Q+A with Designer Patricia Urquiola

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Patricia Urquiola is a Haworth design partner who lives and works in Milan where she runs Studio Urquiola. Together, we have collaborated on a variety of seating elements that bring a softer, warmer atmosphere into the work environment. For the debut of her next creation, the Maari™ family of seating, SPARK sat down with Patricia to reveal what inspires her design process.

SPARK: Patricia, tell us—where do you like to go to be inspired for ideas when you start a new design?

PU: I think the way that ideas come to me in the process of design is not by moving and searching for them. I think, and I say many times when people are working with me or to students at university, that there are two processes that have to live together: One is the personal, continuous approach to culture that you can get in any moment, in everyday culture—the way you study, the way you travel, the way you do many things. And you have to do this quite early, quite young, so those things get into your emotional memory.

Then, when you're thinking of your project and you get an obsession, you begin to get an idea, and then “pop!” there arrive some intersections—connections between what you believe in and the way you have cultured yourself and what you are sensing in that moment. And that is when you get inspiration. Inspiration is not something that is in the air and you catch it.

SPARK: Are there significant places you go that are highly inspirational?

PU: I travel and I experience nature. As we talk now [in February], I’m in your headquarters building and looking at the snow. I always say to people here at Haworth, “We've been working together for six years and you should have made me come the first time in winter—in February, with the snow.” I'm really inspired at this time in Holland—it makes this part of Michigan very real. For the first three years, they didn't want me to come in February—because perhaps she will escape! And I'm laughing, you know?

Besides nature, I think books, music, anything—even just the things in your society. When you go out of your home and see a lot of vintage things that had a flair but then get lost in some ways—all of these things are very inspiring but what’s important to understand is not that you get inspired by things. You have to connect with what is inside you, which is your emotional memory. Those two things together give the value to your thoughts, to your real personal thoughts.

SPARK: Can you give us a peek into the inspiration behind Maari?

PU: What kind of person did I have in my mind for this chair? The idea is that Maari can be for everyone—very adaptable but in a gentle way, with a soft language, warm materials and colors, and a very simple narrative. You really can put this chair anywhere.