PatriciaUrquiola | Yellowtrace

Patrizia Moroso’s House, designed by Patricia Urquiola Yellowtrace

Patrizia Moroso’s House, designed by Patricia Urquiola Yellowtrace

Patrizia Moroso’s House, designed by Patricia Urquiola.

 

OMFG! Patricia Urquiola is in da house people! If you follow along on Instagram, you would have noticed a certain little photo of yours truly with Ms Urquiola, (or Patty as she is known to her friends) from just the other day. Urquiola is without a doubt one of the biggest stars in the world of design today. She is a highly accomplished and prolific designer, working with some of the world’s biggest companies, such as Moroso, B&B Italia, Flos, Foscarini, Kartell, Axor, etc, in parallel to her flourishing architecture practice.

I had the great privilege of being invited to attend her exclusive master class earlier this week, as part of Space Furniture‘s 20th birthday celebrations. This three hour design ‘workshop’ explored ideas through hands-on making, based on the way Patricia’s own studio works in Milan. The class was a bit like play-school for grown-up designers – colourful, exploratory and at times almost silly, but so friggin fun and liberating. In truth, most of us who were there would have been happy digging trenches if it meant spending some time alongside one of the world’s brightest design stars. Or perhaps that’s just me?

 

Design Masterclass with Patricia Urquiola at Space Furniture Sydney | Yellowtrace

Design Masterclass with Patricia Urquiola at Space Furniture Sydney | Yellowtrace

Design Masterclass with Patricia Urquiola at Space Furniture Sydney | Yellowtrace

Design Masterclass with Patricia Urquiola at Space Furniture Sydney | Yellowtrace

Design Masterclass hosted by Patricia Urquiola at Space Furniture, Sydney on Tuesday morning for a small group of lucky architects & interior designers. See more images in the gallery at the bottom of this post. Photos by Nick Hughes for Yellowtrace.

 

There are simply no words to describe how extraordinary this woman is. I bow to her, respect and admire her to the moon and back, with intensity only those closest to me can comprehend (’cause I actually play it cool around you kids – trust me – you are getting a toned-down version of my extremely intense real-life enthusiasm for design and clever people. I do this for your own safety!). Despite her worldwide superstardom, I am happy to report that Patricia is as humble, grounded, real and generous in person, just like one would expect from her work.

 

Design Masterclass with Patricia Urquiola at Space Furniture Sydney | Yellowtrace

Design Masterclass with Patricia Urquiola at Space Furniture Sydney | Yellowtrace

Design Masterclass hosted by Patricia Urquiola at Space Furniture, Sydney on Tuesday morning for a small group of lucky architects & interior designers. See more images in the gallery at the bottom of this post. Photos by Nick Hughes for Yellowtrace.

 

After the workshop, I was extremely lucky to have Patricia all to myself for my first ever one-on-one, proper grown-up “real life” interview. I know – what a first, and where could I possibly go from here? Retirement perhaps? Except, I now have this new found energy and enthusiasm for design and my own work, and retirement is not quite where I’m headed just yet. Perhaps a tiny bit of Patricia’s awesomeness rubbed off on me during our candid chat? One could only hope so.

 

Design Masterclass with Patricia Urquiola at Space Furniture Sydney | Yellowtrace

Chatting to Patty, loving every minute of it and dying a little from happiness. See more images from the day in the gallery at the bottom of this post. Photos by Nick Hughes for Yellowtrace.

 

As we approached the table where we were to be seated for the interview, she turned to me and said – “You are not a journalist… You are designer, yes? I can see this from the workshop this morning…” I confirmed and proceeded to apologise in advance, saying I didn’t really know how to do interviews in person, and that she was my very first subject. She said “Don’t tell me that now, ok?” And so the banter began… Anyway, I must warn you here – I didn’t have the heart to edit our “interview” too much. It felt like I would be modifying Patricia’s radiant personality, realness and her one-of-a-kind Urquiola-ness. So without further ado – I give you the one and only – PATRICIA URQUIOLA. My life now really is complete.

 

Husk Armchair by Patricia Urquiola for B&B Italia | Yellowtrace

Husk Armchair by Patricia Urquiola for B&B Italia.

 

Dana: You’re now a very established, world renowned designer. What has been one of the most important factors in developing your design and business skills that got you to where you are today?

Patricia: Oh, it’s difficult to say that. Well, I think possibly the luck… When I began to work with Moroso, for example, they were the first company that gave me some credibility. It was an important moment because I began to be seen as a name, and I was one of the first to have a real relationship with the company as an amateur… From that (I started) working with B&B Italia, Foscarini, and… (other) major, serious companies in Italia.

For a long time I was working for Piero Lissoni, I was very happy… I was not thinking that I should have my own studio and have a name, a company. I was quite social and someone that’s easy to relate to. I could discuss my ideas in a very natural way with others, and for me to work in a group was quite easy. Then I think I possibly had a lot of prejudice in my life.

Dana: Tell me about these prejudices. Did they hold you back?

Patricia: I think the moment life changed… and even Piero Lissoni said to me, “I think you are already, come on, Patty, you can go.” At the time I was already working with Moroso. It was a big help, I think. Then in that moment, I began. I was close to forty years old. But just two years before this moment, I would have said “that’s impossible!”

Dana: But then things just exploded!

Patricia: Yes, then it exploded, and I understood I really was meant to be doing this for a long time. Perhaps I was a slave of my prejudices in some way… Soon things became much easier because I didn’t have any “filters” to deal with, I was working for myself.

You know, design is done in four hands. You are the hands from outside, they (the company) are the mind. You drive the process. But it’s very important who you’re working with. Very, very important because the process has to flow… But it doesn’t always flow.

Dana: Yes, design is such a giving and organic process. Do you feel like you really have to like the people or the company you’re working with?

Patricia: This is very important. Also, the big work of architects, designers and creatives is breaking your prejudice. Your prejudice first, and then other peoples, but you have to do it with yourself first.

And the flow… trying new ideas, and being quite clear. There is space to do many projects, in many different fields. Important thing is to do it with people who are giving you the opportunities, and who are fighting for the same things as you. They are searching for the same level of quality.

 

Earthquake 5.9 by Patricia Urquiola for Budri | Yellowtrace

Earthquake 5.9 by Patricia Urquiola for Budri (previously).

Earthquake 5.9 Collection by Patricia Urquiola for Budri at Salone del Mobile 2013 | Photo by Nick Hughes for Yellowtrace.

Stand for Italian marble inlay atelier Budri at this year’s Salone del Mobile 2o13 in Milan, designed by Urquiola (previously). Photo © Yellowtrace.

 

Dana: You seem to place an emphasis on this flow, and play in your work; I was able to witness that during our workshop today. You seem to take this very seriously and I think that’s so refreshing, and I hope to take that away with me for my own work. On the flip side, how important is the ability to balance design with business? How much time do you actually spend worrying about the business side of design?

Patricia: I’m sorry… but I’m sharing my work with my husband Alberto. And he does that part of the business.

Dana: Oh, that’s so wonderful.

Patricia: Yes, yes, I pay for it. [laughs]

Dana: [laughs] I know the feeling! That’s my husband over there [points to photographer].

Patricia: You know, working with my husband, I make fun – you know… there is never a perfect solution, no? He comes from economics, but he has a great love of design and architecture, I think we were connected because we are two sides of the same argument. And I think even if he wasn’t in the studio perhaps we would not end up doing architecture. Because me, my mentality is different… I suffer and I die many times a year, you know, like a phoenix.

Dana: [laughs] So dramatic.

Patricia: Yes. Like a phoenix I die, I’m reborn, possibly because we are sharing and he is taking half of the problems – any problems with the studio, the clients, you know…

Dana: Alberto just deals with that?

Patricia: Si. So that I can stay inside the project, do it faster. Focus on the creative side only, and leaves me more time.

Dana: Yes, time. Because your time is precious. Really, everyone’s time is precious, but this must allow you to focus?

Patricia: I think is not only a problem of quantity of time, is more a problem of how much quality of personal time you can put aside. How much you can modify the rules of time… make time for your family, for your life, for your projects… your research, your culture.

For example, I was saying today to the lovely girls here at Space, they were doing this interview and so I said, “Perhaps you didn’t understand, but if I’m here in Sydney, in Melbourne, I’m going to be very generous, I’m going to do anything you want, workshops and everything, but find some space in the afternoon when I can go to see your exhibitions and things.” I need this… I don’t want to come here and find there’s no place for that… Because it’s very important to absorb new things and places, that’s the way I am. That’s personal time. It’s not only for sleeping, you know, but for other things.

 

Foliage Sofa & Chair by Patricia Urquiola for Kartell | Yellowtrace

Foliage Sofa & Chair by Patricia Urquiola for Kartell.

Comback Chair by Patricia Urquiola for Kartell | Yellowtrace

Comeback Chair by Patricia Urquiola for Kartell.

 

Dana: When you start your projects, and of course you work on anything from a building to a two-dimensional pattern, is there one thing that is really important to you? What is your main priority when starting any project?

Patricia: I don’t know. For me – I have two professions. They are different – Design and architecture are very different. They are obviously connected with, you know, the sense of materiality, the sense of the art, the sense of how we live, they have a lot of….

Dana: …touching points.

Patricia: Yes, touching points! But, they are different, and there are different circumstances. Even inside the profession of architecture and the profession of design – a temporary installation or a large hotel, or taps for Axor, a couch for B&B, or a new light – they are all very different. Each time I begin with something, the analogy at the beginning, the first concept that drives the project can come from your love with the technique, something from your past, or something which is from outside the land that comes inside…

In the beginning – the thoughts that drive the project, even when you’re working with the same typology – you can have very, very different processes. It’s an echo in your life. For me art was an obvious influence for a long time, and society – a mix of many points of view… and working in any kind of medium and embracing the medium, linking the process always in a different way… and just trying to understand which is the fundamental element of the project.

 

Mathilda Chair by Patricia Urquiola for Moroso | Yellowtrace

Mathilda Chair by Patricia Urquiola for Moroso.

Clarissa Armchair by Patricia Urquiola for Moroso | Yellowtrace

Clarissa Armchair by Patricia Urquiola for Moroso.

 

Dana: Do you always play and explore in the beginning of projects to kind of loosen your mind?

Patricia: I think sometimes people associate play with confusion. I think I really enjoy the process.

For me it’s this tension of solving every day, and having meetings each fortnight or month with your client, and all the problems that come out…You’ve got to do a series of constructions of anything, and find new ways to solve it, to try something; and all these things I enjoy.

Because it’s not about the end of what you do… the joy is in the process – convincing them, setting barriers, you cross them, you hit limits… there were limits and you pushed them; that is what I enjoy. And I think if you are doing this work, and you don’t enjoy the processes…

Dana: …then you probably shouldn’t be doing it…

Patricia: No, because you will suffer too much of all the little problems you will find. [laughs] Little ones, do not call them big, eh?

Dana: [laughs] What problems? In fact, that was going to be one of my questions: what do you think, other designers need to know about your work?

Patricia: Yeah, I think there are some people who don’t enjoy this kind of process of sharing with others, the construction of the things we are doing… but this, to me, in my studio – we are people that we enjoy this type of process.

 

‘Fishbone’ tables by Patricia Urquiola for Moroso | Yellowtrace.

Fishbone Tables by Patricia Urquiola for Moroso (previously).

 

Dana: Let’s talk about the challenges. You’re clearly one of THE undisputed top-tier international stars in the world of design, and people will put you on a pedestal and see you as a super-human. We only ever see Patricia Urquiola’s name written in lights. But there must be times when you are struggling too?

Patricia: That’s obvious. You don’t have to ask me that. What do you want from me?

Dana: [laughs] I’m torturing you now.

Patricia: I would like to say you lie. Never, never, no. [laughs]

Dana: I know, I guess I just imagine things must get difficult at times with people’s expectations. How do you overcome this?

Patricia: But I think the people they have some credibility, they are not different. The only difference is perhaps that your work is more protected by the companies, you have more freedom and it’s good. But you always have the responsibility of creating, and yes, to do everything. But if you think from that side – you don’t account to anything. I’m sorry. If you want to understand what’s the emotion, or the energy, or the thing that drives a person like me, it’s far away of that. That is the truth. My happiness, my sadness, they come from other things.

Dana: Other things, not just work?

Patricia: No, from work, but they come from not only because I am credible, not credible, it is not that. I ask a lot from my work, and if I don’t get it, I suffer, and you know, that’s my big deal, and I have to clean the process, and I have to get to what I want and make them work. In the design, in the process, you have a lot of conversation, you have meetings and sometimes you have an hour, or two hours after fifteen days, and in that moment you are not lucid and you don’t say “no”… in that moment they choose to move the project in a way you would never reach the aims of the project. Then for you, for me, those moments in the project are very important; you always have to understand you are driving something that is going to be there in the future and you have to have good orientation.

Dana: You need to have a well-tuned internal compass.

Patricia: Yes! I’m always finding my compass. And you have to try to have a natural way, have your feet on the ground, and being very active – understanding the evolution of the society around you… looking at art and evolution of the good and bad things about you. There is a lot of curiosity that goes on.

 

Tropicalia Armchair by Patricia Urquiola for Moroso | Yellowtrace

Tropicalia Armchair by Patricia Urquiola for Moroso.

 

Dana: Yes, of course. It’s obvious you absolutely love what you do, but you also actively keep your brain moving in a forward direction. On that note, what was the best piece of advice you’ve been given?

Patricia: Well, the very best doesn’t come to me. But I think my mother and my father, they were really liberal, and haven’t given too much advice that I didn’t need… I like it when people are there, but they don’t say to you what to do… you feel that they love you, trust you more or less, make you feel natural doing that thing you’re not sure of yourself…

Dana: They’ve always got your back… you always have their support no matter what.

Patricia: Si. You have a certain freedom… Very good thing from my parents. They always trusted me. And they were open to new things, and open to trust.

Dana: They’re not architects or designers, are they?

Patricia: My father’s an engineer, but you know, there are a few architects in my family. Cousins and my grandmother, brother, my sister’s husband, and we can go on… [chuckles] A lot of opinions about design and architecture – everybody has an opinion in my house about my work. Better you don’t know. [laughs]

Dana: [laughs] Ok, I won’t ask! Is there one thing, a treasured belonging that you have, something that is precious to you?

Patricia: Nothing very important. I don’t know. I’m not a collectionist… My mother gave me a chandelier from the family that is nice and that I like to use. I have a Phonola, the first project by Achille Castiglioni with his brothers – they gave it to me when I did my exams, just as a luck item, you know? And I still have that…

 

Patricia Urquiola for Louis Vuitton’s Objets Nomades – a woven mesh ‘Swing Chair’ inspired by a handbag.

 

Dana: Finish this sentence for me. It’s not very cool, but I really like…

Patricia: Tortilla de patata! Know what is a tortilla de patata?

Dana: This is food, right?

Patricia: The potato omelette from Spain, which I think is one of the best things in the world.

Dana: Yes, but that’s technically not uncool, because everybody loves Spanish food – Spanish food is definitely cool. But that’s ok, I forgive you.

Patricia: Tortilla de patata. It’s more than good. If you know how to do it well, which is not so easy, eh?

Dana: That’s exactly right. But it’s not easy to do anything well, right?

Patricia: No, no, I mean if you are not Spanish. I don’t know how they do it in Australia.

Dana: We don’t really do potato tortillas here, but I’m sure you can get them in good Spanish restaurants. I’ll try it next time I’m in Spain.

Patricia: Or gazpacho!

Dana: Gazpacho? Yum!

Patricia: They are two things from my kitchen, from my Spanish kitchen that I still have near me in Italia. Those both I do.

 

Patricia Urquiola with Dana Tomic Hughes, at Space Furniture Sydney | Yellowtrace

Chatting to Patty, loving every minute of it and dying a little from happiness. See more images from the day in the gallery at the bottom of this post. Photos by Nick Hughes for Yellowtrace.

 

Dana: Ok. And just one more question: Where do you see yourself in ten years?

Patricia: The roots are still big. For me, I am a mix, really, of Spanish and Italian roots, because I, as a person, my roots are Spanish, strongly Spanish – but the profession is Italian… I think one didn’t overlap the other, they just opposed, and it was a mix. And I think it fits, that mix, and I think it’s very nice. Because I feel both naturally, together. It’s a good thing.

Dana: It is a very good thing, and I think that actually translates very strongly in your work and in your aesthetic…

Patricia: You know the chair you sit in [Crinoline Armchair from B&B], it’s absolutely a chair by a Spanish designer. But then with the quality and the architecture of the Italian company…

Dana: Yes, yes, yes, it’s so great! Thank you so much for your time Patricia. It’s so lovely to meet you.

Patricia: Thank you.

 

Patricia Urquiola with Dana Tomic Hughes, at Space Furniture Sydney | Yellowtrace

Going for the hug I’ve been wanting since April this year. True story! Photo by Nick Hughes for Yellowtrace.

 

Dana: Can I please give you a hug?

Patricia: [laughs]

Dana: I saw you in Milan during Salone earlier this year. Four times! The last time I saw you, my husband and I were walking near Duomo and you were crossing the street with your daughter…

Patricia: With Sophia?

Dana: Yes, your younger daughter. And I wanted to go up to you and hug you…

Patricia: [laughs]

Dana: I’m serious! But I didn’t want to intrude – It was your personal time! It’s such an honour to meet you. Thank you for your time today.

Patricia: You did a lovely [points to our work from the design master class that morning]. I really liked your table.

Dana: Yeah? That was so much fun!

Patricia: You have a nice attitude to materials.

Dana: Oh wow! I’ll take that coming from you. [laughs] *this is the point where I almost pee my pants from the excitement!

Patricia: No, thank you. From your auntie and my mother, as I said to you… my father, my mother, they all taught me things… Making, making, and doing anything. A lot of things. And that was Tia Lily. She was the one thinking with hands.

Dana: Tia Lily?

Patricia: Yes, Aunty Lily. She died already. And she was crazy and fantastic. And I think, that side, she said about mixing my influences. They are complicated and detailed.

Dana: Of course. Do you find that sometimes you might do something and think, “Oh, that looks just like my auntie’s apron” or something like that…? For me – I’m Serbian, so when I go and visit my family, I see so many things and I think, “Oh, that’s really interesting. I recently designed something that comes from this and I didn’t even know…”

Patricia: You come from Serbia?

Dana: Yes. I’m actually from Bosnia. I came here when I was 17, after the civil war. But this is my home now.

Patricia: And your…?

Dana: My parents are here, and my brother, but…

Patricia: You came all the family together?

Dana: Yes, the four of us did, but nobody else. All of my other family is either in Serbia, Bosnia or all over the world now, after the war.

Patricia: That’d be very courageous to come here, no?

Dana: At the time we had no other choice. We were lucky to come here.

Patricia: But to be able to come to Australia, I think, was interesting… Because, you know, many people went away, but to Australia? That’s is a big choice, yes?

Dana: That’s so true. My dad is a very courageous man. My parents came here to give my brother and I an opportunity, that’s all they cared about.

Patricia: We have courageous parents. And it’s important. If you see courage in your family, you remember.

Dana: I think this shows in your work. I think your work is really unique and courageous.

Patricia: But there was courage in my family. In a few people. And then, your roots are just that – sometimes you do it by contrast of something that tries you a lot… and you have to do something about it.

Dana: Yeah, absolutely. Thank you.

Patricia: You have children?

Dana: Yes. A 19-month-old son. One only, so far. [chuckles] Yeah, yeah, having him was the best thing. Thank you so much, Patricia. Gosh. [laughs] Could we get a photo? Would that be okay?

Patricia: More photos??!!

 

 

Patricia Urquiola travelled to Australia with Space Furniture, as part of Space’s 20th anniversary celebrations.


About Patricia Urquiola.

Patricia Urquiola grew up in Oviedo, Spain and studied architecture in Madrid before transferring to the Politecnico di Milano. There she studied under mentor Achille Castiglioni, who would have an immense impact on the course of her career. Polytechnic and E.N.S.C.I. in Paris. From 2002 she has been an annual lecturer at the Domus Academy and Interior Design Institute. Between 1990 and 1996 Patricia Urquiola worked for the new product development office of De Padova and with Vico Magistretti signed the products Flower, Loom sofa, Chaise and Chaise Longue. In 1996 Patricia became head of the Lissoni Associati design group where she worked for Alessi, Flos, Boffi, Cappellini, Cassina, Kartell and others.

In 2001 Studio Patricia Urquiola was launched in Milan and today she works between architecture, interiors, furniture and product design, installations and concept creation for some of the most important Italian and international firms. Her clients include Alessi, B&B Italia, Baccarat, Bisazza, BMW, Salvatore Ferragamo, Foscarini, Glas Italia, H&M, Kartell, Kvadrat, Louis Vuitton, Olivari, Panasonic, Rosenthal and Champagne Ruinart. She also consults to Honda and LG.

Some of her products are part of the permanent collection of MoMA in New York and other international museums. Patricia Urquiola has won several international prizes and awards including the Medalla de Oro al Mérito en las Bellas Artes 2010 awarded by the Spanish Government in 2011 and the A&W Magazine nomination as Designer of the Year in 2012.


[Image credits as noted. Photography of design masterclass by Nick Hughes for Yellowtrace.]

 

About The Author

Dana Tomić Hughes
Editor In Chief
Google+

Dana is an award-winning interior designer living in Sydney, Australia. With an unhealthy passion for design, Dana commits to an abnormal amount of daily design research. Regular travel and attendance at premier design events, enables Dana to stay at the forefront of the design world globally. While she is super serious about design, Dana never takes herself - nor design - too seriously. Together with her life and business partner, Nick Hughes, Dana is Boss Lady at Studio Yellowtrace, specialising in Interior Design, Creative Direction and Special Projects. The studio takes a highly conceptual and holistic approach to translating brands & ideas into places.

10 Responses

  1. Kathy Joyce

    Completely blown away by this interview. I have completely adored and used Patricia Urquiola’s pieces in most of my projects. I am actually sitting in Fjord chair at the moment. My all time favourite designer. I have read everything ever written about Patty and your interview is by far the most personable. You obviously developed a rapport and this came through in your transcript of the interview. Thank you also for including everything as I wouldn’t want to miss a word. Well done!

    Reply
  2. Renee

    Thank you Dana for this interview you did an awesome job. Patricia is a truly inspiring woman .
    Love Love her work!

    Reply
  3. maryla

    Such a great interview. Thanks for not chopping out a word – it was all great! Now I just need to keep saving to have one of her pieces. Congrats.

    Reply
  4. Vicki M

    Great interview, and what a down to earth woman she is. Thanks Dana and Nick for sharing what was a such a special day.

    Reply
  5. dmLights

    Hi Dana, Looks like you had an amazing experience. It’s hard not to see your huge admiration of Urquiola. Great to find someone so passionate about design. I think passion is everything for getting somewhere (in every matter). The interview is really inspiring. Btw, thumbs up for the photographer! ;)

    Reply
  6. Ezza

    Wow, I must have missed reading this- Im abit late on the mark.

    What a personable interview. I love her authenticity- she is what she does- no bells and whistle. It reminds me of the old craftspeople and how their skill seeps through their pores. This is Patricia.

    The Spanish are marvellous creatures. Very frank.

    You’re a very lucky woman Dana. I’m sure her wise words, regardless of who she is, touched a nerve with you. What a wise woman.

    Reply

Leave a Reply