"Subversive, ethical, ecological, political, humorous… this is how I see my duty as a designer.” Philippe Starck
A career rich with 10,000 creations - completed or yet to come - global fame and tireless protean inventiveness should never overshadow the essential, Philippe Starck has a mission, a vision: that creation, whatever form it takes, must improve the lives of as many people as possible. Starck vehemently believes this poetic and political, rebellious and benevolent, pragmatic and subversive duty should be shared by everyone. He sums it up with the humour that’s set him apart from the very beginning: “No one has to be a genius, but everyone has to participate.”
In the eyes of this accomplished citizen of the world, sharing his ethical and humanist vision of a more equal planet is a duty, if not a moral imperative, that results in unconventional projects, bearing fertile surprises. It’s easy to guess his course of action: an object must be useful before being beautiful.
His prophetic awareness of ecological implications, his deep understanding of contemporary mutations, his enthusiasm for imagining new lifestyles, his determination to change the world, his commitment to sustainable de-growth, his love of ideas, his concern with defending the intelligence of usefulness – and the usefulness of intelligence – have taken him from iconic creation to iconic creation... From everyday products like furniture and lemon squeezers to revolutionary mega-yachts, intensely vibrant, stimulating and phantasmagorical hotels and the miraculous technologies of individual wind turbines and the electric car, he never stops pushing the limits and criteria of contemporary design. It’s as a true visionary that he puts this art of innovation to the service of a design and democratic ecology, action-driven and respectful to both human and nature’s heritage, whether it’s with the Elise recycling bin or the Zartan, the first entirely recycled roto-moulded chair. The affordable and adjustable P.A.T.H. houses – high-tech pre-fab habitations – recently attested to the durability of an approach that he initiated in 1994 with the prefab house on sale in the 3 Suisses catalogue.
Heralding the phenomena of convergence and dematerialisation, Philippe Starck aims straight for the heart, highlighting the essential, extracting the structural minimum of every object, in order to offer creations and propositions closest to Man and Nature, best adapted to the future.
Just look at the mega-yacht A, symbol of minimalist elegance, or the Zik earphones for Parrot. He dreams of solutions so vital that he was the first French man to be invited to the TED conferences (Technology, Entertainment & Design) alongside renowned participants including Bill Clinton and Richard Branson.
Inventor, creator, architect, designer, artistic director, Philippe Starck is certainly all of the above, but more than anything he is an honest man directly descended from the Renaissance artists.
“My father was an aeronautical engineer. For me, that made invention a duty”. Philippe Starck
Philippe Starck was born in 1949. From a childhood spent beneath the drawing tables of his airplane building, aeronautic engineer father, he retained a primary lesson: everything should be organised elegantly and rigorously, in human relationships as much as in the concluding vision that presides over every creative gesture. He’s convinced it’s this philosophy that allows for creativity beneficial to all and he works with unrelenting enthusiasm on even the tiniest detail.
Years later has he really left that first improvised office? According to him, not entirely. “Ultimately it was child’s play, imaginative games, but thanks to various skills, especially engineering, something happened. I’m a kid who dreams and I’ve got that simultaneous light-heartedness and gravity of children. I fully accept the rebellion, the subversion and the humour.” Laughingly he completes this admission: “There is no work in my life! There’s only playing, curiosity, generosity and vision.”
He was a listless student at the Ecole Nissim de Camondo in Paris, but in 1969 Starck designed an inflatable structure, based on the idea of materiality, reflecting his early interest in living spaces. This revelation bought his first success at the Salon de l’Enfance. Not long afterwards, Pierre Cardin, seduced by the iconoclastic design, offered him the job of artistic director at his publishing house.
In 1976, after the creation of several emblematic objects including a floating lamp and a portable neon sign, this intrepid dreamer designed an audacious decor for the night club, La Main Bleue - in Montreuil – demonstrating that no venue is less respectable than another just because of its eccentricity. He went on to complete the legendary Parisian nightclub Les Bains Douches and the Starck Club in Dallas.
At the same time he founded his first industrial design company, Starck Product, which he later renamed Ubik after the famous Philip K. Dick novel. Here he initiated his collaborations with the biggest design manufacturers in Italy - Driade, Alessi, Kartell - and the world – Drimmer in Austria, Vitra in Switzerland and Disform in Spain, to mention but a few.
In 1983 Philippe Starck was discovered by the general public when, on the advice of Culture Minister Jack Lang, President François Mitterrand chose his project to decorate the private residence at the Elysée Palace. It symbolised an institutional recognition of design. The following year his international fame was confirmed thanks to the success of the Café Costes, a new venue that was both functional and elegant, that contained all the essence of Starck architecture while converging with the birth and blossoming of a community. His reinvention of the codes of the Parisian cafe made it the cafe par excellence.
“If there is no vision, humane, social or loving, a project doesn’t have the legitimacy to exist.” Philippe Starck
The emergence of a new space, restaurant, bar or hotel is always an occasion for Philippe Starck to consider the meaning of creation in depth: the sense of a space within its environment, the sense and sentiment of a place for the tribes who inhabit it, the sense of a project, regardless of its size, within human evolution. Creation cannot be vain or gratuitous. It involves an increasing awareness of its implication for Mankind and his environment and a responsibility for the future. “Deserving to exist is part of the notion of work […]. Everyone should bring something – if it’s not a mountain, then a rock, a stone or a grain of sand,” summarises Philippe Starck. This modest approach is marked by the ambition of a dreamer who firmly believes in the possibility of finding solutions to contemporary issues. And yet Philippe Starck refuses to impose his solutions. They unfold like stories available to those who want to listen: “My job is like that of a film director. I tell stories and offer the public the most complete spiritual notion possible of the spaces they visit. Public spaces are above all about emotions and experiences.” Because at the heart of all Starck’s projects lies the commitment to humanity and through the creation of spaces the will to generate powerful emotions, ensuring that on entering these buildings, everyone discovers what they are looking for and more; “a place to go because it’s too cold outside, because they’re hungry, because they’re thirsty, because they want to have fun.”
Although he considers himself no more an architect than designer, in the early 1980s Philippe Starck designed several buildings in Japan, with forms previously unseen. The first was in Tokyo, completed in 1989, and is striking in its originality. Nani Nani was an impressive anthropomorphic building covered with living material which evolves with time. The structure was born from the powerful conviction that creation must invest in an environment without destabilising it while maintaining the greatest respect for its context. Like all of his work Starck’s architecture is virulently and explicitly both ethical and humanist.
A year later he confirmed his status as leader of avant-gardist architecture with the Asahi Beer Hall in Tokyo and then an ensemble of offices in Osaka, known as the Baron Vert, in 1992. A pioneer of impressionist reasoning bursting with relentless enthusiasm, he made buildings that even when dedicated to work reclaimed life in all its continuous exuberance. In France he was commissioned to design the control tower at Bordeaux’s airport (1997) and the extension of the Ecole Nationale Supérieure des Arts Décoratifs in Paris (1998). Jean Paul Gaultier entrusted the designer’s imagination to transform his boutiques in Paris, London and New York.
With the Yoo building project, initiated in London in 2001 along with building magnate John Hitchcox, Philippe Starck ignored “signature” housing conventions, by offering apartments with modern configurations, in line with the expectations of tribe members. The perfect culmination of a lifetime of research and vision, Yoo today has more than 50 projects spread over 27 countries – from Asia and Australia to America, Europe and the Middle East – with new constructions recently announced for Ecuador and Mexico.
In Rio de Janeiro, 2007, Philippe Starck conceived the interior architecture and decoration of the Faena Hotel, as well as the exterior and interior architecture of the Fasano, an eight-story on the seafront. This hotel is a discreet, humble and sincere tribute to the Brazilian designers of the 1950s and 1960s, who’d been so innovative in their approach to the environment. Through his elegant use of wood, glass and marble, Starck succeeds in recreating the sophisticated and relaxed spirit of the city within this magical venue while offering a spectacular panorama over the sea.
Philippe Starck also shows genuine commitment to public spaces where he hopes to establish a humane community determined to strive for change. “I’m carried along by a major theme: the adventure of our human species, governed mainly by intelligence.” It’s time to remember that living together also means living in harmony. This thought was made reality in 2012 in Bilbao when he completed Alhondiga, a cultural centre spreading over nearly 30,000m2: “This project incorporates the crystallisation of life”, the designer explains. “We preserved the 1909 façade along with all walls, nearly 10 meters thick. And it is precisely within these walls that the history of the building unravels. Very few other spaces in the world offer so many activities in one place: you can work here, eat, drink, see an exhibition, do sports or read. I like this idea of communion, the intermingling of activities, while remaining very practical. It provides surprisingly magical moments that are even more astonishing because it’s such a unique experience. Passers-by can see it all happening through the windows. I’m devoted to putting life on show.”
2010 was a key date in the world of sea adventurers, as this die-hard boat lover - “I can’t live without the sea” – unveiled his project in Port Adriano in Majorca. There he offered an entirely new conception of urbanism, blurring the boundaries between port and the boats, the sea and the land. Through the creation of an underground parking lot, the site’s beauty remains intact while access to the spaces is facilitated. He stuck firmly to his beliefs about invisibility and dematerialisation, “The architecture is almost invisible,” he explains, “You only notice it when you look a second time.” And because he’s placed man and nature at the centre of the project, thus fully respecting environmental standards, the reduction of CO2 emissions has been made a priority. Through this project, with his crystal clear view on our society, he perpetuates a responsible approach to creation: “We are the prisoners of a “throw-away” society. The only way to escape is to create sustainable design,” he affirmed on this occasion.
On the site of an old structure at the entrance to the Saint Ouen Flea Market on the outskirts of Paris, a large building in brick, concrete panels and zinc was constructed in 2012. With the external architecture of the restaurant Ma Cocotte, Philippe Starck pays tribute to the typical buildings of the neighbourhood and its inhabitants, a kingdom of market traders whose authenticity and effervescence has long fascinated him. It’s a lifestyle he has endeavoured to reproduce with this comfortable and welcoming place.
This honest architectural vision, cultivated within the rules of art, favouring life in all its forms will organically continue to develop elsewhere over the next few years. Le Nuage, which saw the light of day in 2014 in Montpellier, has established itself as a poetic destination, a vertical village, conducive to the socialising of all tribes, complete with cultural, sporting and relaxing activities. Enveloped with a transparent membrane in polymer known as ETFE, this is the first inflatable private building to be made in Europe.
With the P.A.T.H. (Prefabricated Accessible Technological Homes) project, available since October 2014, Philippe Starck offers a new take on individual, hi-tech pre-fabricated houses destined for as many people as possible.
On the other side of the ocean the Matarazzo Hospital in Sao Paolo is one of the city’s few historical monuments to have been preserved. Eclectic, bustling and full of determined energy in 2016 it will be endowed with a new cultural and polymorphous life. It will be home to a hotel, exhibition halls, theatres and cinemas, metamorphosing into an indispensable epicentre of creativity.
The architectural ensemble has been restored with the utmost respect for its historic heritage. It will be surrounded by a park with covered stalls selling the work of local craftsmen and artisans. This project shows Philippe Starck’s profound belief in the power of rehabilitation of space by culture and his sustained will to create venues that improve “living together”.
The Château des Carmes Haut-Brion domaine goes back to the 16th century: while its prestige is clearly timeless, its new owners, the Pichet Group, wanted to project it into the future. Thus 2016 will see the inauguration of its new winery designed by Phillippe Starck to resemble a raw blade, minimalist and elegant, perfectly integrated into its surroundings, naturally embodying “the evocation, intuition and reflection” of a great vineyard.
This ethical approach, for everyone, from the architecture of buildings, public spaces and the multifunctional modular urban furniture (for JC Decaux), realised in absolute symbiosis with its human and topographical context, to his numerous interior projects for restaurants and hotels, is expressed in a truly global manner.
Ever since his first creations, Philippe Starck hasn’t stopped revolutionising the codes of the hotel world. From the 1980s onwards he made his mark on the hotel industry and those years saw a flamboyant revolution. Along with Ian Schrager, Starck offered a new approach and new codes to hotel conception starting with the Royalton in New York. The experience continued with the Delano in Miami in 1995, followed by the Mondrian in Los Angeles and then London saw the arrival of Saint Martin’s Lane in 1999 and the Sanderson in 2000 while New York welcomed the Hudson in 1999 and the Clift in San Francisco in 2001.
While most of his hotels have taken other paths (Royalton, Mondrian, Delano, Sanderson and St Martins), Phillipe Starck has none the less made his mark on hotel design with these original creations. Every project is a destination that generates emotions and experiences. The hotels are no longer venues of fleeting impersonal passage but living spaces distilled with friendly, fun signs and fertile surprises. Under the impetus of Philippe Starck they’re transformed into theatres where everyone acts out their own destiny. In 2005 the Faena Hotel in Buenos Aires, having opened the previous year, was named best hotel of the year by the magazine Wallpaper* and complimented by Conde Naste Traveller for its atmosphere and design.
The 2000’s gave rise to another revolution in the hotel industry. The SLS Beverly Hills (2007) was Starck’s first real hotel resort in North America. It has the unique concept of a double entrance, where one is for the exclusive use of the clientele and the other for the general public, opening into what is known as the Bazaar. “People know that when they stop by there’ll always be something to discover, someone to meet, it’s like a constantly bubbling of energy. It has something of the village square about it.” Starck resumes. This collaboration with the hotel chain belonging to the visionary entrepreneur Sam Nazarian continues today: new SLS hotels have opened with the same success in South Beach Miami (2012), with other versions on the horizon in New York, Miami Brickell (2016) as well as Philadelphia and Seattle (2017). “The SLS South Beach Miami doesn’t have a particular style; we worked hard to achieve that. It’s a sophisticated cocktail of poetry, surrealism, fertile surprises, tenderness, unexpected sculptures in the Japanese restaurant, elegance in a Milanese bar, Jose Andres’ unusual blend of Spanish and Chinese cooking and my grandmother’s dining room. Wherever you look you’ll be surprised and you can imagine your own dream, your own life. Wherever you go you can feel the humanity of Sam and my craziness,” explains Philippe Starck, artistic director of the entire hotel chain. Since the opening of the SLS Beverly Hills, more than 60 accolades from Conde Naste Traveller, Wallpaper*, the New York Times, the Los Angeles Times have been showered upon the SLS hotels.
Starck is revolutionary in his refusal of an exclusive approach. From the 1990s onwards Starck committed himself to another revolution, that of the democratisation of quality, designer hotels. The Paramount in New York offering rooms for $100 came first and it has since become a classic of the genre. This human-centric approach has led Philippe Starck to develop projects that contribute essentially to the process of democracy of the hotel industry. “The only desirable revolution is a social and economic revolution: offer the best quality to people for whom money is not the point. It is without a doubt the most interesting future and creative territory to develop,” summarises the designer.
In 2008 he applied this generous, humanist idea to Paris in the design of the Mama Shelter. This hotel bears witness to the new social values of an open minded cultural tribe founded on rigour, honesty, humour, intelligence and sharing. On its origins, he explains, “We wanted to bring a democratic dream to fruition... give the best to the most people possible while drawing from the newest ideas and the energy of the young.” Born from a philosophical and political desire this establishment in its neglected urban yet buzzing landscape, accompanies the most inventive, most determined aspects of the future. Its pertinence and audacity of vision sees the Mama Shelter regularly featured in the most prestigious international publications (50 Best Hotels in Europe by the Sydney Morning Herald, Die 100 Besten Hotels in Europa by Geosaison Award, 8 Best Hotels in France by Frommer). Starck’s dreams are devoted to sowing their seeds far and wide: after Paris, the Mama Shelter took root in Marseille in 2012 quickly followed by Lyon and Bordeaux in 2013.
Conscious that the hotelier business must reflect the movements and flux of the world and its ideas, in 2008 he started reinterpreting the codes of Parisian luxury hotels with vigour and fantasy, adding a dash of poetic and surreal folly to the oldest five-star hotel in the French capital, Le Meurice. He added new notes to his score in 2016 with the introduction of yet more mystery and humanity to the palace spaces. He applied his artistic direction once again in 2010 to the Royal Monceau, where he wrote a fantastical and previously unseen script where every room is imbued with the cultural energy of an imaginary occupant. Philippe Starck broke with custom and thrust the heritage of a luxury hotel embodying Parisian heritage into another timeless, whimsical dimension. “For me, the Royal Monceau was an opportunity to explore the nature of French identity and to reinvent it. To rediscover this rebellious and subversive spirit that manages simultaneously to be very elegant, detached and noble.” The Royal Monceau has become the refuge of the honest man, interested in the cultivation of mind and body as witnessed by the installation of the Spa My Blend by Clarins (2011).
In 2011 La Co(o)rniche (2011), Starck proposed a “a cabin on the water”, a “venue as strong, as beautiful, as poetic, as surreal and as powerful as nature itself.” Suspended between sky and sea, between sand and pine trees, this hotel and restaurant preserves the authenticity of a basque house while overlooking the Bay of Arcachon, paying tribute to the sparkling and generous people who live there.
And then in July 2015, the Café Ha(a)ïtza opened its doors in Pyla-sur-Mer. But this was less a step and more a prologue to the 2016 opening of the eponymous hotel with its open spaces, central bars and tables d’hôtes. This emblematic venue in the Bay of Arcachon, a landscape so dear to Philippe Starck, will rediscover its life and panache of former times in summer 2016.
Philippe Starck understood long ago that a venue or a space cannot exist without a story – a heritage rich in sense – that remains timeless and universal. Because for Philippe Starck, telling a story is consubstantial with the creative process: the meaning nourishes the form. Always different, his scenarios provide a link with those who create the soul of a place, by respecting an approach intimately articulated around subversion, humour, creativity and poetry (among others). As a prolific and optimistic director he broaches each living space like a theatre piece where a story unravels and where every person becomes an actor, creating a kind of drama sprinkled with surreal acts, which he calls “fertile surprises”.
Whatever the project, Starck enjoys highlighting its singular pulse, its special vibration, to create a venue in harmony with its environment while lighting its romantic flame. One iconic venue has followed another in the biggest cities around the globe with the Teatron restaurant in Mexico (1985), then the Teatriz in Madrid (1988), the Felix restaurant in Hong Kong (1994), and in Paris the Palais de Cristal for the Maison Baccarat (2004) and its restaurant the Cristal Room Baccarat, the restaurants Bon I (2000) and Bon II (2002) dedicated to organic and healthy eating, and for the US the eponymous Katsuya chain arrived in Los Angeles in 2006. All of these venues have come alive under his direction. The same year Philippe Starck opened the Mori Venice Bar, a venue that has allowed him to share his passion for a fanciful Venice and its elegant gastronomy. Ever loyal to this love, he refurbished the space in 2010. In 2006 he unveiled an equally subversive and Manichaean vision of the world with the Bon restaurant in Moscow. In Beijing he concocted a theatrical extravaganza for the 6000 m2 restaurant Lan, opened in 2007, where the abundance of objects and materials as well as the miscellanea of styles transport the diner on a surreal journey. Starck never stops thinking about the venues, giving them meaning. He made his mark in Paris once again with the interior design of the Paradis du Fruit (2009) with a simple idea, “at the Paradis, with fruit everywhere, men are no longer just men, they are angels, genius, artists”.
Philippe Starck’s creations echo his deep respect for the relationship between man and his environment. Starck invites this familiar luxury to celebrate a harmonious life at A’Trego (2011) on the banks of the Mediterranean, and the Monegasque border. A simple “fisherman’s hut” this new venue is imbued with a sense of voyage while enjoying the birth of a new art of living.
More than just an architectural gesture Philippe Starck designs living spaces conducive to creativity, to be shared between friends and family, just like Ma Cocotte (2012), the new restaurant in the heart of the famous Saint Ouen Flea Market, a place that means so much to Philippe Starck. “Ma Cocotte is like a giant 1000m2 bowl. The architecture and the décor have no importance, but it’s a space you dream of when you trawl the markets.” Unsurprisingly this new Starck-imagined building has already been perfectly integrated into its environment. The discreet gestures from which it’s been conceived, like his bronze sculptures cast in concrete, and the surprising combination of disparate images succeeds in capturing the spirit of the flea market, humble and incredibly inventive, bursting with life and marvellously timeless.
In February 2013 Philippe Starck unveiled the new Alain Ducasse restaurant, Idam, at the Doha Museum of Islamic Art. The décor, both spectacular and elegant, created by Starck maintains a precious balance between modernity and classicism. The space is constructed like bridges between culture and life, celebrating the rite of the meal between family and friends.
With the opening of a new Parisian restaurant, Miss KÔ, Philippe Starck has once again demonstrated this intense desire to encourage sharing, to make life intensely richer. “Miss KÔ” he explains, “Is one of the riskiest adventures in the world of hospitality because it is totally phantasmagorical, a sort of crazy evocation of a street somewhere in Asia. It’s like a street out of Blade Runner, with a concrete wall and Formica chairs, TV screens streaming live news direct from Asia, a steaming, bustling kitchen.” Miss KÔ is a freestyle venue that Philippe Starck has imagined as a living space in a state of constant reinvention, generating links between cooking and all forms of creativity. “It’s one of my visions of what the world will be like,” Philippe Starck confides, “A melting pot, a mixture of all civilisations, all ethnicities, all the ways of eating, of doing.”
In September 2014 the Caffè Stern opened its doors in the historical Paris arcade, the Passage des Panoramas. A genuine bacaro, an Italian pause in the Parisian effervescence, an authentic and welcoming Venetian café, run by the Alajmo brothers, masters of La Serenissima cooking, it invites us, in the words of Philippe Starck, “on a journey back in time, history, culture and incites creativity and excellence.” This bubble of fantasy, “layers on the magic, poetry, surrealism and of course the food.”
In spring 2016 Starck along with Fabienne and Philippe Amzalak opened, beneath the canopy of the Forum des Halles in Paris, an urban and literary café: ZA. In tune with the renovation of this neighbourhood, perfectly adapted to the newly connected urban lifestyle, the café ZA simultaneously offers simple and healthy French cooking ordered via smartphone, the chance to discover the latest innovations in the world of furniture, to read a book and even print it instantly in situ.
A common thread effortlessly pulls these 170 plus architectural projects together as well as those in the pipeline (a medical reception and research centre, two new hotels in Paris, hotel complexes in Singapore, New York, Philadelphia and Seattle). Reaching the four corners of the world, Philippe Starck’s viscerally human and farsighted visions conceive these venues by illustrating scenarios that invite his tribe to rise above the ordinary to explore imaginary and creative worlds.
“Whether it’s a toothbrush, an airplane or a chair, it’s always the same philosophy: to think about what the user will gain.” Philippe Starck
What is humanity lacking? Certainly not more objects… Because he is acutely aware of this and because he places the individual at the centre of his work, thinking solely of the user’s benefits, Philippe Starck likes saying he wasn’t born to make tables and lamps, but that the first stroke of his pencil is his only tool – weapon even – to express and introduce original alternatives into our daily routines. “The necessity of all jobs should be questioned,” the designer explains, “Design surely hopes to improve life, but it can’t save lives. The only thing design can do is earn the right to survive, at least move in more humanist directions.” Design exists for Philippe Starck solely through its militant and political status, in other words through its capacity to be useful, to help, even modestly, people’s lives. His designs aim to serve more than the object; they aim to offer the best possible service while using the minimum of materials.
This is powerfully demonstrated with the first ever Ideas Box, deployed in January 2014 in the Great Lakes region of Burundi. The Ideas Box, a portable multi-media library created by Philippe Starck for Libraries without Borders, offers populations exposed to humanitarian crises access to the Internet, books, various teaching aids, not to mention theatre and film. It thus contributes to giving individuals and communities the possibility to reconstruct what they have lost because “when all else has been lost, all we have left is the ability to dream”. Since then the principal of the Ideas Box has been successfully rolled out in more than 11 countries.
From the beginning his designs were never intended for the elite, but for society as a whole. He longs for democratic design, and proffers an illuminating definition: “Improving the quality while striving to make it accessible to the greatest number of people, at affordable prices.”
He believes that sincere, modern elegance comes from the multiplication of an object, as opposed to the ideology of limited editions, where premeditation on rarity leads to a selection through money rather than necessity.
This approach, aiming to provide the largest number of people with the best quality, has been deployed by Philippe Starck in all domains: from tableware to issues concerning the body and hygiene.
Among the numerous objects in our daily lives to which he’s given his mischievous touch, some are now iconic design pieces. He has created elements for the bathroom (for Duravit, Hansgrohe, Hoesch, Axor), and a toothbrush (Fluocaril, 1989). By creating objects that put function before beauty, Philippe Starck designs exist in our daily lives thanks to their humanity and their intelligence. His creations make our existence and even the most anodyne have an allure that reveals their secret poetry. So the toothbrush metamorphoses into a friendly landmark in the bathroom, like a nod of encouragement, a work of sculpture all whilst being rigorously functional. … Every object created is like a letter delivered to us by its creator.
In 2014 with Axor Starck V, Starck explained the mystery of water, thrusting its power into the limelight, thanks to a tap that, “represents the absolute minimum: totally transparent, almost invisible, revealing the miracle of the vortex.” The same year the designer celebrated 25 years of collaborations with Duravit; as many years as “collections shaped by intelligence and elegance: the elegance of movement and truth.”
A designer in love with heightened senses and dreamlike vitality, Starck doesn’t look down on the poetry of mundanity. Keen on nourishing the body as well as the soul, he perfected an innovative tubular structure that guarantees the Pasta Panzani will be cooked to al dente faultlessness every time (1996). Fascinated by the feeling of drunkenness and the evasion it procures, Philippe Starck gave beer back its rightful nobility by producing what he doesn’t hesitate to call “liquid bread” with 1664 by Starck (2004).
In 2012, in collaboration with scientific adventurer David Edwards, the designer imagined an aerosol, the WAHH, which procures the feeling of being drunk in a single squirt, without the less desirable side effects. This little object explores new unchartered territory of aerosol food and the exponential relationship between trace amounts being ingested and the taste and effect felt.
Many years of research and work finally allowed Starck and the champagne house Louis Roederer to introduce the Brut Nature 2006 vintage in September 2014. This zero-dosage vintage is as much the fruit of a prestigious terroir as a unique collaboration between a champagne house, its cellar master and a designer.
As Philippe Starck says, “Brut Nature 2006 is not only a wonderful adventure but also an invention: of a product but also its development process.”
“The closer we get to the body, the more honest the design must be. The skin and the body do not lie.” If we were to look back at the origins of Starck’s interest in the human body, its fragility and its potential, we would find this formula embodying his definition of bionics.
A visionary pioneer of our contemporary habits, the designer anticipated the complete integration of objects in to the human body with the Starck Watch – powerfully announcing that the watch will not only be digital but will also provide a platform of services.
From 1996 with Starck Eyes – in collaboration with Mikli and now Luxottica – Starck revolutionised the word of “bionic” eyewear whose unique patented bio-mechanical technology is directly inspired by the body.
With his sensitivity to the multiple dimensions of existence it was inevitable that he would get involved with clothes. For Puma he designed intelligent shoes (2004) and for his Starck Naked brand he created underwear that was both technological and sexy. In spring 2009 Ballantyne invited him to design a collection of clothes for men and women in cashmere. He ignored fashion with a modern and yet timeless approach, expressing a new form of sensuality using these genuinely “technological cashmeres”.
“Life is something extraordinary that unfolds. It must be protected. We must commit ourselves to loving life and to loving ourselves for at least 15 minutes a day. At home. At work. Just a few exercises and the correct, elegant position is enough.” It was in these terms that Philippe Starck presented his collection for the Home Gym Office (Alias) in 2009, hoping to promote a spontaneous and immediate approach to fitness and to bring this dimension into our daily lives: bracelets, anklets and necklaces which are not only exercise equipment but also elegant jewellery.
In 2010 Philippe Starck entered a new domain of well-being: perfume. He began collaborating with Nina Ricci to create a new bottle for L’Air du Temps. “The only thing that matters is the effect it has on the people who will use it,” he resumes. More a man of concept than object the designer captures the setting of this timeless perfume with an acute vision of the dematerialisation phenomena in our society. Along with the New York collective Soundwalk, he even imagined a musical score that establishes links between musical and olfactive vibrations.
In September 2014 Starck and Delsey presented 16 elegant and ergonomic designs that adapt to every use and every user, reinventing the world of luggage with Starcktrip. Lightweight and reliable luggage guaranteed for life, this is the result of research and cutting edge innovation that has explored as many materials as functionalities.
After three years of development, in autumn 2015 Starck unveiled his collection with the Brazilian company Ipanema. The Ipanema with Starck sandals, with a minimalist and organic design, are produced in ethical and eco-responsible factories in Brazil, using 30% recycled materials. Thanks to this system of creation and virtuous production, Starck extends his concept of democratic design that is both eco-nomic and eco-logical. “When elegance is available to all for just a few dollars or euros, it’s no longer magic, but a modern miracle,” he summarises.
In 2016 Philippe Starck presents Starck Paris, a first collection of perfumes made in collaboration with three master perfumers: Daphné Bugey, Annick Ménardo and Dominique Ropion. His work on the fragrances proposes an “exploration through us, of elsewhere, of the unconscious.” This metaphysical experience between the visible and the invisible, materiality and immateriality is an escape to extraordinary worlds, searching for this Space Between.
Because daily life is also about family life and children, Philippe Starck is committed to offering functional and innovative products, ushering in a new era for parents. In 2002 for the American supermarket chain, Target, he designed sixty ultra-creative objects, from a cup to a baby’s bottle: affordable pieces created to modestly enhance up the daily lives of American housewives, even in the heart of Minneapolis.
Then in 2006 Philippe Starck created a new revolution in this market with his range of original articles for Maclaren. Not just beautiful and elegant, they are high quality, practical and easy to use.
Driven by the same passion for products and their beneficial effect on the body, Philippe Starck is also interested in the world of cooking, from the biomorphic lemon squeezer Juicy Salif (Alessi, 1990) to his renewed approach to tableware with Miam Miam in 2000. In 2005 Philippe Starck mischievously revisited the Baccarat traditions by daring to revive the tradition of black crystal. He gave the products in the Darkside collection, a tribute to the legendary Pink Floyd album, Dark Side of the Moon, symbol of an incandescent era, evocative names that resemble onomatopoeias in a comic book. In 2012 Philippe Starck gave Laguiole a knife with a stainless steel handle imprinted with a wood effect, adding to its natural appearance. This piece for the table reiterates once more the ethics of simplicity so dear to the designer: no roughness and no complexity, because handling a knife is elementary.
In September 2015 Philippe Starck showed his intuitive and intimate understanding of everyday objects with the creation of a collection of kitchen equipment – refrigerators, hot plates, cooker hoods, ovens and microwave ovens – for Gorenje. These elements in stainless steel and high-shine glass, with their streamlined and elegant designs adapt to all interiors.
“I’ve tried to steer the craft of design towards a political and social action, complicit and yet denouncing, to generate action and reaction.” Philippe Starck
Philippe Starck has always sought to convey a political, subversive message. He works by associating humour and poetry with spectacular undertakings. And he likes nothing more than knowing these surprises will provoke love or rejection. “An object that is instantly accepted doesn’t have the right to exist,” he likes to repeat.
“In the long term design will join one of the most fundamental lines of our evolution, which is dematerialisation.” Philippe Starck
By deciding early on to use plastic in his furniture creation Philippe Starck demonstrated a profound comprehension of dematerialisation and invisibility. Less material for greater intelligence, this is how the designer imagines objects. “When waiting for certain objects to disappear, they have to be rendered bearable by a choice of view coming from an attempt at invisibility through transparency.” So he developed plastic furniture – from the WW Stool (1990 Vitra) to the Masters (Kartell) and Pipes chairs (Driade) – whose culmination would be the icon chairs Marie and Louis Ghost (Kartell 2002) a veritable treaty of modernity announcing this inevitable dematerialisation. The Marie, a pure ‘mathematical’ chair was created by the designer to have the least possible style, the least possible weight, the least possible material and the least possible presence. But it’s with the Louis Ghost that this approach to dematerialisation found its greatest success with more than one million examples sold. And Philippe Starck is convinced the chair is the result of this new approach but also a legacy and collective Western thinking as well as the bridge he has built between dematerialisation and democratisation. “The Louis Ghost was made by our collective subconscious; it’s just the natural result of our past, our present and our future. Thanks to its technology it equally allows for good design and good technology at the right price. It’s the continuity of democratic design.”
With the Masters chair of 2009, Philippe Starck continues his reflections on the notions of dematerialisation and inheritance. He takes apart, cleans and dissects design icons in order to identify and extract their structural lines that, to use the words of the creator, “add together to create a new product, a new project, reflecting our new society.” With the Masters, Starck offers his reading of the generic lines of three great designers from the history of design (Eames, Jacobsen and Saarinen). In 2016 with the GENERIC.A and the GENERIC.C (Kartell) chairs he liberates the outside lines, going to the heart of every detail, to the interior generic lines. “An interesting approach intellectually, but one that’s also about Economy and Ecology because it’s primarily a work on the intelligence of matter, on the intelligence of structure” offered by Starck through the GENERIC collection.
The production of plastic furniture takes on a new dimension with the establishment of the TOG – All Creators TOGether in 2014. The Italo-Brazilian brand strives mainly to express a political mind-set, affirming a philosophy that proposes to “reconcile two opposing worlds: that of industrial high technology, that of mass production with that of the craftsman, reflecting original, unique and human excellence.” Through TOG Starck attempts to resolve the paradox generated by our society in crisis, aspiring to products strengthened by a vital hope for cultural and material life, functional and available at affordable prices.
Every year, the International Furniture Fair in Milan is a chance for Philippe Starck to present his new “fertile surprises”.
For Starck light plays the same role as words do for a writer: without it nothing is possible. His philosophy and ethics feed this notion. His Hamish (3 Suisses, 1984), his Miss Sissi (Flos, 1991) and his lamp SuperArchimoon (Flos, 1999) demonstrate how long light has been of a decisive nature in his oeuvre.
Of the Gun Lamp (Flos 2005), Starck has said it is “a sign of the times”, which violently inscribe death into our daily landscape. Subversive and political, the iconic lamp also bears the crazy poetry of its creator. A part of the profit generated by this rare object is donated to the charity “Freres des Hommes”.
His passion for subversion and confrontation with unusual objects without any apparent connection between them is perfectly evident with Marie-Coquine (2011). A tribute to the poetic surrealism of Mary Poppins, the Baccarat crystal chandelier is transformed into a sculpture that screams “ready-made and dada”. At one end an ivory umbrella hovers over the light source and at the other a counter-balance is created with a boxer’s punching bag. Placed in the middle of a living room Marie-Coquine is the perfect example of “a fertile surprise”.
Every creation carries an under-lying message, a denunciation. So the Attila stool (Kartell, 1999), in the shape of a garden gnome, is a deliberate wave in the omnipresent sea of minimalism. Formal and composed when receiving guests, the Privé Collection (2007) provides the perfect field of transgression in the intimate and private parts of the house. Day and night mingle while living room and boudoir meld with this collection featuring a chair, a sofa and a pouf.
With Lou Read (2011) he proposes an armchair with sculptural curves for the Royal Monceau, the place he met Lou Reed fifteen years previously. More than just a tribute to his friend, the project is a manifesto for reading and conversation in an era dominated by screens. In 2016 this family expanded welcoming a chair and an armchair into the fold, entitled respectively Lou Eat and Lou Think.
The 2013 International Furniture Fair in Milan was the perfect event for Philippe Starck to show his new “fertile surprises”. For Baccarat the designer revisited the timeless story of the iconic Harcourt, from the wall lamp to the table lamp and the legendary Zenith chandelier. This fascination for light also nourished innovations at Flos: the A4 Light lamp with its flat light, Kiki Le Cube – “full of emptiness” – and the fantastically elegant Chapo lamp. This poetry is echoed in the furniture designer for Magis, with tables which look as though they might take off or escape on their wheels and a dog with a knowing look. Finally Philippe Starck revealed the sofas My World (Cassina) “a cocoon, a niche, a world” and Ray (Dedon), comfortable and timeless. His latest creations for Kartell pay tribute to the chairs, armchairs, tables and console tables of his uncle and aunt in minimalist and technological versions. Proof, as if we needed anymore, that Philippe Starck never stops imagining a future leaning towards dematerialisation.
In 2015 Starck returns to his exploration of the dematerialisation and timelessness. The Sir Gio table (Kartell), with its fascinatingly sculptural lines, conceived like a work of art, reflects Starck’s obsession with always wanting to create maximum effect with a minimum of material, with no gestures of caricature, free of the superfluous. In the same year, with Magis, Starck revisited his legendary armchair and while preserving the obvious simplicity of its lines he gave the Stanley chair (Magis) a new lease of modernity, thanks to the elegance of hi-technology deployed in its design.
Technical elegance is also at the heart of the Bon Jour collection conceived with Flos. This lighting collection inaugurates a new archetype, that of an ethereal body, pure, almost immaterial, that lends itself to personalisation according to tastes and the creativity of each individual. Finally with the Boxinbox collection for Glas Italia, Starck rethinks the metonymic relationship between the museum and the art work, by proposing transparent glass furniture such as the “Museum of museums”, that is both showcase and art object.
“In order to save our planet, change our societies and make them more inclusive, we need initiatives, major actions” Philippe Starck
Long before environmental concerns became mainstream, a pressing urgency had told a prudent visionary that they would lie at the heart of our present, and be essential to our future. His concern for developing durable creations imagined independently of any notion of a perishable world, and that they be above all useful and perform their essential function, has inscribed his work right from the beginning, in a responsible, ethical approach. His objects, his solutions, Philippe Starck wants to share them with the most people possible by offering hi-tech, ecological objects at affordable prices, without hesitating to make beautiful things or encourage responsible consumption.
A visionary and enthusiastic citizen, Philippe Starck is committed to the future of mankind via a democratic ecology that will help his contemporaries live in harmony with their natural surroundings, all while being a part of “the big picture”. He aims to go beyond survival by offering future generations the possibility of writing their future on a fresh page, so that they can invent another story and a new romanticism. This is the vision: to change the perspective of his creative actions, to go further and to share them with the greatest number of people. “Increasingly aware, we can all take the destiny of the human species in hand instead of drifting into the mechanisms of a market.” It consists of giving up the insane cycle of fashion for sustainable, durable objects. As a visionary Philippe Starck captures the mutations of a contemporary world by bringing about concrete answers through a bionist approach, among others, inspired by the organic and a will to initiate a sustainable de-growth, always looking for the most in the least.
Even if there’s no proposition to provide a definitive solution to the issues of our times, the designer hasn’t stopped offering new models, other means of consuming and travelling, convinced that it is the inventors who draw the path to a better world.
Recognising the urgency to develop a democratic ecology, his civic battle has become increasingly radical today. It’s a personal commitment and an invitation to join him. In 2006 he invented an individual wind turbine for the Italian industrial group, Pramac, which is attractive and invisible, easily accessible and usable at an affordable price. It also responds to the new criteria of mobility imposed by our nomadic destiny. Beyond its technical characteristics, it completely changes our approach to consuming and generating energy.
In 2015 with Speetbox by Starck, the first collection of high performance heated furniture, Starck pursues an approach that lies at the heart of ancient preoccupations: rethinking our ways of consuming and generating energy as a key issues. An airtight wood burner can be added to by a system known as “box” with a variety of functions: storage boxes adapted to the storage of firewood, and boxes that accumulate heat allowing for a gradual diffusion of warmth over a 24h plus period. Thanks to an original smartphone app, the wood burner is controllable and programmable outside the home, high technology allowing for the personalised control of all heating parameters.
Speetbox by Starck makes ecology and technology accessible to all, and offers the possibility of an economic, high performance and adapted heating solution.
A pioneer in the commitment to responsible development, Philippe Starck created Good Goods in 1998, a catalogue of “non-products for the non-consumers of the future moral market,” sold by mail order (La Redoute). The catalogue offered products in organic cotton and Ecover detergents, solvent-free paints... Pushed by a generous and humanist impulse, he also created in 1998, OAO, a food company that aimed to simplify access to organic products as well as festive items such as champagne and wine. In 2005 the launch of La Amarilla (LA) marked a new direction: it’s the first organic olive oil to be made by an oenologist, Michael Rolland. At the 2012 International China Oil Competition, LA Organic won the gold medal with the LA Oro Intenso oil and silver medal with the LA Oro Suave oil in the organic oils category (no pesticides). In 2013 for the third year running, the LA Organic oils received three gold medals at the Los Angeles International Extra Virgin Olive Oil Competition in 2013.
With Starck the priority is always the best for everyone, unconditionally. And he has consistently proved that another vision of consumerism is possible. A profoundly ethical approach pushed Philippe Starck to devise the Feuille d’Eau in 2010, and then the Lame d’Eau in 2014 - a reusable flask and carafe respectively, designed to encourage people to drink tap water for the common good of humanity, while its sales help finance actions supported worldwide by Danielle Mitterrand’s foundation France Libertés. This consciousness of the symbol represented by water is also at the heart of his design of the bottles for the Saint Georges brand (2011). This bottle is like the water it contains: pure. It encapsulates what is most beautiful in Corsica.
In 2012 Philippe Starck offered a 100% recycled waste paper bin made from plant plastic cultivated nearby. An aesthetic and ethical object, ELISE by Starck is an appeal to everyone to practice fun recycling. It also won the Eco Design Award. The objective of this project is manifold: to ensure the collecting and recycling of office papers but also to create an activity that ensures the stable employment of people experiencing problems with integration, such as those with disabilities. As he says, “My responsibility now is to be interested in future productions of energy and the future materials which will replace plastic, the most useful derivative of oil."
In 2012 Philippe Starck presented his electric car, going back to the source of the object. With the V+ made by an independent French car manufacturer, Volteis Electric Car, the designer explored new territories of mobility. And this prospective approach was received with interest by the general public: the project was recognised at the Sustainable Luxury 1.1618 Fair with the Prix de Public 2012. “I wanted to offer an alternative, a different solution, so that we may go back to the minimalist definition of a vehicle. A vehicle for transporting. Almost nothing. So we have more. More humanity. More respect. More choice to show that we care about our environment.”
We see the same democratic vision of mobility, more prosaically but with just as much power, with the Pibal (2012) in Bordeaux. By offering the inhabitants of Bordeaux an urban and revolutionarily ergonomic bicycle, Philippe Starck gives an answer to the new questions concerning the evolution of mobility. Because far from resembling a designer bike, the Pibal is a fair and ethical bike, adapted to its environment and new uses. Thanks to a platform situated between the two wheels, it can transform into a scooter ideal for manoeuvring through pedestrian zones. Philippe Starck shows how transportation can be technical and ecological, universal and distinctive all at once.
In 2014 Philippe Starck continued his tireless work on the codes of mobility by associating technological miracles with an ecological approach. An unconditional lover of two wheels, Starck sees the bicycle as one of the rare productions of human intelligence that is positive, constructive and beneficial. His collaboration with the French bikemaker, Moustache Bikes, resulted in the StarckBike: a collection of four electrically assisted bicycles capable of exploring “all terrains, and particularly those that are unlimited and poetic.”
From 1994 onwards, via his collaboration with 3 Suisses and his historic Maison de Starck an individual mail order house made from wood, Philippe Starck established himself as a pioneer of ecological and democratic architecture, at a time when wooden houses were virtually prohibited. With P.A.T.H. (Prefabricated Accessible Technological Homes), Philippe Starck is renewing the approach to individual high-tech pre-fabricated housing. Available from May 2013 onwards, made and distributed by the Slovenian company Riko, this all-inclusive solution, “for all”, totally encompasses the preoccupations that have been animating Philippe Starck from the beginning: accessibility, comfort, security, adaptability to needs, timeless design, integrating a genuine industrial process to guarantee a durable quality, and of course respect for the environment and ecological standards. “If we want to think about things in the long term, we have to be sure the style we create today will still be acceptable in 50, 100, even 200 years’ time. More than the style, we have to think, imagine and build with the right materials. With the most reasonable price possible. With an irreproachable quality. And by using the very best technology. It is all of this that will be take us towards a ‘good future’”, Philippe Starck reminds us.
While today no one can imagine a life without plastic, it’s essential for Philippe Starck to think about the future in the light of the emergence of a new civilisation. Strengthened by the fact organic and recycled plastic won’t be enough, the designer is working on a deeper revolution, that of sustainable de-growth and the creative intelligence which will lead us to a happy post-plastic era.
And the fruits of this post-plastic era that Philippe Starck dreams are already being harvested. With Miss Sissi lamp (Flos, 1988) in biodegradable plastic and then the Zartan chair (Magis, 2012), the first entirely recycled roto-moulded chair, plastic components have been replaced with plant-based materials. The Broom Chair (Emeco), of the same year, initiated another revolution by recycling industrial waste into an innovative and sustainable composite.
The designer made an impression at the Venice Architectural Biennale with a very personal and poetic conception of new ways to use objects. In 2010 his creations made from the Briccole di Venezia, robust wooden stakes planted into the lagoon, gave these Venetian emblems a second life, perpetuating the eternal history of the city. “Everything about the Briccole has a noble elegance. Above all this wood will now humbly finish its beautiful career in our houses, with us,” Philippe Starck enthuses.
With creativity as his only paternal legacy, Philippe Starck has always known how to inject it into his own destiny. Integrating engineering into his projects early on, he has made it more of a motor than a practical condition to create real technological miracles, capable of converging new and old uses, while understanding the mutations of a contemporary world.
Between 1993 and 1996, in his role as creative director at the Thompson group, Starck created numerous products including loud speakers, televisions, such as the portable Zeo TV (1994), and Jim Nature, the first television with a compressed wood shell (1994), the voice-controlled telephone Aloo (1995), the LCD Cube overhead projector (1996) and the Lalala radio (1996). “From technology to love” he proclaimed. Indeed his creations for the French brand are distinguished by their playfulness, proximity to the user and their technological efficiency.
After dedicating himself to the cordless speakers Zikmu (Parrot, 2009) and the “protection of the spirit of sound”, Philippe Starck went even further in this alliance between the most advanced technologies and a profoundly sensitive approach. Always seeking out an original sensorial experience, he brought about another revolution with Zik by Parrot (2012), the earphones that take movement into consideration plus the need to dialogue with the environment and the necessity for an intuitive ergonomics. The 2012 “Best of CES” prize acknowledged this success. Philippe Starck’s object is a converging zone for the miracle of technology and an extension of the human body. Two subsequent versions of the earphones, Zik 2.0 (2014) and Zik 3 (2015) have been recognised and awarded numerous prizes – such as the Distree Diamond Award in 2015 – for their technological and aesthetic innovation. Philippe Starck admits that his passion for quality music is particularly fecund. “Programming good music is essential for the quality of my projects. I am obsessed by music. If the music is right, then I’m ready to work.”
With the Freebox Revolution (2010), Philippe Starck found himself with an object that gave power back to the people, embodying a democratic design which he’s been defending for so many years. “It’s democratic because ultimately it’s unbelievably inexpensive for the service it provides. When you think about the power of reasoning, intelligence and information that we can gather thanks to it, the price is nothing, its peanuts. And it’s revolutionary because it can do everything. We realise that with boxes like the Freebox, we are only limited by ourselves.” But isn’t the greatest revolution Philippe Starck invites us to, that of the imagination and innovation? By putting humans at the heart of progress and convergence, he demonstrates again and again that he is more concerned with the living than with achievement.
Thwarting expectations is one of his favourite games, and he is always using technology to push the limits of an object while remaining faithful to new usages. For LaCie Starck designed two external hard drives, LaCie Starck Desktop Hard Drive and the Starck Mobile Hard Drive (LaCie 2009). The first is equipped with a tactile surface which responds to touch and allows application launches with a single swipe. With the new hard drive LaCie Blade Runner by Starck unveiled during the 2013 CES, Philippe Starck offers a Pandora’s Box which aligns an anthropomorphic metal interior with an angular shell resembling a cage. Protected by aluminium, the LaCie Blade Runner is, without question, the hard drive that best unifies sturdiness with aestheticism.
The research for optimal technology aims to satisfy our real needs, and not create new superfluous or artificial ones. Striving for durability, to establish a sustainable relationship between Man, production and object is the first step in engaging with environment protection. The D’Elight (2012) and the iPad work on the convergence of uses and objects so that the “information source becomes a light source.” By developing with the Italian brand Flos the first lamp in the world that uses the technological innovation as represented by the Organic Light Emitting Diode (OLED) Philippe Starck is once again in line with research that will define our future.
In 2013 in partnership with the French company Netatmo, Starck devised a smart thermostat (Netatmo by Starck): in 2016 he prolonged their collaboration with an electrostatic valve for radiators. These everyday objects allow us to remote control our heating thanks to a smartphone app and thus reduce our energy consumption by adapting it to our true needs. Philippe Starck once again strikes the perfect balance between a design and a functionality that will mark our future.
“Bionism is being inspired by the organic in order to create technologies better adapted to humans.” Philippe Starck
Since 1996 Philippe Starck has been designing the revolutionary ergonomic “bionic” glasses, Starck Eyes (Mikli), with a unique patented technology inspired by the bio-mechanic articulations of the human body. Smoothly moving they become an extension of the individual, disappearing from our visual perception to become part of us. With the Starck Watches, worn close to the skin, Starck is anticipating the actual integration of objects into the human body.
The concept of the “most with the least” has been adapted by Philippe Starck, most notably with the “hollow water” effect of his Organic (Axor, 2012), which gives the impression of a generous flow, but in fact is economising water. Inspired by the plant world, Philippe Starck thus promotes a profoundly bionist and ecological approach.
In 2012 Philippe Starck unveiled the Venus, a 78.2m long yacht illustrating the best of a bionist approach which constantly seeks more in less. “It’s a void made up of such research and such quality that it becomes stronger than any fullness,” its creator resumes.
In January 2010 at the Hannover Domotex Fair, Philippe Starck presented the fruits of his collaboration with the Danish house Fletco. Starck by Fletco (honoured with the Interior Design Award 2011) is not only a collection of rugs and carpets, “It’s a magical game where all the combinations work. This collection of squares offers interior designers, as well as everyone else, the chance to create an infinite variety of partitions, their own work.” The game is extended by a reflection on our throw-away era, implicating that this rightful object is here for the long term. By using a variety of materials – brushed aluminium, steel, wood, glass and a dose of luminescence – Starck throws opens the doors to the imagination. The textile production techniques developed by Flecto, wholly respectful of the environment, fall naturally in line with Starck’s own approach. This approach, combining flexibility and sustainability, is equally at the heart of his first collection of ceramic tiles made in association with the Italian manufacturer Ceramica Sant’Agostino in 2012. Flexible Architecture Ceramica Sant Agostino by Starck, composed of a rigid material, is a new flexible architectural element with infinite possibilities, all while maintaining the durable nature of ceramics. “We’re leaving the ‘two-dimension’ to focus on ‘3 dimension’ which offers an infinity of dimensions and possibilities” summarises Starck, “There’s no longer a question here of decoration, this is architecture.”
Flexible, easily adaptable, 3-dimensional, the uniqueness of this vision has also been applied to the facades of industrial buildings. In 2013 Starck revisited traditional metal cladding thanks to a unique system that allows architects to individualise their constructions without piercing or modifying their integrity. Like a game of building bricks, Bacacier by Starck was imagined as an amazing toolbox for architects, allowing practically infinite combinations of relief, materials and colours.
These projects all perfectly fit with his ambition to make the environment a better place, from carpets to flexible architecture.
In anticipation of the major mutations of the modern world, Philippe Starck reinvents mobility by combining technological miracles with an ecological approach.
“From my earliest years I’ve had two wheels at my feet: I am a biomechanical being, half man, half two-wheeler. The motorbike is the most intelligent means of locomotion after walking and the bicycle.”Philippe Starck
In his hands - because he himself is a joyous and experienced motorcyclist - motorbikes such as the 6.5 (Aprilia, 1995) and the X3 (Aprilia, 2000) or even the Super Naked Xv (Voxan, 2007) integrate better into their environments thanks to a research into minimalism. They become objects of leisure and freedom once more, free of machismo yet loaded with panache, far from consumer vanity. A passionate and unconditional user of Kawasaki – he owns seven, spread around the world in every city where he regularly works – Philippe Starck revisited the Kawasaki W800 in 2011 and created a simple, functional and reassuringly elegant object: “A good motorbike is made up of the bare minimum,” the designer explains, “A motor, a tank, two wheels. Many technicians go for more; we have chosen to go for less.”
The marine environment is another source of inspiration. Starck loves the sea, boats and has a profound, natural knowledge of the ocean, defining himself as an amphibian, "webbed feet and a back covered in scales". He collaborated with Bénéteau for the sailing boat First (1988) where he reinterpreted the timeless codes of the sea, then he went on to create the Virtuelle (1997), a racing boat with minimalist forms, in perfect harmony with the sea.
He has also created several mega-yachts. The Wedge II (2002), innovative in its purified appearance contrasting with the conventions (and did he have fun) of this type of boat and whose elegance was rewarded the prize of best boat of the year. Then in 2008 he designed the A (119 meters long), a discreet and ecological vessel, inspired by the rhythm of the waves and the shape of a fish, it has an immense and revolutionary bow: “I designed one of the first hulls that doesn’t make any waves, even at 25 knots,” reminisces Philippe Starck. With its Tenders, the aesthetic and philosophical innovation that the mega yacht A was given companions of equal elegance, with a ‘Limousine’ version offering an interior worthy of a super-yacht itself and an ‘open’ version with its sumptuous circular cockpit. Two major prizes were awarded to the yacht A: “Most Innovative Yacht in Yachts France” at the Cannes Maritime Fair 2009 and “Most Innovative Exterior Yacht Design of the Year 2008” at the Asia Boating Awards Ceremony in 2008. His collaboration with Hobie Cat (2009) came out of a longing that was very personal, "I was given the honour and joy to possess and steer every model of the Hobie Cat. This addiction was a religion. The religion of minimalism." Fun, elementary and destined for all, his re-writing of this mythical boat brings together the democratic vocation he gives all of his products and his dream of mobility, in every possible way. The Venus (2012) more than 70m-long yacht, born from a philosophy of dematerialisation is the fruit of a regular and nourished dialogue with its backer, one of the century’s geniuses. “For four years we analysed every single detail and brought together innovations to develop a concentration of the highest level of intelligence and quality,” explains Starck, “We reinvented marine technology through our work, it was philosophy in action.”
After designing the first class waiting rooms for the Parisian and London terminals of the Eurostar, that magnificent train that links an island to a continent, but which also encourages the circulation of ideas and the imagination, Starck had the chance to revisit his early years and childhood drawings. Between 2006 and 2007 he was artistic director for Virgin Galactic, in charge of the project for liberating and democratising spatial tourism.
In 2013 in a similar democratic vein, Philippe Starck redesigned the transport pass, the Pass Navigo, for the Ile-de-France region, into a symbol of democratic quality. By giving this daily object, and the general public, the appearance of a rare object – sleek and elegant lines – the designer demonstrates once more how beautiful things are not the exclusive preserve of the elite. With the Pibal bicycle (2012), created for the city of Bordeaux, Philippe Starck sought to meet the challenges posed by a contemporary city, those of an ecological and shared mobility. “A correct and inventive solution to new questions,” resumes Philippe Starck.
A well-rounded creator with a global vision, Philippe Starck strives to give his love of mobility the same exactitude – subversive 20 years ago, essential today – of dignity in relation to our world and our history. Accompanied by scientists he’s currently developing numerous projects: solar, hydrogen and sail hybrid boats (from 2m to 145m long). He also has the patents for new photo-voltaic surfaces and is working on a tourist concept with no carbon footprint. There are clearly no scientific or technological miracles without a poetic intuition…
“Offer our children another history, a new romanticism”. Philippe Starck
A polymorphic designer, a nomad perpetually travelling the world with his wife and muse Jasmine, always present where he is least expected (just like in life, “that’s what happens when we do other projects”, joked John Lennon), always looking for natural elegance and a hero of democratic obligation, Philippe Starck will never give up his hopes, desires, visions and duties and shows himself to be an honest man directly descended from Renaissance artists.
From high technology for the individual to necessary mobility, from food, housing, energy production and even clothing, there is no aspect of our daily lives in all its implications that has escaped his visionary, poetic and subversive approach. Nothing human is foreign to him. Everything concerns Philippe Starck. From a precocious consciousness of our perilous lifestyles he has drawn even more energy and a will to share his vision: that which is inscribed in the “big picture” of the history of our evolution.
Because we are witnessing so many changes - some positive, others catastrophic - it’s vital for Philippe Starck to try and find answers. And it’s by orientating design towards the future, politics and responsibility that the creator is attempting to lay a foundation stone for the new world. Aware that time on earth implies a responsibility, he promotes the “courage to exist”, to invent and reinvent, to play a role in contemporary evolution and mutation. Because, “Whatever we do, the extent to which we take account of it, we will soon be obliged to move towards de-growth, because it’s in man’s DNA to progress. The subject of the forthcoming years will be to find a model for positive de-growth that will save us.” While design might not be able to answer every question, it can none the less add a vigilant contribution. This has always been Philippe Starck’s combat, from democratic design to democratic ecology; he wishes above all to create accessible, ecological objects for the largest possible audience. So decades after his early battles for his creations to be made available to all, the present has proved him to be right: from the environment that needs to be defended to the necessity of leaving this planet, we’re all involved in this story, our story. Refusing the state of things isn’t good enough; we have to react to change things, to reinvent. Starck is offering to lead a revolution, nothing more, nothing less: a revolution in our life styles so that precisely this life can continue. To be necessary, indispensable, this fight for democratic ecological is inherently joyful, vibrant, questioning our practices to encourage us to change and finally achieve a moral market.
Philippe Starck has repeatedly demonstrated that whatever its size or purpose, the honest object – in the introduction we evoked the honest approach of the man and designer Starck – does what it can do to the best of its means, most efficiently, most usefully and most respectfully, with a minimum of materials. The most intelligent part of human production is, after all, found in the idea of reducing materials and moving towards lightness and invisibility all while augmenting competence. For Starck the future is a question of materials, “Man needs nothing material, only the capacity to love, intelligence, humour and ethics.”
The generosity of his activity, which he refuses to restrict to a single field or a single elite, shows us that behind this famous designer with all his accolades, is a man aspiring to the best for all his fellow men.
A major figure on the world’s cultural stage, exhibited in the biggest museums (the Pompidou Centre, the Guggenheim and MoMA in New York and the MoMA in Kyoto...), at the avant-garde of contemporary environmental concerns and responsibility, the subject of numerous books, omnipresent in the media, professor at the Domus Academy in Milan and at the Ecole Nationale des Arts Décoratifs in Paris, Philippe Starck is respected for the originality, rigour and quality of his work. Today his name and personality almost belong to the general public, with a waxwork statue in the Grevin Museum in Paris. For everyone Philippe Starck embodies the desire for a better life, here and now of course, but also for tomorrow.
Ever since his consecration as Officier des Arts et des Lettres in 1985 (promoted to Commandeur in 1998) Philippe Starck has been honoured with more than 100 prizes and decorations: the médaille de Chevalier de l’Ordre National de la Légion d’Honneur, in 2000 attests once more to the recognition of his country.
His influence extends beyond France’s frontiers: witness the President’s Award from the British association D&AD and the Harvard Excellence in Design Award given to him by the prestigious American university in 1997.
His career – and the movement free of constraints it has led to – was consecrated in 2008 when he accepted the job of Artistic Director for the French Presidency of the European Union and then in 2009 when he accepted the post of Ambassador of Creativity and Innovation.
He is constantly being contacted to share his experience and his vision as much by international conferences as by businesses that see themselves in his work of a 1000 facets, inspired by his pioneering approach. His expertise shines way beyond the world of design. He has quite simply defined new paradigms for our very existence.
“Life is only worth what it allows you to learn and by the opportunities it offers to transmit.” Philippe Starck
His concern for democracy, whether it is ecological or design, is combined with a pedagogical desire to put intelligence and ideas first, wherever they are sexiest. So in June 2009 he presented La Nuit des Idées (The Night of Ideas) on Canal +, during which he presented the famous TED Conference to demonstrate the sheer brainpower that contributes to our living well and well-being. Starck likes quoting Boileau’s famous maxim, “Whatever we understand well we express clearly, and words flow with ease”.
In the documentary Futur par Starck, shown in June 2013 on Arte, the designed introduced the men and women inventing the world of tomorrow. In front of the camera Philippe Starck talks to the astronaut Jean-François Clervoy and the economist Jeremy Rifkin as well as scientists and researchers from around the world in a discussion on our collective future and its ethical, ecological and economic stakes.
The truth is Philippe Starck never wants to stop communicating ideas. Fascinated by science and constantly exploring, he has launched himself into the creative project of the first laboratory of fundamental research on pure creativity. Scientists from multiple backgrounds, who are working on creation itself and not its application, are working to understand how creativity works, and from there how it can be transmitted, taught to those who don’t think of themselves as creators, who won’t let themselves create, or who don’t know how to set the right conditions. “I think that every individual holds within them a creative potential, which can be developed if he is shown how,” resumes Philippe Starck. It’s in this same spirit that he plans to build the biggest ever brain by federating 220 million unemployed people and turning them into thinkers. “I would like to create the biggest think tank so we can have a tool that is capable of responding to the most important priorities and issues of our society.”
In 2012 for the first time Philippe Starck accepted to do a book of interviews, in order to better share his existence. With Impressions d’Aillures, this creative mind, always one step ahead of his time, reveals himself to be modest, emotional and brilliantly intuitive. As with all his projects, his ambition for truthfulness led him to this dialogue with Gilles Vanderpooten, who’d initiated the project.
After three decades of creation, looking to the other side of the stars and the horizon, Starck is now turning towards the future more than ever, the destiny that brings us all together. By stimulating vocations and electrifying spirits, his gestures are guided by love, an unsinkable passion for his neighbour and the resolution to build happy tomorrows. While Rimbaud wrote, “Dawns are heart-breaking” Starck will never give up on making sure that they continue to amaze us.
Through his commitment he hopes to help his emotional tribe place itself in a fundamental perspective: that of the progress of our humanity mutating in the heart of the universe. By humbly setting an example, he has shown us that we all have a responsibility to merit our existence and honour the link that unites us by showing inventiveness, courage, intelligence and responsibility.
The dates mentioned are the opening dates of the venue and the launches of the products.