by Brigitte HAGEMANN
Philippe Starck made his name making everyday objects extraordinary, but the French designer and architect believes the “dematerialisation” of modern life will soon make such talents redundant.
“What is the future of design? Well, there isn’t one, because you must understand that everything has a birth, a life and a death and for design it is the same,” he told AFP on the sidelines of the Milan Furniture Fair.
He is here to present a new chair created for fashion house Dior, an update on Christian Dior’s iconic 1947 version of the Louis XVI medallion chair.
Starck, 73, is one of the most prolific inventors of his generation, designing everything from top hotels, luxury yachts and best-selling furniture to juicers and toothbrushes.
He believes, however, that the advance of technology means talents such as his may one day become redundant.
“We make everything disappear,” he said, adding: “Look at your iPhone — the number of products it replaces, it’s extraordinary.
“Before, the size of a computer — it was a building, a suburban house, now it is embedded under the skin.”
The process will reach its end, he says with a smile, when “man is naked on the beach, ultra-powerful, ultra-calculating, ultra-communicative”.
– ‘Say no’ –
The new Miss Dior chair is made entirely in aluminium, available in black chrome, pink copper or gold, while one of the three models rather whimsically has just one armrest.
It comes two decades after Starck launched his best-selling ultra-modern plastic Louis Ghost model, also inspired by the 18th-century Louis XVI medallion chair with its distinctive oval back.
Unlike the plastic chair, however, which retailed around 350 euros (around $370), the Miss Dior costs between 1,700 and 5,000 euros.
“Chairs are an interesting exercise because they are very difficult, despite appearances… slightly easier than going to the moon but not far off,” Starck quipped.
He wanted to ensure his new creation would last, so chose an “extremely solid, extremely technical material, a very ecological and totally recyclable aluminium”.
Starck is a keen advocate of ecological design, dreaming up electric bikes, intelligent thermostats and personal wind turbines among his many creations.
“Ecology, above all, is saying: I want to buy this, but do I need it? If you are honest with yourself, 80 percent of the time you would say no,” he said.
– ‘Every 16 seconds’ –
It also means buying something “for always — it must last”.
Starck traces his pursuit of industrial minimalism to his father, who designed airplanes.
“To make a plane fly, it must be light, you have to remove everything that serves no use,” he said.
He added: “All my life I’ve tried to find the centre of things, the sense of things, the soul of things.”
He says concern for the environment can be met “by not producing” — but he is not giving up yet.
“I have an idea every 16 seconds,” he says.
He justifies making something by asking “if the object is right, if it deserves to exist, if it was made with the minimum of material and energy, if it is accessible to the maximum number of people, if it brings… happiness, laughter”.
If it also allows someone to “sit down, wash, eat — then in that case it is useful and I am proud of it,” he said.