The World Needs More Starck

An orange squeezer that looks like a spider getting ready to race away; a footstool that looks like a giant crown from a child’s cartoon; a traditional sofa collection suited for the outdoors. These are just a few of the achievements of Philippe Starck, the brilliant Parisian creator and contemporary artist. His mission: to demonstrate that what you see isn’t necessarily what you get — nor is it what you think it should be.

Re-evaluating and destroying the conventional wisdom and architectural and artistic concepts of the twentieth century, Starck would rather identify himself as a creator rather than a mere furniture designer. As pretentious as the man sounds, looks and actually admits to being, “One needs to be pretentious to create something,” he says. Starck’s design philosophy revolves around the idea that everyone is entitled to a little beauty in their lives, no matter what the cost. Hence his creations can be found anywhere from public parks to private high-scale lofts in Paris. The thematic thread that runs through his work is composed of the idea that the world needs to be a subversive place, viewed from many different angles, even if they don’t fit in the greater scheme of our daily lives. With a deep and profound respect for all that is human and natural, Starck has been on a quest to align our futures with the tools and industrial concepts that surround us today.

Following in the footsteps of his French counterparts, such as eternal fashion bad-boy Jean-Paul Gauthier, Starck finds himself to be a childish contradiction of what he creates, how he presents it and what his designs end up being. Starck can easily pontificate about the need for a more united and economically sound world for all its citizens — while presenting a collection of daily household objects that he dubs “non-objects” (things with no specific use) that resemble actual domestic items. The idea is that the individual stops in his tracks in the morning to question his surroundings as he tries to brush his teeth with his new Starck plaque fighter — which resembles a modern Elizabethan teeth-scraper more than a normal toothbrush.

There is no particular limit to the range of Starck’s creations and designs. He was first discovered in 1970 after creating a giant, inflatable dome-like house, which led him to becoming Pierre Cardin’s artistic director. Eventually, inevitably, he became the design darling of the trendiest nightclubs in Paris, then Tokyo and Madrid. Since 1979, the year he founded his enterprise, he has been delving into the industrial (upside-down looking watering cans) just as much as he has fashion accessories (a protective gas mask against a possible nuclear attack, anyone?). Then onto fortifying ginseng products, teddy bears with a head on every limb, furniture (who knew gnomes holding up a round table-top could be so cute) and a giant installation piece on a Japanese brewery that some say looked like a flame and others say was more like a giant, cartoon piece of shit.

The child in Starck is constantly provoking reaction in his surroundings, but he says it with humour, asking you to laugh with him as he tries to be an adult about his career endeavours. He is living the life of a childlike dreamer — one accomplished on a very commercial path.

In a world where everywhere you turn, either in suburbia or downtown, the same condo and loft-style home is being built, according to the same design principles conventionally taught in most design institutions. Eventually, you feel as though you’re stranded in a world that is uniform from one block to the next. Starck is a welcomed breath of fresh air and humour in our daily lives — a worthy influence for any aspiring designer-creator. After all, without Starck and his large piece of shit-flame, what else would inspire the passer-bys of the Asahi brewery driving to work every morning?

Justin-Barry Mahoney

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