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XXIV - 2016

by SCMP

XXIV 24

Handy work: Designer and architect Patricia Urquiola says she likes to think with her hands

When the award-winning art director of Cassina is working on creating new products, she likes to be able to ‘touch and manipulate’ her ideas

PUBLISHED : Monday, 07 November, 2016, 9:16am
UPDATED : Thursday, 18 May, 2017, 10:51pm

Award-winning designer and architect Patricia Urquiola is famous for creating her stunning chairs and sofas, but it’s hard to picture her relaxing in one of them, given her fast-paced and dynamic lifestyle.

Urquiola was named art director of furniture giant Cassina in September last year, and has revamped its New York showroom, and created a stunning store design for Panerai’s first United States flagship in Miami. This was on top of her other design projects for Moroso, Credenza and Agape, which were rolled out this year. She also managed to find time to launch her first debut collection for Cassina at the Salone del Mobile fair in April.

This collection, including pieces by industry greats such as Piero Lissoni, Philippe Starck, Ora Ito, Konstantin Grcic and the late Zaha Hadid, is meant to reflect the brand’s past and its evolution, and is intriguingly named “Origins of the Future”.

“The most important thing was to respect the original [pieces] and to enhance them with new materials and techniques,” she says, explaining that she respected the history of the brand. “Cassina’s future lies in the renewal of continuity, a dynamic process which involves the mutation of an original form, the evolution of an idea, the influence of a classic.”

Urquiola successfully managed to transcend time with this project, bringing together the old and new, which she said was an interesting experience “seeing a different way to approach the theme”.

Blurring boundaries or marrying together seemingly conflicting concepts comes as second nature to the designer, who has been known to say that she thinks with her hands – the lecture she delivered in Michigan earlier this year was titled “Thinking Hands”. To Urquiola, the cerebral and the tactile are absolutely connected.

When you think of people who work with their hands, it doesn’t mean the instrument of thinking is not there
Patricia Urquiola

“When you think of people who work with their hands, it doesn’t mean the instrument of thinking is not there. When I think of a new product, I feel the need to create and be able to touch and manipulate this idea. I think you can always find solutions when you hold things.”

Even with her architectural projects, Urquiola seeks to convey the intangible through the tangible, the abstract through the concrete. “The idea is to transmit an indescribable sensation that derives from a lot of elements,” she explains. “Sense of time, sense of place, sense of scope, proportions, empathy and so on.”

The prolific designer does find the time to unwind and relax, although she admits her work can be quite consuming.

“Work occupies a big part of my life,” she says, adding that she actually joined her studio to her house in order to spend more time with her family. “I love being with my daughters and my family – they recharge me.”

Nevertheless, whether they’re going to the cinema or seeing a museum exhibition, Urquiola’s brain is always on full alert. “I’m always looking for new ideas around me!” she says. “I’m a great observer; I take inspiration from everything.” JT