Known for her minimalist style, the celebrated Spanish-born, Milan-based designer and architect Patricia Urquiola has made a significant mark in the world of design. Her award-winning creations have ranged from bright, overstuffed upholstered pieces to exotic woven outdoor sets, and her holistic approach to design fulfills both the functional and aesthetic needs of her many clients.
Since forming her own studio in 2001, Urquiola has secured a spot as one of the leaders in the industry. Studio Urquiola, now a team of over 30 people, is involved in numerous collaborations with top international furniture and design houses. Her achievements are all the more impressive, as the world of industrial design has long been regarded as the territory of men. On the contrary, the vivacious, fast-talking designer sees her gender as a major asset to her craft, and has said, “there is a human sensibility that comes through in design by women. We are more adaptable.”
Urquiola started her design career by training as an architect at Madrid’s Technical University and finished her studies at Politecnico di Milano in 1989. She blossomed under the masters of Italian industrial design: Achille Castiglioni, who oversaw her graduate thesis, and Vico Magistretti, with whom she worked on some of her first projects. Urquiola has also held senior positions at Lissoni Associates and De Padova. During the ’90s she embarked upon a series of high profile partnerships and collaborations with Maddalena de Padova and Piero Lissoni, and started what was to become a long-term relationship with design genius Patrizia Moroso. In she set up Studio Urquiola in Milan and was soon in constant demand as her global influence began to spread.
Her list of furniture collaborations reads like a who’s who of the industry’s best and brightest: a series of both indoor and outdoor seating for B&B Italia and B&B Italia Outdoor, a modular kitchen for Boffi, and a new collection of iridescent furniture and mirrors for Glas Italia—a departure for the designer who had proclaimed that she didn’t like working with glass. She has also designed seating for Poltrona Frau and Flexform, and lighting for Flos. So it comes as no surprise that she was recognized as a joint winner of the Designer of the Year for 2015 by the Wallpaper Design Awards, honored alongside Konstantin Grcic.
Designed by Patricia. Clockwise from left: Kettal Maia swing chair, Casa Bella, 470.6250; Molteni & C Codex table, FurnItalia, Crescent Park West, Bonifacio Global City, 819.1887; Paneria building, Canton Road, Hong Kong; Boffi Salinas kitchen, The Residences at Greenbelt, 794.2095; Moroso M.A.S.S.A.S sofa, Casa Bella, AIC Burgundy Empire Tower, ADB Avenue, Ortigas Center, 470.6250; Runart Golden Thread Bottle Stopper, ruinart.com; B&B Italia Lazy bed, Focus Global, 24/7 McKinley Bonifacio Global City, 705.9999; Glas Italia gGlas table, Living Innovations, Fort Victoria, Bonifacio Global City, 830.2230.
In addition to her furniture collaborations, her creative reach has attained new levels—and the extent of her varied projects can be seen from fashion to boutique design and beyond. She has designed handbags from recycled material for Ferragamo, a swing chair for the Objets Nomades collection for Louis Vuitton, and has worked with Champagne Ruinart to design the elegant “muselet” bottle stopper. She has collaborated with Danish fabric line Kvardrat and Giulio Riodolfo on a high-concept sculpture for BMW, “The Dwelling Lab,” a radical sculptural interpretation of the Series Gran Turismo.
Still, some of her strongest collaborations have been for the iconic family-owned Italian furniture line Moroso. Urquiola’s close relationship with the company’s creative director, Patrizia, dates back to their first collaboration in the early 90’s. Her sculptural Fjord armchair and footstool in leather and felt was designed for Moroso in 2002, and is part of the permanent collection of New York City’s Museum of Modern Art. Urquiola has since worked on various projects for the company and was even asked to design Moroso’s private home. The serene and airy 10,000-square-foot contemporary Italian residence is a study in taste and discretion, with bright, colorful, and inviting interiors.
Despite her many design projects, her architectural training has not been neglected in the least. Her first hotel commission was to design the Mandarin Oriental, Barcelona, which opened in 2009. The designer was also responsible for the hotel’s custom-made interiors—which developed as an homage to her Spanish roots, the city’s Catalan soul and the Mandarin’s Asian origins. Since then, she has also transformed the public spaces of Das Stue Hotel in Berlin, the W Hotel Retreat & Spa on Vieques Island off the southeast coast of Puerto Rico, and the Spa of Four Seasons Hotel in Milan. She also designed Panerai’s new six-story boutique on Canton Road in Hong Kong, as well as its Paris, Florence, New York, and Miami showrooms.
As high design continues to infiltrate our everyday lives and touch us in so many ways, it is no question that Urquiola’s influence will continue to grow; this innovative talent has definitely secured her place in immortality as one of the superstars of 21st-century design.