Designers To Watch in 2020: Patricia Urquiola (Exclusive Interview)


Patricia Urquiola is perhaps the most famous female designer alive today. And yet for all the awards and accolades, it’s her intense energy that distinguishes her from the rest of the field. It’s a quality she can be relied upon to bring to every project that she undertakes — be that re-energising iconic hotels or reimagining the future of outdoor living. As part of our Designers To Watch in 2020 series, we sat down with Patricia to talk politics, artistic challenges and all things Cassina.


What’s your greatest challenge as Art Director of Cassina?

Cassina is a unique brand, it is the history of design yet it is also the future: its specific know-how of quality and production, the close relation with the Grandi Maestri – the great masters of design – and today’s Maestri currently working with the company are Cassina’s unique values. I have a great respect for the brand, my aim since 2015 is to bring a contemporary way of doing things and to project Cassina towards the future without forgetting its glorious past. I want to be sure that the brand will continue to have its “experimental” spirit in order to enrich its broad archive. My role is not about creating and commissioning new items but also discovering how to keep Cassina alive and evolving. Cassina is innovation; we work with the most sophisticated technology to design and produce in a more sustainable and logical way.

“I have a great respect for the brand, my aim since 2015 is to bring a contemporary way of doing things and to project Cassina towards the future”

Does the political Zeitgeist influence the way you design? Or are they two separate things?

Not only the political agenda, in my work I like to reflect and observe the whole society. I observe everything; I need to understand where contemporaneity is going. Designers and architects need to observe the social scene to come to a tangible synthesis.

Today, for instance, more than ever we are experiencing changing design, we cannot design an object without taking into consideration its impact on the environment. As recently exhibited at the Triennale di Milano, we’re left with a “Broken Nature”, we’re more conscious than ever of our problems and we’re ready to really change our habits and our consumption. So, my work cannot be limited to, for example, the selection of eco-compatible materials, but it needs to re-imagine every aspect of the entire production cycle and transport. It’s important that we designers work together with the companies to facilitate all of this. It is, of course, a long process.

Designers are used to coping with complex processes, working with macro and micro scales and understanding the technology available to go beyond the limits of what has been already experimented. That’s why we’re constantly asked to design not only objects and architecture but also to think about the future of mobility, of the workplace, of production processes …

 “In my work I like to reflect and observe the whole society. I observe everything; I need to understand where contemporaneity is going.”

What does your dream commission look like in 2020?

I can’t answer this question precisely, I am lucky enough to work with many different companies, developing diverse projects for many years now. I’m currently working on my personal exhibition in Madrid, of course the art direction for Cassina and other projects for Milan Design Week in April 2020.

I can say, however, that my mind is always busy to find feasible solutions for an optimistic future, dedicating myself to defend any kind of diversity and reduce any kind of gap either gender, social, financial or class.  A dream would be designing behaviours, to improve the quality of our daily life, while simultaneously improving the impact that these have on our surroundings.

“My mind is always busy to find feasible solutions for an optimistic future…”

Are there any trends or ideas from the past year that you’ll be taking with you into the new decade?

I have never believed in trends; I care more about creating empathy and the sense of place and time. I start each project with a blank page and try to visualize every user’s need and develop everything based on this. Every brand is unique with its own history and a very different way of working therefore I create a different relationship and dialogue for each client.

“I have never believed in trends; I care more about creating empathy and the sense of place and time.”

When you’re not in the studio working, where can we find you?

I like going to the cinema and visiting museums with my family. It’s a sort of continuous research for my work. I’m also a bookworm, I love to read; frequently I find ideas and clues that I apply to my design projects.

I’m often travelling for work; it has become indeed an important part of my life. When I’m abroad I love to dedicate some time, unfortunately not very much, for myself to get in contact with other cultures, visiting exhibitions, small museums or simply walking around. Travelling is an important source of inspiration for me.

Ibiza has been my family’s summer escape since I was a little child. Though it has changed a lot, it was an island of freedom full of artists and hippies; very different from Oviedo, my birthplace. I guess it was a sort of first source of inspiration with these free ideas. Each year I go back to the island and disconnect from the world to enjoy my family.

“Travelling is an important source of inspiration for me.”

SHOP PATRICIA URQUIOLA ONLINE OR IN-STORE AT CHAPLINS

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