People are limiting the value of words like “technology” and “sustainability” within the design industry, said Spanish-born architect and designer, Patricia Urquiola.
In an interview with designMENA, Urquiola countered the idea that technology negatively affects the sentiment of craftsmanship, adding that the problem lies in the way people are utilising the “hot topics” of design.
“Technology is part of our life,” said the designer who, professionally, identifies as an Italian. “I don’t have any kind of prejudice in relation to words like sustainability or technology. Many times I speak to people about these subjects and they are using these terms, but they are using them in a very limited way and are limiting them. They are part of our process.”
She added: “I think craftsmanship has always been connected to the evolution of technology because it is connected to all the innovations. Craftsmanship, I think, is an attitude to take time doing things and doing them well and trying to understand the capacities of a material and what you can get from it,” explaining that it should never be a question of “price” when one cares for the quality of a project or product.
“It should not be driven from an economical attitude,” she said, “but an attitude of quality.”
Urquiola also discussed her attitudes towards sustainability, explaining that it is impossible for a project to excel in all regards – sometimes compromises need to be made, however a designer needs to use no more than what is necessary for a particular project to ensure that it is sustainable.
“A serious attitude to sustainability means trying to get to use the right energies in the process – no more or no less than what you need,” she said. “Sometimes it is human energies that you are using in the wrong ways. Sometimes it is the techniques or the logistical way you are doing things. You have to think that the products are going to have to move through the world, then they need to be thought of in a logical way.”
She added: “I don’t say that each project can excel in everything but you can get something and you are very proud that in this project, that specific thing has been well solved and is innovative.”
Urquiola was in Dubai for the opening of the new Poltrona Frau Group ME showroom, which includes Italian brands Poltrona Frau, Cappellini, and Cassina – for which Urquiola acts as art director.
While Italy has always been regarded as the centre for design, new design hubs have been evolving over time, in Europe, Asia, and the Middle East – how does this affect Italian design? Urquiola explained that regardless of burgeoning design hubs, Italian design “will not suffer” due to its acknowledgement and integration of foreign talent.
“Italy has always been open to new talent,” she said. If you see, for example, the production of Cassina: it was not only done with Italian designers, there were Maggistretti, (Mario) Bellini, a long list of them, but also many masters of architecture from France, like Le Corbuier and Charlotte Perriand, and Japanese (Toshoyuki) Kita.
“There was always this idea that talent comes from everywhere. And I think this global attitude, this attitude to be curious about people who can give something to Italy was always in the DNA of Italy. Then I think to approach the world we have today where everything is interconnected, I think Italy is suffering less than perhaps other countries that wanted to only have roots that are too connected with their own culture. Me, I am Spanish, but I am strongly Italian in the way I work. I am an example of that. I feel strongly part of the system of Italian design.”
“I believe a lot in dialogue and Italian design has always been open to dialogue. You begin on creating a relationship,” she added.
Urquiola has been involved in all areas of design, from designing products including rugs for CC Tapis to outdoor furniture for Kettal, as well as furniture for Cassina, to architectural projects such as the Il Sereno Hotel on Lake Como.
Look out for the full interview with Patricia Urquiola in the next issue of Commercial Interior Design and next month on designMENA!
Last year, designMENA also interview the self-coined “least prolific” Italian designer, Fabio Novembre, who spoke about how designers have entered “an age of fear” which is slowing down progress.
“I don’t recognise myself in this retro way of life. Not at all. I am the last of the researchers. I am still the child of radical design and still going in that direction: research or die!” he said. Read full interview here.