From the apartment of then French President Francois Mitterrand in 1982, to chairs for American retailer Target in the 1990s, kitchen products for Alessi, and some of the world’s most beautiful hotels and houses today— Philippe Starck has designed it all.
The French designer — who divides his time between homes in different parts of the world with his wife Jasmine and daughter Justice — says he uses design as a “political weapon.” He doesn’t design for the sake of design. He does it for people and to spread ideas.
“I have always used my creation to spread ideas such as democratic design: that is, to increase quality for the maximum number of people while decreasing the price; that was very new more than 30 years ago when design was dedicated only to an elite,” Starck says. “I am continuing with democratic ecology, which is to create ecological products, easy to find and easy to use at affordable prices such as the personal windmill or more recently the electric car.”
You’d be hard-pressed to find an expensive Filipino home here without at least one piece of Starck — and yet you will also find his pieces in modest homes owned by design enthusiasts —whether it’s a Starck chair or his Alessi lime juicer.
And that’s Starck for you. His thinking is democratic — and so are his designs.
PHILIPPINE STAR: What convinced you to design the common areas/amenities of Acqua Iguazu in Manila? This riverfront development is seen as a great opportunity to gentrify the area — did this play in at all in the decision to accept the project?
PHILIPPE STARCK: Designing a new building represents an opportunity to bring people together, to create a community. Common areas of a building are the places where neighbors meet and socialize. They are the modern village meeting places. I wanted to create a space that sparks people’s imaginations, enlivens their conversations and brings them together.
How do you approach the design of condominiums and hotels, or a renovation project like Le Meridien at Beverly Hills? Do you think design should be city- or market-specific?
Hotels or homes are not about places — not cities or markets. They are about people. I design for people. If the design does not make people’s lives better, what is the point? I look for solutions.
Can you describe the dynamics at Yoo, between you and John Hitchcox?
When I met John about 15 years ago, I thought to myself, “Who is this crazy Englishman talking about setting up a company?” He was passionate and persistent in his vision to create a company with the best design and development capabilities. And after a lot of conversations in mixed languages and in different places around the world, we created a company in 1999 that was all about you, so we called it “Yoo.” It’s been a great friendship between an Englishman and a Frenchman that has resulted in some of the most beautiful homes around the world.
How do your think your design will impact the residents of Acqua Iguazu and Manila in general?
A man’s home is his castle. It’s the place you raise your children, where you have dinner with your family and talk with your friends. The design for Acqua Iguazu is about creating a place where you can bring people together. We want to create excuses for people to meet, to talk, to inspire each other, love each other. I hope the residents will talk more, laugh more, love more.
Numerous Filipinos are huge fans of your chairs and other products for Kartell and Alessi. Are you creating new furniture pieces specifically for Iguazu that may be mass-produced later on?
The Yoo Inspired by Starck team’s area of expertise is customized and personalized originality, and we have used this originality when designing Iguazu. We have designed special pieces such as the barrel bar and all the rugs. In general, we always try and find innovative and original ideas to give an element of surprise. The chair with the knot is a “twisted” classic by Thonet. They have been doing this chair for years and years but only introduced the one with the knot recently.
What inspires your designs? Can you tell the story behind one of your designs, whether for a chair or the interiors of a hotel, a restaurant, or the windmills for Pramac energy group, or the Eurostar train?
I have this mental sickness called creativity. And my only inspiration comes from the beautiful story of our evolution, “Us.”
In designing furniture, what is your favorite material to work with and what material poses the greatest challenges?
That is like asking a painter to choose his favorite color or a writer his favorite letter. Everything has a meaning and needs to be used for the right purpose.
Years ago, polycarbonate wasn’t being used on such a massive scale, but your designs showed how elegant it could be. What do you think is the material of the future and how is this going to impact the world’s resources?
High technology injection plastic can create a product with the right design, the right technology, at the right price; it is the continuation of democratic design and we can say that today this battle is almost won.
Before Louis Ghost, for example, I worked towards the idea of the less possible, of the absolute dematerialization with La Marie; in fact, La Marie has the less possible style, the less possible weight, the less possible material and the less possible presence. It is a very good project, but when I had finished it, I realized that it was a pure theory, almost a mathematical épure and a little dry like everything that is mathematic. That is why I came back to the idea of the less possible giving space for the sentimental.
You work in four different cities — London, New York, Burano and Paris —where everything starts.
First of all, I am never here, I am always “somewhere else.” Then technically, with my wife Jasmine and our baby girl Justice, we live far from the mainstream of thinking, in our cabins in remote places around the world: our oyster farm in the southwest of France or in our fishermen’s island of Burano in the Venice Laguna or on the small island of Formentera where I daydream and draw on tracing paper from 7 a.m. to 6 p.m. And the only inspiration is “Us,” the beautiful story of our animal species. It is the most poetic and inspiring.
Is there an architect or designer or company you want to collaborate with and why?
At Yoo we collaborate with the best creative and the best developers in the world. We only work with the best. That is why we are working with Century Properties in Manila for example.
When did you know you wanted to be a designer? Was there a particular thing — a building, a piece of design, a drawing — that made you say, “I want to be an architect. I want to be a designer.”
I was never interested in design or architecture. It is design that chose me somehow. Creating is a mental sickness and it is the only thing I am able to do. I use design as a political weapon. It is, though, a very weak tool to express ideas. A journalist can change the world with one article, a politician with one law and a singer with one song, but for me, each creation is only a letter of a word; so it takes a long time to express ideas.
Tell us about your collaboration with your daughter Ara for Le Meurice, Paris. What was that like?
Ara is a painter. While I was working on Le Meurice I asked to see a selection of painters to commission the huge painting on the ceiling. I chose one, among all the anonymous profiles (I never look at names) and to my utmost surprise, it was my daughter’s work! Then it all was easy, you do not give guidelines to artists. She knew what to do.
What direction is design moving to? Have we finally left the militant minimalism of the ‘90s and are we going towards soft and playful elegance (like the use of chandeliers over a swimming pool for a Yoo project in Istanbul)?
Design for design is useless. Design should be a political tool, and also serve the person who will use the object. Nowadays, many different designs exist, some we should not be proud of such as art design, ego trip design and so on. Design that deserves to exist is clearly the one that thinks of the profit of the final user, design that is used as a strong political tool and design that goes towards ecology, of course. But in the long term, design will go towards dematerialization, which is the logical path of our evolution: concentration of the performance versus reduction of materiality (e.g. computers, from an armoire to a table). Then bionism will take over and services shall be included in our bodies. The next designer shall be our dietitian, our coach.
What city inspires you the most?
Only “Us”, the human species inspired me. But to print out my dreams: my remote places mentioned above.
Source: The Philippine Star | February 23, 2013