By JoAnn Greco
Photography courtesy of Philadelphia Museum of Art
Her Insta-ready minimalist-but-poppy products have earned Milan-based designer Patricia Urquiola precious shelf space in museums like the Museum of Modern Art and the Victoria & Albert. And her distinct aesthetic has helped her amass a client list that’s a veritable who’s who of brands, including Alessi, B&B Italia, Baccarat, Cassina, Flos, Kartell, and Kvadrat.
The Spanish- born Urquiola trained as an architect and about a decade ago she returned to that field by dipping into hotel projects. Since her first effort, when she played with the organic and origami-like motif of her iconic Antibodi chaise to fashion the delicate screens that populate the Mandarin Oriental Barcelona, Urquiola has carefully incorporated her classic and custom pieces into the W Retreat & Spa Vieques Island in Puerto Rico, Berlin’s Das Stue hotel, the Spa at the Four Seasons Hotel Milan, Room Mate Giulia, also in Milan, and most recently, Il Sereno in Lake Como.
Speaking at a preview for a small retrospective at the Philadelphia Museum of Art, Patricia Urquiola: Between Craft and Industry, the designer characterized her first hotel as a “learning experience.” As she spoke about her insistence on “devoting half the allotted space” for guestrooms at Il Sereno “to a loggia, despite the client’s objections,” it became clear that Urquiola now has the courage of her convictions.
The museum show tightly weaves the disparate threads of the designer’s career into one gallery. Staged in tableaus, several pieces on view have shown up in the hotel projects, including the hanging Chasen lamp, inspired by the bamboo brushes that the Japanese use to whisk matcha; the Husk Armchair, a grid of cushiony throw pillows; and the Crinoline chair, a commanding abaca fantasia that would make glamorous goth Morticia Addams feel right at home.
The exhibition is tied to the annual Design Excellence Award, presented by Collab, a membership group that supports modern and contemporary design at the Museum. It runs through March 4th.