Patricia Urquiola was born in Oviedo, Spain, in 1961.

She had wanted to be a designer from the age of 12 and enrolled at the Madrid Polytechnic to study architecture before completing her degree at the Milan Polytechnic in 1989 under Achille Castiglioni.

Urquiola worked as an assistant to Castiglioni and Eugenio Bettinelli in Milan and Paris from 1990 to 1992, and around this time she started working for Milanese furniture company De Padova and co-designed several pieces with the legendary Vico Magistretti.

While at De Padova, she continued designing interiors, showrooms and restaurants in association with architects de Renzio and Ramerino.

In 1996, she left De Padova and became the head of the design division at Piero Lissoni’s Lissoni Associati and worked on projects for major furniture and homewares brands, like Alessi, Artelano and Kartell, until 2000, when she left to begin designing under her own name.

She opened her own studio in Milan the following year, focusing on architecture, exhibitions and product design.

The release of the Moroso upholstered-seating products ‘Lowland’ and ‘Lowseat’ (2000), and her ‘Fjord’ chair (2002) finally got Urquiola noticed, but it wasn’t until 2003 that industry awards began to come her way. Announced Elle Decoration’s International Designer of the Year, Urquiola’s ‘Fjord’ range was then voted Best System at the IMM Cologne furniture fair.

Her first design for Foscarini – the ‘Bague’ light – also won a Good Design award at the Chicago Athenaeum, and a large amount of press coverage was given to her ‘Clip’ bed for Molteni&C and ‘Lazy’ chair range for B&B Italia.

In 2004, she made the XIX Compasso D’oro shortlist and released her first highly craft-based design: the woven cane ‘Flo’ chairs for Driade.

This interest in traditional craft has become a strong part of Urquiola’s oeuvre and can be seen in products like her ‘Crochet’ rug for Paola Lenti (2005) and ‘Canasta’ (2007) and ‘Crinoline’ (2008; pictured) outdoor ranges for B&B Italia.

Urquiola has a fashion-designer’s eye for upholstery.

Past triumphs include the ‘Antibodi’ chaise (2006) for Moroso, on which felt and wool fabric is sewn into panels that fall open to create 3D flowers, and her ‘Volant’ sofa and chair from 2007 that use upholstery reminiscent of a flamenco skirt, with the frame treated like a coathanger – a barely noticeable element.

Fast facts

The most successful and influential female product designer for several decades, Patricia Urquiola’s style combines slick, contemporary looks and traditional Spanish and Italian crafts.

She often draws upon ethnic cultures to produce a humanising touch to her bold designs.

Best known for…

The ‘Fjord Relax’, pictured, an asymmetrical swivel armchair, provided the spark to ignite Urquiola’s international fame. It was part of a large series for Moroso, which later won best range at IMM Cologne in 2003.

And even though Urquiola’s studio has broadened its product design to include bathroomware for Hansgrohe and Agape as well as installations for Bisazza, furniture design still remains the key focus, as seen by the new pieces on show at Milan Furniture Fair.

Recent woven works for Driade and B&B Italia also showcase her signature style.

Patricia Urquiola gallery

Other Polytechnic graduates:

* Gae Alunti
* Cini Boeri
* Jasper Morrison

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