As we teeter on the edge of rapid and volatile change, we look to one of the global industry’s leading lights for insight and direction.
2 June, 2021
Speaking to her about her practice, the past year and her collaborations with bathroom specialist LAUFEN, Patricia Urquiola reveals herself as a woman who is very much looking to the future as she explores the ways in which her design prowess can contribute to the changing face of working and living. Understanding that design can lead in the workplace by fostering safety and wellbeing, Urquiola is using her unique talent to pave the way with new and exciting product collections that are both visionary and practical but always inspirational.
Indesign: As a busy designer, how do you like to begin your day and what and where is your happy place?
Patricia Urquiola: I like waking up pretty early, it gives me time to organise my day and start it with my family, having breakfast together. The first thing I do when I wake up is read the news on my iPad while drinking coffee. Right afterwards, I start thinking about my daily appointments. I go through my messages, reply and see things that my team sends me. I do some research for projects, take books and materials from home to the studio. My happy place is where my family is.
At this time what challenges and excites you?
First thing that came to my mind is Salone del Mobile, scheduled for September 2021. We missed it in 2020 and I really hope we will be able to celebrate the 60th edition in a proper way. Milan and the whole design industry are looking forward to it. Even this year, we will all have to go through new challenges and difficulties, it will not be the same fair as before, we need to become more and more adaptive.
Can you describe how your practice and design approach has evolved?
I think my method is still more or less the one I had when I started my career. It means I go through a lot of research; I look for inspiration in every creative discipline, but also in the simple actions of everyday life and in the world that surrounds me. Then, when the design process starts, I constantly look for the dialogue, with both the client and my team. A good designer needs to deeply enjoy the whole process, with its challenges, changes and most importantly mistakes. They are essential, I have learnt a lot from my mistakes.
Given the events of the past 12 months, what do you think the future of the workplace holds for us, and how must designers respond in your opinion?
Just like our houses, offices will also become much more fluid spaces. In 2021, corporate offices will still be used mostly for meetings, they will become more hybrid spaces. Workspaces have gone through an incredible evolution and the office is now extended from our home to corporate headquarters so we need to guarantee the same degree of comfort, wherever people work. Also, we will be increasingly asked to design time and its flow during the day and the year.
How do you believe we can balance people’s need for tactility and social engagement in workplace settings, with new-found requirements of hygiene and social isolation?
We already started to re-adapt to these new conditions, keeping physical distance and preferring online meetings; in our offices, social spaces have lost their first function and we had to find new ways to build a community at-a-distance. I truly believe that smart surfaces and fabrics will help us reconnect more and more with the surrounding environment: for instance, I am thinking of bio-smart curtains that are able to purify the air and make our living spaces healthier and safer.
What innovations or products are you exploring at the moment that will directly feed into the new-look workplace?
I don’t have all the answers about what the future office will look [like]. Currently, we are doing a lot of research, trying to find new solutions for our projects, both in architecture and product design. Materials and surfaces will become increasingly important for our working spaces not only because they need to guarantee high standards of sanitation, but also because they will play a central role to re-connect and to turn the companies’ headquarters into empathetic spaces.
Moving to product design, what do you love most about designing for the bathroom? And given that we are all spending so much more time at home, working, homeschooling and living out all facets of our daily life, has the role of the bathroom changed, in your view?
The bathroom is a place for retreat and self-care. Especially during the past months we spent at home, we realised that our bathrooms have become almost like our personal spa, in which we can really spend moments of privacy and wellbeing. We can finally relax in our bathtubs, while before we were used to just having a fast shower before going out again. Design of bathrooms will follow this re-discovery of this pleasant domestic moment.
Tell me about your new release for LAUFEN and the points of investigation (for example, sound waves, sculpting surfaces) that define this?
For me, Sonar stands for contrasts, balance, elegance: the rigour of architectural minimalism, formal understatement, and the dynamism of water and sound waves in close relationship. My aim was to combine these apparently widely separated sources of inspiration into a collection that is the expression of a gentle balance between angles and curves.
Bathroom aside, you work with many of the world’s leading design brands. What makes your partnership with LAUFEN special for you?
Well, we first worked together in 2016 on the brand’s showroom in Madrid, [Spain]. From that first collaboration, a positive relationship started to grow between my team and LAUFEN’s. So, we started collaborating on a design collection, which began with LAUFEN’s SaphirKeramik, the world’s thinnest ceramic. I wanted to explore and interpret the unique and interesting characteristics of this material, in terms of design, form and function. From this, the Sonar project started to take shape. I always state that the best part of my job is the joy of the process and this was absolutely the case with LAUFEN.
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