Some designers focus on products, others on architecture. Some do both. While different in scale, the range of large and small projects can usually reveal shared characteristics that point to a single creative mind.
We’re testing that theory by exploring the work of famed Spanish designer, Patricia Urquiola. By comparing one of Urquiola’s larger architectural projects with one of her smaller product designs, we find that you can tell a lot about her general design modis operandi.
Mandarin Hotel, Barcelona
In 2010, Urquiola was commissioned to design the interiors for the Manadrin Oriental Hotel in Barcelona. The elegant exterior of the hotel—a mid 20th century building on the Passeig de Gracia that used to be a bank headquarters—proved tantalizing to Urquiola as a contrast to contemporary interiors. Urquiola chose modern custom furnishings, 3D textured walls, and generally bright and expansive spaces (one of the most impressive of which has to be the multi-story atrium used for the entrance). Many of the patterns of the walls have an organic and geometric look, like grouped cells, molecules or a honeycomb.
Tatou Collection (FLOS, 2012)
“The (design) process began by looking for different ways to reconstruct membranes, conceived like Japanese armor: a series of metal buckles cleverly united by tapes with a powerful emotional value,” explains Urquiola. “The word ‘tatou’ has an emotional sound to it, which I think is consistent with the emotional function of this object.”
Each piece in the Tatou collection for FLOS features a rounded steel armadillo-like structure over a polycarbonate diffuser, which creates a lacy pattern of light.
Sense a pattern?
From the beginning of her product design and architectural design career, Urquiola has clearly favored elements that are organic, but with a sort of regular modular geometry that is a perfect complement to contemporary interiors. The same shapes also provide fascinating ways to play with light, which is useful in both product design and the design of intriguing and harmonious-feeling interiors. Look at more of Urquiola’s projects, and you will see such organic symmetry across a great many of them.
In the case of the Tatou collection and the Mandarin Hotel, the design of the fixtures proved to be so in sync with her interior design that Urquiola actually brought it into her designs for the hotel’s new wing in 2014: