Bathroom designer Patricia Urquiola finds beauty in unexpected places

Patricia Urquiola has solidified her standing as one of the world's most accomplished and prolific talents

26 August 2018 - 00:00 By Julia Freemantle

Patricia Urquiola, the quintessential designer's designer, has achieved almost iconic status in the creative world. Working with high-design furniture brands Moroso, De Padova, Kettal and B&B Italia and large-scale hospitality projects like Mandarin Oriental and the W Hotel, her scope seems endless and ever-expanding.
Educated in Madrid as an architect as well as a designer, Spanish-born Urquiola made Milan her home and established her own studio in 2001. Her understanding of structure and space, deep conceptual thinking and drive to innovate give her designs a sense of delight that render them classics.
Urquiola's projects speak to her audience on a very human level as she takes into account how the end user sees the product's design, as well as how they interact with it. Designed to elicit emotional response and aesthetic appreciation, she also considers the longevity of a product.
One of the first high-profile designers to think about bathrooms holistically, Urquiola was an early driver of the bathroom-as-living-space trend in terms of how the space can appeal to all the senses.
Since 2004, she has collaborated with Agape, the Italian bathroom company whose calling card has been fresh interpretations and innovation since 1973. Named after Lake Como (which used to be called Larius), the Lariana for Agape combines straight and curved lines in an ode to early 20th-century Milanese architecture - a perfect example of how Urquiola combines classical elements and forward-thinking design and technology to appeal to the emotions as well as the eye.
Also for Agape, her Cuna (meaning cradle) design harks back to her training, so expressive is it of its form. The tubular stainless-steel frame holds the rounded tub, displaying its shape and making a feature of the bath itself. Her Rigo concept takes this structural approach even further, with a furniture system inspired by architecture; a versatile and linear system that allows for both simple and complex permutations.
A 2012 project with the Axor brand for Hansgrohe saw her creating a feminine, playful and personal space celebrating the idea of sanctuary, using light and water as design elements. Here she wanted to have "a conversation about intimacy".
Urquiola moved further into the tech and conceptual space through her association with Swiss brand Laufen, working with its revolutionary high-tech ceramic material SaphirKeramik, on SONAR, a collection of elegant wall-hung and free-standing washbasins, countertop bowls and bathtubs.
"For me, Laufen means innovation, choice, research on the finest materials, and respect for design aimed at achieving maximum quality," says Urquiola. Her goal here was to combine the rigour of architectural minimalism and understatement with the dynamism of sound waves and their relationship with water.

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