Stepping into the recently opened Room Mate Giulia hotel, one enters the world of its in-demand designer, Patricia Urquiola. With its distinctly retro feel—a palette of peach, forest green and baby blues—and a heaping dose of the architect and designer's signature whimsy, it’s as unpretentious and in-the-moment as any high-end hotel could hope to be. And it's just one of of many successes Urquiola has racked up over the years.
Following Urquiola's trail in Milan is a seemingly endless task. As the artistic director of Cassina and Poltrona Frau, the past week saw dozens of launches for these and other notable industry leaders, like Moroso and Kartell.
Instagrammers fawned over her striking stained-glass collection for Spazio Pontaccio with artist Federico Pepe, while lined up to enter Cassina's booth at the Fiera exhibition center and bask in the environs of her minimalist 900-square-meter (9,687-square-foot) set, inspired by the 1955 Rietveld Pavilion. Urquiola's oeuvre is constantly expanding, with each new work as standout as the next.
Born in Oviedo, Spain, Urquiola studied architecture in Madrid and Milan, starting her career under Achille Castiglioni and Eugenio Bettinelli, then working with the equally prolific Italian designer Piero Lissoni. In 2011, she opened her own architecture and design studio and has since worked on projects ranging from Barcelona's Mandarin Oriental to products for B&B Italia and Boffi Cucine.
"She gives herself over to a project as if she were in fact an actress playing the part of the object or architecture she was assigned to design," writes design purveyor Murray Moss in the foreword to Urquiola's 2013 Rizzoli Monograph, Patricia Urquiola: Time to Make a Book. Unlike many others in the field, this drive, he suggests, is one of passion, not brand enhancement.
Urquiola remains a bastion of industrial design, holding her own in a sea of (mostly) male colleagues. "She taught me that you have to be as tough as nails in this business and always search for originality and authenticity in whatever it is you’re trying to create," says designer Shane Schneck, who considers her his mentor (the pair worked together for five years at Lissoni Associati). "The spirit that she inflicts on others is contagious, and I think you see that in her work."
∙ Patricia Urquiola [Patricia Urquiola]