by Ashleigh Vanhouten
Photography courtesy of Ceramica Sant'Agostino, Duravit, Hansgrohe Axor, and James Bort (headshot)
Visionary, artist, traveler, professor, pioneer, environmentalist—these are just a few oft-used descriptors of French-born designer Philippe Starck. His unique stamp can be found on hotels, restaurants, and private residences around the world, as well as products ranging from furniture and bath accessories to streetlights and alarm clocks. “I was never interested in design or architecture. It is design that chose me, somehow. Creating is a mental sickness and it is the only thing I am able to do,” he says. “Whether it is a toothpick, an airplane, a mega yacht, or a faucet, it is always the same philosophy: to think of the profit of the final user, and to start from the highest vision and ethical standpoint.”
Starck is known for thinking above and beyond the aesthetics of a project to its potential for human connection as well as an opportunity to send a political message—almost despite the beauty of his work, he consciously overlooks “materiality” to get to the honesty of its function and message. “I use design as a political weapon, to spread ideas such as democratic design—that is, to increase quality for the most people while decreasing price—and this was very new thirty years ago when design was dedicated only to the elite,” he explains. “I am continuing now with democratic ecology, which is to create ecological products that are easy to find and use at affordable prices.”
An example is his Axor Starck Organic line. This sleek series of faucets references both “vegetal” shapes and that of the human body to “remind us of the coherence between us and saving water.”
The aptly named Axor Starck Organic line of faucets
His clean, vibrant Flexible Architecture ceramic tile collection with Ceramica Sant’Agostino utilizes the grout as a part of the design concept rather than a simple functional element, a detail Starck attributes to the craftsmanship and abilities of the Sant’Agostino team. And there’s his longstanding relationship with Duravit, resulting in three comprehensive bathroom lines spanning more than 20 years. His newest pieces, from the Starck 2 series, include a minimalist washbasin and bathtub with integrated headrest.
Born from Starck's more than 20-year relationship with Duravit, this minimal bathtub is part of the Starck 2 collection.
While we will undoubtedly continue to see more from Starck—especially innovations at the intersection of sustainability and functionality—the next project isn’t exactly top of mind for the designer. “Strangely, I have no special desire for new creation. I just produce something when I am not happy with what I see, when I feel I can propose a new solution, a new vision, a new philosophy. I am not very happy that all my weapons are materialistic. The best weapons are actions.”
Starck collaborated with Ceramica Sant'Agostino on a vibrant ceramic tile collection.