8 What is your favorite thing at home that you didn’t design? A vase by Franco Albini. I always say, ’Take care, we don’t have to break it!’ But I am not really a fetishist about things.
9 Can you tell us about the hotels you are designing?
We just started a hotel with Ian Schrager in Barcelona. It will be one of the first Edition Hotels for Marriott. The Mandarin Oriental is also in Barcelona, in an old bank building on the Passeig de Gracia. I am the art director for the W Vieques (on a little island in Puerto Rico), and I am hoping it will have pieces by Moooi, Tom Dixon and a lot of my work. With hotels there are always many compromises, so I hope the soul of these projects isn’t lost.
10 What would be your dream job?
I would like to do an architecture project or adapt something for Alberto, my partner of seven years, our children (we have a 3-year-old, as well as a 14-year-old from my previous marriage) and me. It is my dream to have my house and my home as one.