Amsterdam – On a quest to politicize and democratize, he has designed almost every object imaginable: from toothbrush, chair and lemon juicer to motor bike, clothing and pasta. Yet it’s his work on interiors that brings Philippe Starck the Frame Lifetime Achievement Award this year.
What started in 1984 with the Parisian Café Costes is a prolific 35-year-long career of reinventing spatial typologies with a nose for what’s next. At Costes, he did away with the typical French neighbourhood cafe, to be found at every place. Instead, he introduced a somewhat bewildering mix of fluid minimalism and grandiose theatricality, always referencing the past and introducing – what later turned out to be – the future.
For client Ian Schrager he concocted a series of hotels, kicking off with the Royalton in New York City, which provided a blueprint for a new hospitality experience later dubbed boutique hotel. Combining grand gestures with quirky details, these hotels were like staged scenarios, waiting for users to bring them to life. Keeping with his intention to make democratic design, Starck took on the hostel in 2008. Mama Shelter not only provided fun and dignified hospitality to those with smaller wallets, it also revived an entire Parisian neighbourhood and kickstarted an industry trend.
But Starck didn’t limit himself to hospitality interiors. With his retail designs for Alain Mikli eyewear and Taschen books in the 90s he was far ahead of the current craze of ‘experiential’ stores. And the Yoo brand that he launched in 1999 with John Hitchcox changed the real estate industry by offering arguably the first apartments that were fully furnished with contemporary design.
Like every master, Starck produced pupils that followed in his footsteps, such as Patrick Jouin, Matali Crasset and Jean-Marie Massaud. One could even argue that many of today’s leading designers owe credit to the Frenchman, who paved the way for them.
Although Starck has helped launch the career of some of the greatest business minds, he proclaims in interviews that he’s not in the business for money. ‘My priorities are to revolutionize usage architecture and to clean and revolutionize symbolism,’ he has said. ‘To move toward greater simplicity, discretion and harmony with nature; and to use human standards rather than technical standards, or worse, sexual standards.’
He designs for human profit, aiming at improving the lives of the final users of his designs. He also designs to feed his family, he stated in an interview with Frame in 2012. And to serve his society.