Sage Advice from Patricia Urquiola

Sage Advice from Patricia Urquiola

At the height of her career, Spanish architect and designer Patricia Urquiola stops to reflect on what matters.

Named artistic director at Cassina just over a year ago, Urquiola offers wisdom on how to balance the old with the new, cultivate relationships, and stay curious.

Cassina, a giant of design, is approaching its 90th birthday. That’s a rich legacy. What changes have you made there?
It’s the beginning of our relationship, so you have to be a bit humble. We are trying to be really responsible in the way we build on Cassina’s legacy, to make it grow in a sensible way. But we are also approaching new designers and developing new relationships. So it’s a balancing act.

How do trends affect your work? Do you embrace them, shy away from them, or ignore them altogether?
All of us are influenced by what surrounds us, but I think the word “trend” is for journalists. They put together things that people are doing, and only then do you understand it as a trend. I’m often working on projects that are two or three years away from going to market, and in the moment it’s not so obvious what is or isn’t a trend. It’s good to accept that you are influenced by society, but for designers to think about trends can be dangerous.

Are there any rising talents you have your eye on?
I’m always watching, and not only in my profession. I’m interested in art, in graphics, in music, in digital. Designers have to engage with society, and that’s true now more than ever. We have to be continuously curious about everything. I am curious every day.

Today, for example, I was having lunch with a couple of architects, and for me it’s normal to ask people to show me what they are doing on their phones. I saw two or three things that were very interesting. One is doing these tall buildings made only of wood, it’s fantastic… So you have to ask and be curious. Then things come out.

You’ve worked on everything from hotels to water jugs. Is there anything you haven’t done but would like to?
I don’t think about whether I want to do this item or that typology. It’s more important that you live, you find people who are interesting, and then they show you the possibility of doing something new. If you just stick with what you want to do on your own, you don’t learn. I used to think that doing tiles or working with marble or wood surfaces would be less interesting than doing three-dimensional items, for example. It’s not something I would have chosen. But it was a prejudice. My relationship with the Italian tile company Mutina showed me how to work with completely new technologies. It was a whole new world for me.

So it’s better to not think too much about what you haven’t done. There are plenty of places you would like to go and books you would like to read, but you have to let things go naturally. Let things arrive and let relations grow. It’s less frustrating.

Urquiola was interviewed at Inform Interiors in Vancouver.

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