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Philippe Starck is a world-renowned French designer, known for his work in interior design, industrial design and architecture. Throughout his career, Starck continuously challenged himself, always diversifying his activities and bringing innovation to every project he worked on. His designs range from designer furniture to everyday objects and even endeavours in architecture. Following his design philosophy strongly influenced by the functionalist approach of the Scandinavian style, Starck always tried to make his designs accessible to the greatest possible number of people at the affordable price.
Early Life and Career
Philippe Starck was born on 18th of January, 1949 in Paris, France. Influenced by his father’s career in aeronautical engineering, Starck got interested in industrial design at a rather early age. After finishing his studies at the Nissim de Camondo School in Paris, he founded his first design firm in 1968, specialized in the manufacturing of inflatable objects. His first project, an inflatable structure sketched out in 1969 foreshadowed his life-long interest in materials and housing. By the early 1970s, he expanded his activities and developed a keen interest in interior design. During this period, Starck designed the interiors of many Parisian nightclubs, with “The Hand Blue” and “Bains-Douches” being the most famous examples.
Philipe Starck's Interior Design
In 1983, Philippe obtained his first major assignment – the renovation of the private apartments of the French president Francois Mitterand at the Elysée Palace. The immense success of this project was instantly recognized, both in France and abroad, prompting a wave of interest in Philippe Starck’s interior design. But, it was his work for the Café Coste in Paris that really established him in this field. As Starck later explained, he designed the scenery of this classic Parisian café after a metro station in Budapest, thus creating a unique and innovative visual experience which displayed his work and design philosophy to a wider public. Following this project, Starck started getting requests from many prestigious institutions around the world, with Royalton and Paramount hotels from New York being his biggest clients at the time.
His work on many projects, both in France and overseas, gained him critical acclaim and public recognition for his modern and innovative approach to interior design. While bringing his unique style to every project he worked on, Philippe Starck never created the same décor twice. One of his core ideas was to customize each design in order to adapt to the location, history and the architectural style. Without notable preference for any particular material, Starck always tried to find the balance between his flair for experiment and the demands of his clients. His style, both in furniture and interior design, is easily recognizable for its fluid, clean lines and original approach which was equally suited for sumptuous or old historic buildings and ultra-modern nightclubs.
Despite his success in interior design, the core idea of Philippe Starck’s design philosophy was to provide widely accessible products for the general public. This idea really marked his career, and for most of the time, he worked towards this goal in parallel with his interior design projects. In 1979, he founded an industrial design company called “Starch Product”, which he later renamed “Ubik”, after Philip K. Dick’s novel. This company was focused on designing and distributing mass-produced, simple, everyday objects ranging from toothbrushes to household equipment and furniture. By creating affordable products, Starck hoped to democratize designer products which were usually reserved for the elite.
To achieve this goal, Starck advertised his products by mail in popular catalogues such as Les Trois Suisses or La Redoute. This approach achieved great success and in a short amount of time, Starck’s products found their place in many homes around the world. Lowering the price while preserving the quality of the product was, at the time, something rather unorthodox in the design world, but Philippe always argued that design is not only about making aesthetic objects – but also making them practical. Always looking for new ways to ensure his products’ functionality and to use them to improve people’s lives by their ease of use, Starck saw fun and surprise as important elements of a good design.
Throughout his career, Starck collaborated with many successful brands while working on different products, including toothbrushes for Fluocaril, office furniture for Vitra or a wide range of everyday objects for companies such as Panazani, Glacier or Decaux. Passionate about design in all its forms and always looking for ways to further challenge himself, Philippe Starck rarely refused any opportunity. He designed the first optical mouse for Microsoft and also worked in the fashion industry while designing shoes for Puma or travel bags for Louis Vitton. He even designed a yacht for the famous Steve Jobs who, sadly, passed away before paying one hundred million dollars he owed to the designer.
While working for Kartell, Starck created his most popular designer chair, the Marie Chair, made of transparent polycarbonate. The innovative aesthetic of the chair, never seen before, along with its lightness and functionality surprised the public and achieved great success. His other famous work, the Louis Ghost Chair, named so for its style reminiscent of the French court décor in the time of Louis XVI, has been sold in over a million and a half copies, all over the world.
Work in Architecture
Although Philippe Starck wasn’t as well known for his architecture achievements as for his other designs, these undertakings were an important part of his career. Most of his architectural works are located in Tokyo, Japan, with the most famous being the Asahi Beer Hall, a large building in the shape of a beer glass, made of granite, with the iconic flame-like structure on the roof and the UNHEX-Nani Nani office building, a large oddly shaped green building, inspired by the Science Fiction aesthetic.
His works in the field of architecture earned him an award from the Harvard Design School.
While democratic design, inventive approach and concept of universal design are most well-known characteristics of Starck’s work, he also showed great concern for the environment and an interest in ecology. He created his own organic food company, AOA, and the Good Goods catalogue, in partnership with La Redoute, to sell eco-friendly products. During his career, Philippe Starck created multiple wind turbines to produce electricity and contributed to the development of non-polluting vehicles like solar boats or hydrogen-working cars. In line with his design philosophy, Starck continuously worked on finding the ways not to reduce the pace of people’s consumption, but to adapt objects and goods to the environmental concerns. When talking about this approach, Starck often referred to it as “Democratic Ecology”.
Popularity and Appearances in the Media
Philippe Starck built his international reputation thanks to his creative, ecological and democratic engagements, but also thanks to his unconventional personality. He often appeared in the media where he outlined his vision of the world and the role of design in shaping it. Recently, he revealed his new project – the design of a luxury hotel in the city of Metz, France, scheduled to be completed in 2018.