Barcelona 1: Patricia Urquiola
About two weeks ago I was invited to meet designer Patricia Urquiola in Barcelona. In an old warehouse right at the Ramblas, she presented her collection for Axor, the premium brand of the Hansgrohe corporation. It was a subtly designed collection that was all about holes. There were holes in the tap, the sink and bathtubs. In the design by Patricia Urquiola you don’t put your towel over the bathtub, you put it through it.
“I am nostalgic when it is possible, I am not nostalgic when it is not possible”, Patricia Urquiola said about her design philosophy. The freestanding sink and bathtub referred to the familiar forms of traditional tubs. The materialization however is contemporary: it is not ceramic nor plastic, but a mineral raisin finished with a gel coat.
I wonder whether iconography, like in this case the reference to the traditional tubs, should more often be related to nostalgia. Or whether we should consider that an exaggeration and that we should relate iconography to the familiar. Should we regard a designer that applies iconography in his/her designs as someone that simply plays with conventions and strives for an evolution traditional forms, as opposed to a designer that strives to subvert or revolutionize what we are used to.
In the design by Patricia Urquiola the iconography is meant to purify the representation of the sink and the bathtub. Iconography in her idea is not about being fake, but about being more real. The sink becomes a sink again, the water becomes water again. “By showing what it is, we can trigger an ecological conscience.”
“If we have to evolve”, Patricia Urquiola asked, “why should we not try to use less water?”. All her ideas about the collection circled around that concept. Why should we for instance not combine showering with watering our plants. Why not take care of the plants while you’re already using water during your shower? Instead of a regular shower, the designer suggested, we could for instance vaporize the water.
Patricia Urquiola had to quickly add that a vaporizing shower is technically not possible yet. Such an installation for now only works at a single temperature. Her collection for Axor therefore didn’t feature such a shower yet.
Another precondition for her showering-watering idea is that we would have to move the bathroom to the façade, in order for the plants to survive. Patricia Urquiola didn’t say anything about this, but I wonder if there are many houses that already have such a bathroom. Personally, I don’t know many. But we could all change that.
Another idea by Patricia Urquiola that I loved was her suggestion that a house should have two one-person bathtubs, instead of one two-person bathtub. In the first case, she noted, you only need water for one when you take a bath on your own. This again saves water. In her words: “You feel intelligent.”
The collection designed by Patricia Urquiola for Axor stands in a tradition of designer collections. Among the previous designers that drew up a collection are Antonio Citterio and Philippe Starck. Now there is a collection by Patricia Urquiola too.