CONVERSATION

Caleido interviews Philippe Starck

issue #28: Daydreamer

The interview on Caleido with Philippe Starck, French creator, is the cover story of Issue #28, entitled: Daydreamer. Welcome to Caleido, an inspirational diary, that narrates many stories: about creative people, trends, travels, objects. / Read the Editor’s letter here.

Diary of: @starck

Caleido interviews Philippe Starck
Ph. © TILL JANZ
1. Which is the project you carried out that required the greatest amount of experimentation and risk, and what was the most important ‘lesson’ you learnt from it?

I work with intuitions that are verified and constructed. I had a father who was an aeronautical engineer and an aircraft manufacturer, and I learnt under his drawing table that if you want an aircraft to fly, you have to create it. If you don’t want it to go downhill, you must be rigorous. Today, we can say that I have encountered a certain success. But, when I started designing, for 20 years, nobody wanted the models that I was proposing. So, I didn’t continue because I was stubborn, young, weak, and pure, I continued because I had no other idea. Also, because I knew it was the right idea. I just did it, until the time reaches me. If it had not work, it’s because it was not the good idea. The main problem is having the right idea at the right time. So I would say, believing in yourself and perseverance was the first and biggest experimentation. Also, there is experimentation in every project with different scales and angles. For example, a chair is the most challenging thing to design. It’s incredibly difficult. A chair can be a future classic but with a mistake of 5 millimeter, it can be missed. It’s more than challenging yourself, it’s almost like playing a game and we should succeed to do it perfectly. For example, when we design a chair, we have to think in terms of our bone structure meeting another bone structure, taking into account economic, ecological and new technology parameters. As creators, we must ask ourselves: am I capable of creating it, even with this material, with this ecological and economic idea?

Caleido interviews Philippe Starck
White Tulip collection by @starck x @duravit
Caleido interviews Philippe Starck
Bento Starck Box by @starck x @duravit
Caleido interviews Philippe Starck
Solo Chair collection by @starck x @andreuworld
2. have you ever had a design idea that seemed impossible to realize? if so, how did you face this challenge and how did you eventually find a solution?

Probably, but I am an explorer. I love challenges. I’m a fighter against everything and especially against the problems. So, I don’t have problem to do anything, I have a lot of fun and I always find solutions. I am a daydreamer. A project is the result of a vision. This vision is a result of the ethic. But sometimes my vision is too ahead of time and of technology; for example 3D plywood is something that I have been waiting for over 40 years. Now, we can use it at the right price, and we have finally created this collection called Smart Wood with @kartell_official in 2019.

Caleido interviews Philippe Starck
Smart Wood by @starck x @kartell_official
Caleido interviews Philippe Starck
Smart Wood by @starck x @kartell_official
3. what was the most surprising or unexpected reaction you received from a person who used one of your products? how do you develop the relationship between designer/product/user?

I live like a monk in the middle of nowhere. Every morning I’m alone with my tracing paper and pencil, I know what I must do. I do it until it’s finished. Then I send the project to my team who develop it on the computer, before sending it to my partner. Every time I design a new project, I feel like I’m making a Christmas present. And my reward is the smile on the face of my editors. Creation whatever form it takes must improve people’s lives. When I work on a project, whether it is a toothbrush, a hotel, or a habitation module for space, I always think about what my creation will bring to the person who experiences it. The right reaction to me, and luckily, I get it often is “Thank you! I was in your hotel in x, and I felt so good, more inspired, more in love …” That is what matters.

Caleido interviews Philippe Starck
@starck x @cidadematarazzo
Caleido interviews Philippe Starck
@starck x @sandaliasipanema
Caleido interviews Philippe Starck
Alla stool by @starck x @andreuworld
Caleido interviews Philippe Starck
Tamara table by @starck x @andreuworld
4. in the course of your career, have you encountered significant criticism regarding a particular project? how did you handle this situation and what were the consequences?

At the time of the Starck House, the individual wooden house sold by mail order, 3 Suisses, that I created in 1992, it was forbidden to build wooden houses in France. It was illegal and we were on the verge of demolition. It was an adventure. It showed just how harmful this environment was. Instead of applauding an essay, which showed that the law was scurrilous, the architectural community ganged up on me to say, “What right does he have to speak?”. During a program where I was invited to talk about my non-architectural manifesto, I was physically threatened by phone calls from higher and higher up, the last one telling me that it was dangerous. I didn’t believe it.

Another example would be The Non-Product Catalogue for Non-Consumers in the Next Moral Market. This project was carried out too early, its timing was not appropriate. When it was launched in 1998, people were not yet very aware of ecology, so my offer was not fully understood. But it was a springboard to greater awareness, even if it was only aimed at a small number of people. I can say that now time has caught up with me, and I am very happy of this, for all of us. Now ecology is an obvious concern.

Caleido interviews Philippe Starck
P.A.T.H. - Prefabricated Accessible Technological Homes⁣ | @p.a.t.h._starck_riko by @starck
Caleido interviews Philippe Starck
Housing module for the first private space tourism program, by @starck x @axiom.space (ongoing project)
5. there a project you have wanted to realize, but have not yet had the opportunity to realize? if yes, can you give us an idea of what it would be?

As my wife always says, I have thousands of ideas a minute. There are still unexplored territories, but today the only acceptable object would be something that carries a strong political representation, a new ecological reality, or a new sexual identity. Nothing like that exists yet. I’d also like to create a civilized, modern, intelligent, human civilization, but I don’t know how. And from what I can see, the others seem to be struggling too. Alternatively, it could be design icons that have changed the world in the last ten years, like the artificial heart or the pacemaker.

Caleido interviews Philippe Starck
MOB HOUSE, Saint ouen France @starck x @mobhouse.officiel
6. if you could collaborate with an artist or designer (living or from the past), who would it be and why?

The great scientists I admire, for example Ptolemy, who measured the Earth 1 200 years before J-C with a 30 cm high stick, a camel and a well. The measurements he took from his head were 2 % accurate and were used by everyone until the 16th century. It’s very ingenious. So, I would go for scientists, any of them.

Caleido interviews Philippe Starck
Helpyourself by @starck x @qeeboo_official
Caleido interviews Philippe Starck
Valor.S by @starck x @cassinaofficial
7. what is your view on the concept of “beauty” in design? do you believe that is subjective or are there objective elements that determine the beauty of an object? how did you develop this concept, collaborating with a maison such as @diormaison?

I’m not interested in aesthetics, and I don’t like the word “beauty”, which seems superficial to me. Beauty is a cultural concept; one day we say it is beautiful and the next day we say it is not anymore. I prefer to speak about the balance of parameters that may create harmony and intelligence. When I design a new project, I always think about function and the idea of timelessness. I think about the benefit that the user will derive from my creation. Today, we tend to produce less and less, but when we do, it’s for projects that have a strong guarantee of longevity and transmission, like the Dior by Starck collection; in fact, we should think of things as “harmonious” rather than “beautiful”, carrying values of intelligence, honesty, and creativity.

Caleido interviews Philippe Starck
@starck x @diormaison
Caleido interviews Philippe Starck
@starck x @diormaison
Caleido interviews Philippe Starck
@starck x @diormaison
Caleido interviews Philippe Starck
@starck x @diormaison
8. what was the most unusual inspiration you had for one of your designs and how did you translate into the final design?

I’m not intelligent enough to have inspiration, but if we must use that word, it comes mainly from the evolution of our species. I’m crazy about human genius, I’m crazy about us, about our intelligence. I’m fascinated by our evolution, I watch it, I analyze it, I scrutinize it, I try to predict it and understand it. And that is the soil on which I work. It’s permanent evolution, and creation is obviously something based on evolution.

Caleido interviews Philippe Starck
Lou Read by @starck x @driade_it
Caleido interviews Philippe Starck
Quote from Starck - May 2006 | @starck
9. did you ever have a moment when you lost your passion or enthusiasm for design? if yes, how did you overcome this phase and what helped you regain inspiration?

When I designed the A.I. chair for Kartell, I was beginning to get bored of my own brain, and that of others. You can design something triangular, square, round, yellow or pink, but it’s always the same brain that does it. In the end, structurally, everything looks the same. It’s an aesthetic change, and that is of little interest. Only the structure of things is important. So, I opened doors. 3 years ago, I called upon artificial intelligence, via the company Autodesk. I asked the computer a very simple question: “Can you help me rest my body with the minimum of matter and energy?”. For two and a half years, the machine did some deep learning, asked itself questions, answered itself, made mistakes, and then A.I. beat me. It suggested a chair. That showed that it was true, feasible. From now on, we don’t just have our little brains, we have “Our A.I. friend’s help”.

Caleido interviews Philippe Starck
@starck x @balistonfootwear
10. what is an object in your home that you would never give up? what is the memory attached to it? would you send us a photo taken by you?

My homes are the sedimentation of life: objects from flea market, from gifts, some prototypes … and I have to say I have a lot of my creations, because I design for my tribe, my family, and the older I get, the better my work gets. But I would probably choose my pillow, as when I dream, I go into places I’ve never seen before in my life. I see concepts I’ve never seen before. I breathe air that doesn’t exist. I see inventions and architecture that don’t exist. Everything I see is beyond marvelous in every way. I come out of my nights exhausted, and now I’m seriously wondering whether my real life is day or night.

Caleido interviews Philippe Starck
By @starck

All images are taken from the interviewee’s Instagram account, and are an integral part of the interview’s editorial storytelling. See the interviewee’s Instagram account for full credits.

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