AWARD-WINNING ARCHITECT, DESIGNER AND ART DIRECT OR OF CASSINA.
Many design enthusiasts and like-minded industry players have turned to Patricia Urquiola’s impressive portfolio of works for inspiration. With her strong design language, detailing, and play on colour, form and material, Patricia has made a name for herself in the design world, collaborating with renowned furniture brands such as Kartell and Cassina. We caught up with her recently to talk about her passion for furniture design and architecture, as well as some of her latest creations.
The Beam sofa, which Patricia designed in collaboration with Cassina, has flexible and lightweight back and armrest cushions.
The unique shape of the Cassina Floe Insel sofa is inspired by icebergs.
WHEN DESIGNING THE FLOE INSEL SOFA FOR CASSINA, WHAT DREW YOU TO THE IDEA OF FLOATING ICE?
The Floe Insel sofa started off as a small project; I wanted to incorporate an emotion I had during a trip I took from Iceland to Greenland. We were travelling in a boat for 15 days, and most of the time we were in the middle of icebergs. This got me thinking about the world and its changes. It was a very emotional and important trip for me.
Returning home and working on the Floe Insel sofa, I couldn’t avoid the imagery of an iceberg symbolising an island; an island which you place in the middle of the room. Unlike conventional sofas, there is no specific front or back to the piece. It is a three-dimensional object with non-geometrical elements, and all the pieces are like an iceberg in some way.
HOW OFTEN DO YOU FIND YOUR TRAVELS SERVING AS INSPIRATION FOR YOUR DESIGNS?
I don’t think the beginning of a project is always the result of an inspiration from a travel or something that happened in my life, but in the case of the Floe Insel, it was. Inspirations can come from quotidian situations, like an emotion or music; there are many reasons to begin a project.
YOU’VE DESIGNED EVERYTHING FROM FURNITURE TO TABLEWARE AND CARPETS. WHAT ARE SOME OF THE MOST CHALLENGING PRODUCTS TO DESIGN?
Nothing is too challenging to design. I think design is an exercise in observation of human behaviour; understanding the needs, attitudes and evolutions in society. It should not be something that’s orientated to consumers. In fact, consumers of today are more concerned with communication. People understand what quality means, like good use of materials, design processes and technology used. Today, it is more important to think about delivery of design — being transparent in the way you think.
ANY PRODUCTS IN PARTICULAR THAT YOU LOVE DESIGNING?
I love designing carpets!
WHY SPECIFICALLY CARPETS?
Take, for example, if you’re in a garden and you lay a carpet down, you’re already defining a space! Whenever someone asks me which room I prefer in a home, I don’t have any. For me, a carpet is enough to represent a room; it’s like a shelter. Today, the concept of a shelter is no longer just a physical roof.
GEOMETRY OR CURVE?
I would say, none of them. Each project has a concept and an idea. You have a goal in mind, which you want to translate. I don’t think that it needs to be a specific look. It depends on the conceptual idea. Research comes natural with the concept. I want my projects to bring a sense of comfort and wellness, with some innovation and inspiration that reflect my roots and values.
HOW OFTEN DO YOU SEE YOURSELF INCORPORATING NEW TECHNOLOGIES INTO DESIGN?
I don’t believe that technology solves everything. There are many ways to offer a new point of view. It can be by creating an emotional response or sensation. I always tell students and designers who may be from countries where technology is less advanced, that they can take inspiration from their society, culture and education. These aspects can possibly be even more powerful than what technology may bring.
YOU USE COLOUR A LOT IN YOUR DESIGNS. HOW DO YOU USE IT T O YOUR ADVANTAGE?
I’m not chromo-phobic. I am always inspired by the energy that colours give me. Colours, surfaces, patterns and textures — I’m curious about all these things. For me, colours are necessary, but it is actually just a question of light. They are very reactive to light – the existence or non-existence of it.
It also depends on materiality. For example, if there’s an object with a rich tone, but a highly reflective surface, it will offer a different look. When choosing colours, it is no longer only a question of the shade, but other factors affecting it.
WHAT’S YOUR FAVOURITE PIECE OF FURNITURE?
We have a Gender chair in the studio, and this piece symbolises the beginning of my relationship with Cassina. It’s a product that I like because it discusses the topic of gender, and the idea of the chair taking on different forms and expression, depending on how you choose to dress it.
WHAT’S ONE PROJECT IN ASIA YOU FOUND MOST SATISFACTION WORKING ON?
I was happy participating in the Oasia Downtown hotel (Patricia worked with local architecture firm Woha on this project). It was nice because it’s a demonstration of a successful collaboration between designers on two sides of the world who have similar visions. Revisiting it again this time, I imagined what it would be like for surrounding buildings to be clad in tropical plants. I hope the future of Singapore will be complete with lots of green, tropical buildings. I’m happy to have been part of a project, which represents a step towards enhancing the city in another way.
WHAT DO YOU THINK WE CAN EXPECT AT THE SALONE DEL MOBILE MILANO THIS YEAR?
There’s always a lot happening at Salone. One of the projects we’re working on is the renovation of Cassina’s showroom in Via Durini, Milan. The brand’s celebrating its 50th anniversary and we want to introduce a new ambience to the space, as well as some new products.
ANY PROJECTS IN THE REGION WE CAN LOOK FORWARD TO?
Yes, we are working on a new shop for Panerai at Ion Orchard, which will probably be completed by the end of this year.
See more of Patricia Ur quiola works at www.patriciaurquiola.com. Collections from Cassina are a vailable locally at Space Furniture.
The Cassina Gender chair was designed to allow customisation, to allow for different expression based on form and colour.
Patricia is well versed in designing myriad types of products, including tableware such as the Kartell Trama collection.
Patricia worked with carpet specialist Cc-tapis to design this uniquely shaped Visioni rug fashioned after three dimensional imagery.
“I don’t believe that technology solves everything. I always tell students and designers who may be from countries where technology is less advanced, that they can take inspiration from their society, culture and education.”
text DOMENICA TAN photos SPACE FURNITURE