Meet Eugeni Quitllet, Maison&Objet's Designer of the Year 2016
Meet Eugeni Quitllet, Maison&Objet's Designer of the Year 2016

We meet on a Saturday morning, in front of one of these typical French cafés that smell of warm bread and pot-au-feu near the Musée Picasso. We take refuge inside in front of a “petit crème” before the lunchtime clatter begins. We were lucky to catch this top-notch personality of the design world, Eugeni Quitllet, elected Designer of the Year 2016 by Maison&Objet, in between flights. The visionary Catalan talent is on his way to Santa Barbara to complete work on a one-off aluminium piece specially created for his exhibition at the salon’s upcoming January session. Quitllet sits facing me. At once relaxed and attentive, his brown eyes are quick and intelligent. The man flows with positive energy as he explains how much this nomination means to him…

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Aluminium DREAM CATCHER chair by Eugeni Quitllet with Neal Feay
Copyright Eugeni Quitlet
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Liquid Pot by Eugeni Quitllet with Lexon
Courtesy of Eugeni Quitllet

EUGENI QUITLLET: This show for MAISON&OBJET is a turning point in my career. It validates my vision of design through pieces created over three years, while the special object I’ll be showing opens up the way towards more creative freedom. I am an explorer; I don’t like to look back. Strong ties with the past alter the creative process and obliterate what one is aiming towards. One should never be afraid of breaking a pattern to open up new lines of thought. Today I'm into parametric design. The mental energy - the idea from which my new piece germinates - is condensed in a 3-D document then the robot butts in and gives it materiality, a body. I call this process “human made by a robot”.

ESENSUAL LIVING: Do you like working in the U.S.?

EQ: Yes, because in the U.S. they look ahead and have no qualms about it while over here we are all tied up by our past. On the West Coast you don’t feel weighed down by history. There is an impermanent factor that is very exciting and productive. If you brew too many questions, if you compare yourself with yesterday it stops you from going ahead with open eyes and an open mind. In the U.S. they approach living on another planet in the same way the first settlers took off to America. The future is to innovate. If you don’t have that optimistic side, you back up and stick to the past, then why not go back to your cave and drape yourself in pelts? Future is a positive state of mind. To prepare the future is to make things happen.

EL: Behind the design, it seems you are interested in what defines the core of the object, its archetype.

EQ: The object is a conductor. The human hand, with its sensuality, gives a subtle sparkle to matter, a flicker of soul. To design is to animate matter, to give each piece its particular vibration.

EL: Some say you are a designer with a cause. Do you see yourself as such?

EQ: I am first and foremost an industrial designer. But, yes, I like to create sculptural pieces that make people think. I want people to think ahead, to pinch them into more awareness. I am a designer with a cause in the sense that I try to send a positive message through the object, something that brings more harmony to our lives… Design is an exercise in optimism, a fight towards more optimism through technology which is a vital part of contemporary life.

EL: Still, you keep on designing for everyday life…

EQ: Yes but take for instance this iconic piece, the chair. For me it doesn’t have an existence so to say. I start from scratch and create a design adapted to a small period in time as I always “think” in terms of evolution. It should be comfortable but not only that. Each object is a statement, an exploration, a discovery that breaks up new frontiers in our way of life.

EL. Do objects carry a message?

EQ. There is something at the same time very abstract and very real about each object. I translate this through pieces where I reveal the silhouette hidden in the material, its skeletal self. I play with fullness and emptiness to capture the essence of things like in the Light Air lamp or the Shine vase I did for Kartell. For Air France I designed industrial plastic cutlery hoping travellers would notice something different about it, stop just for a second to enjoy the set and hesitate just another second before discarding it. Awareness from the consumer is a vital aspect of design.

EL: What is your favourite material?

EQ: Plastic is the most beautiful skin for giving body to an idea.

EL: You worked in a strong partnership with Philippe Starck for several years and opened your studio in Barcelona in 2011. Did you always want to be a designer?

EQ: Yes, I always wanted to be one. I see it as an evolution from my childhood. I used to draw cars non-stop. My room was full of them. The other boys would go out to play; I would go indoors to draw. I guess it’s the story of my life!

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STONE chair by Eugeni Quitllet for Habitat's Autumn-Winter 2016 collection
Courtesy of Eugeni Quitllet

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