Home & Decor (Malaysia) - - CONTENTS - text DOMENICA TAN pho­tos SPACE FUR­NI­TURE

Award-win­ning ar­chi­tect, de­signer, and art di­rec­tor of Cassina.

Many de­sign en­thu­si­asts and like-minded in­dus­try play­ers have turned to Pa­tri­cia Urquiola’s im­pres­sive port­fo­lio of works for in­spi­ra­tion. With her strong de­sign lan­guage, de­tail­ing, and play on colour, form and ma­te­rial, Pa­tri­cia has made a name for her­self in the de­sign world, col­lab­o­rat­ing with renowned fur­ni­ture brands such as Kartell and Cassina. We caught up with her re­cently to talk about her pas­sion for fur­ni­ture de­sign and ar­chi­tec­ture, as well as some of her lat­est cre­ations.

When de­sign­ing the Floe Insel sofa for Cassina, what drew you to the idea of float­ing ice?

The Floe Insel sofa started off as a small project; I wanted to in­cor­po­rate an emo­tion

I had dur­ing a trip I took from Ice­land to Green­land. We were trav­el­ling in a boat for 15 days, and most of the time we were in the mid­dle of ice­bergs. This got me think­ing about the world and its changes. It was a very emo­tional and im­por­tant trip for me.

Re­turn­ing home and work­ing on the Floe Insel sofa, I couldn’t avoid the im­agery of an ice­berg sym­bol­is­ing an is­land; an is­land which you place in the mid­dle of the room. Un­like con­ven­tional so­fas, there is no spe­cific front or back to the piece. It is a three-di­men­sional ob­ject with non-ge­o­met­ri­cal el­e­ments, and all the pieces are like an ice­berg in some way.

How often do you find your trav­els serv­ing as in­spi­ra­tion for your de­signs?

I don’t think the be­gin­ning of a project is al­ways the re­sult of an in­spi­ra­tion from a travel or some­thing that hap­pened in my life, but in the case of the Floe Insel, it was. In­spi­ra­tions can come from quo­tid­ian sit­u­a­tions, like an emo­tion or mu­sic; there are many rea­sons to be­gin a project.

You’ve de­signed ev­ery­thing from fur­ni­ture to table­ware and car­pets. what are some of the most chal­leng­ing prod­ucts to de­sign?

Noth­ing is too chal­leng­ing to de­sign. I think de­sign is an ex­er­cise in ob­ser­va­tion of hu­man be­hav­iour; un­der­stand­ing the needs, at­ti­tudes and evo­lu­tions in so­ci­ety. It should not be some­thing that’s ori­en­tated to con­sumers. In fact, con­sumers of to­day are more con­cerned with com­mu­ni­ca­tion. Peo­ple un­der­stand what qual­ity means, like good use of ma­te­ri­als, de­sign pro­cesses and tech­nol­ogy used. To­day, it is more im­por­tant to think about de­liv­ery of de­sign — be­ing trans­par­ent in the way you think.

What do you think we can ex­pect at the Salone del Mo­bile Milano this year? There’s al­ways a lot hap­pen­ing at Salone. One of the projects we’re work­ing on is the ren­o­va­tion of Cassina’s show­room in Via Durini, Mi­lan.

Any prod­ucts in par­tic­u­lar that you love de­sign­ing?

I love de­sign­ing car­pets!

Why specif­i­cally car­pets?

Take, for ex­am­ple, if you’re in a gar­den and you lay a car­pet down, you’re al­ready defin­ing a space! When­ever some­one asks me which room I pre­fer in a home, I don’t have any. For me, a car­pet is enough to rep­re­sent a room; it’s like a shel­ter. To­day, the con­cept of a shel­ter is no longer just a phys­i­cal roof.

Ge­om­e­try or curve?

I would say, none of them. Each project has a con­cept and an idea. You have a goal in mind, which you want to trans­late. I don’t think that it needs to be a spe­cific look. It de­pends on the con­cep­tual idea. Re­search comes nat­u­ral with the con­cept. I want my projects to bring a sense of com­fort and well­ness, with some in­no­va­tion and in­spi­ra­tion that re­flect my roots and val­ues.

How often do you see your­self in­cor­po­rat­ing new tech­nolo­gies into de­sign?

I don’t be­lieve that tech­nol­ogy solves ev­ery­thing. There are many ways to of­fer a new point of view. It can be by cre­at­ing an emo­tional re­sponse or sen­sa­tion. I al­ways tell stu­dents and de­sign­ers who may be from coun­tries where tech­nol­ogy is less ad­vanced, that they can take in­spi­ra­tion from their so­ci­ety, cul­ture and ed­u­ca­tion. These as­pects can pos­si­bly be even more pow­er­ful than what tech­nol­ogy may bring.

You use colour a lot in your de­signs. how do you use it to your ad­van­tage?

I’m not chromo-pho­bic. I am al­ways in­spired by the en­ergy that colours give me. Colours, sur­faces, patterns and tex­tures — I’m cu­ri­ous about all these things. For me, colours are nec­es­sary, but it is ac­tu­ally just a ques­tion of light. They are very re­ac­tive to light – the ex­is­tence or nonex­is­tence of it.

It also de­pends on ma­te­ri­al­ity. For ex­am­ple, if there’s an ob­ject with a rich tone, but a highly re­flec­tive sur­face, it will of­fer a dif­fer­ent look. When choos­ing colours, it is no longer only a ques­tion of the shade, but other fac­tors af­fect­ing it.

What’s your favourite piece of fur­ni­ture?

We have a Gen­der chair in the stu­dio, and this piece sym­bol­ises the be­gin­ning of my re­la­tion­ship with Cassina. It’s a prod­uct that I like be­cause it dis­cusses the topic of gen­der, and the idea of the chair tak­ing on dif­fer­ent forms and ex­pres­sion, de­pend­ing on how you choose to dress it.

WHAT’S One project in Asia you found most sat­is­fac­tion work­ing on?

I was happy par­tic­i­pat­ing in the Oa­sia Down­town ho­tel Sin­ga­pore (Pa­tri­cia worked with lo­cal ar­chi­tec­ture firm Woha on this project). It was nice be­cause it’s a demon­stra­tion of a suc­cess­ful col­lab­o­ra­tion be­tween de­sign­ers on two sides of the world who have sim­i­lar vi­sions. Re­vis­it­ing it again this time, I imag­ined what it would be like for sur­round­ing build­ings to be clad in trop­i­cal plants. I hope the fu­ture of Sin­ga­pore will be com­plete with lots of green, trop­i­cal build­ings. I’m happy to have been part of a project, which rep­re­sents a step to­wards en­hanc­ing the city in an­other way.

The brand’s cel­e­brat­ing its 50th an­niver­sary and we want to in­tro­duce a new am­bi­ence to the space, as well as some new prod­ucts.

Any projects in the re­gion we can look for­ward to?

Yes, we are work­ing on a new shop for Pan­erai at Ion Or­chard, which will prob­a­bly be com­pleted by the end of this year.


“I don’t be­lieve that tech­nol­ogy solves ev­ery­thing. I al­ways tell stu­dents and de­sign­ers who may be from coun­tries where tech­nol­ogy is less ad­vanced, that they can take in­spi­ra­tion from their so­ci­ety, cul­ture and ed­u­ca­tion.”


The Beam sofa, which Pa­tri­cia de­signed in col­lab­o­ra­tion with Cassina, has flex­i­ble and light­weight back and arm­rest cush­ions. LEFT The unique shape of the Cassina Floe Insel sofa is in­spired by ice­bergs.

TOP The Cassina Gen­der chair was de­signed to al­low cus­tomi­sa­tion, to al­low for dif­fer­ent ex­pres­sion based on form and colour.


Pa­tri­cia worked with car­pet spe­cial­ist Cc-tapis to de­sign this uniquely shaped Vi­sioni rug fash­ioned af­ter three-di­men­sional im­agery.


Pa­tri­cia is well versed in de­sign­ing myr­iad types of prod­ucts, in­clud­ing table­ware such as the Kartell Trama col­lec­tion.

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