Heralding a fresh aesthetic that’s grounded to her Spanish roots, Patricia Urquiola questions the importance of design as iconic. Patricia Urquiola doesn’t think of design in terms of icons. It’s simply coming up with an idea and translating that idea. “I’ve never considered myself an artist, someone whose work is purchased by museums and galleries; I’m much more interested in seeing my designs in people’s homes,” says Urquiola, whose work is nevertheless gaining attention by museum curators.
Urquiola, who studied architecture at Madrid Polytechnic, went on to study under Achille Castiglioni in Milan. While the move to Milan proved rewarding, so did the experience of working with the great master. “How can you begin to describe his Arco floor lamp manufactured for Flos? It’s sublime,” says Urquiola, whose own designs have been described in the same way. Her Lowland collection of furniture, released in 2000, shares the same simple and unfettered lines of Castiglioni’s lamp. The sofa is not only highly functional but also sculptural and highly original. “You don’t design something because you think it’s commercial. This piece was the start of me showing more of my personality in my work.”
Now working with Europe’s leading manufacturers, including B&B Italia, Kartell and Alessi, Urquiola designs everything from furniture and lighting to household products.
While fashion isn’t currently on Urquiola’s horizon, her furniture designs are strongly influenced by clothing. Her Smock chair has all the markings of an icon. The Smock, which could be described as resembling an open 1960s handbag, features curved steel handle-like armrests and a smocked leather seat, evocative of the period. But this design also expresses Urquiola’s mischievous side. “I could just see managers sitting in this chair, enveloped by smocked fabric you often see infants wearing. Design should be fun.”
As engaging is Urquiola’s Fjord. The armchair was inspired by travels to Scandinavia with Patricia Moroso. “I get a lot of my ideas from travelling. On that trip, Arne Jacobsen’s Egg chair, seen in hotel foyers, was a standout,” says Urquiola, who came away with the idea for half an egg chair. “People sit quite differently today. They’re inclined to sit with one leg over an armrest.”
Urquiola's aim is to create clean lines that can be easily read and enjoyed.“I never think of creating icons. It’s about continually looking at things. How can you not be inspired by Mackintosh’s chairs designed at the turn of the last century?” Inspiration for her designs also comes closer to home. A small ashtray on one of her coffee tables at home was enlarged to become her distinguishable Fat Fat table for B&B Italia.
While there are several projects in the pipeline, there are still a few things on Urquiola’s wish list. “I’d still like to design a hotel – the whole thing – from the architecture through to all the furnishings.”