Spanish designer Patricia Urquiola livens up the international architecture and design space with her feminine and tactile products. Her eclectic and experimental style defines her work for leading design brands, and has won her numerous international awards.
Bangalore based architect and interior designer Gayathri Shetty set up her firm GNA in 1993 and is also the chairperson of the IIID Bangalore chapter. Here in Milan for the Salone del Mobile, she is stopping by to check out the new collection at Cassina.
Urquiola stands out among the crowd, and you cannot be sure if it is the vibrant checkered coat she is wearing, or the intense energy that radiates from her. In contrast, there is a quiet stillness about Shetty that projects easy tranquillity. One sees why the two are good friends - their contrasting energies balance each other out.
We get a personalised whistle-stop tour of the Cassina Perspective, Urquiola’s vision this year for the brand that she has steered as Art Director since 2015. Tour done and catching up out of the way, we sit down so Shetty can quiz Urquiola about her designs, her passions and her plans for the coming year.
Patricia Urquiola (PU): We are showcasing today four new products inspired by Chandigarh and created by our R&D centre as an homage. We will continue our research at the Foundation Le Corbusier to explore the work of this great architect, and perhaps at the end we will develop a collection of something contemporary. We will also do a talk at the end of the year in Chandigarh.
PU: I have designed a new carpet called Nuance for a Spanish company Gan. It is made with a felting process that mixes and uses discarded materials from their regular production. The mixed colours and densities give the end result a very terrazzo feel. Since we use leftovers from their production, it is a more adaptive and sustainable process.
PU: Bisel is a series of tables and consoles I have done with Glas Italia. We use layers of glass and colour filters, faceted with bevels. Through the translucency, you see multiple colours and their aspect changes as the light changes. They have a kind of perspective that only glass can give you.
I am working with Bottega Ghianda, the artisanal woodworking firm, for an exhibition called DOPPIA FIRMA, that brings together European design innovation and the tradition of great artisanship.
I am also doing a collection of carpets for cc-tapis called Fordite, where I mix cotton with other fibres like silk, wool and aloe, all leftovers from their regular production - their waste becomes a part of our product.
PU: At Cassina, we are constantly rethinking all our processes. For example, with Ronan and Erwan Bouroullec, we work with aluminium, which is a very interesting, sustainable material. We did a fantastic exhibition with Philippe Starck, using vegan leather made with apple skins. In all our projects, we think: What is the best way to use a natural material? Or if not, then how can it be recycled? For example, when you do a sofa, you should be able to dismantle it easily at the end of its lifecycle.
PU:Cassina does things with a lot of respect - from the materials they use to the logistics and time they put into production. There is an obsession with quality, which is an intuitive way to be sustainable. The moment you create quality products which are durable and well designed, people can keep them for a long time. And afterwards, they can be passed along to a friend, so you give your product this circularity which saves it from becoming throw-away. We must stop these linear histories of using and throwing, and think in a much more circular way.
PU:You must see Master’s Pieces, the exhibition by Rossana Orlandi. I have done a piece called Wasting Time Daybed made entirely with recycled materials. It is a very ironic piece, a bit provocative. Increasingly, these no-gender instruments we have in our life, like phones and sneakers, will be the things that we keep from our period.
PU:I have a lot of space for a new philosophy, a new language and new and interesting young designers. I am keen to create interesting conversations around women. To start with, there is an exhibition about Charlotte Perriand, one of our Maestri designers, at La Fondation Louis Vuitton later this year. That is the first lady I wanted to promote, and now we have created a division for this.
With the conversation turning to the role of women in design, we were suddenly made aware that the five people occupying the room were all women. It was only appropriate then that when asked how she would you like to STIR things up for the year ahead, she did not hesitate.
(See more from the series 'Cross Border Conversations 8X8' )