In the case of the Lazy Chair, the material she fell in love with was a synthetic honeycomb fabric used for terrain embankment filters. Urquiola not only found the dimensionality of the material visually interesting, but its functional properties allowed her to make a chair that was weather resistant, extremely light, and reduced fabrication costs.
“My aim,” Urquiloa notes, “is to domesticate industrial material and create objects that are interesting, pleasing, appealing. The material is important, but I don’t think the use of a new material can guarantee, on its own, the newness of a product. The job of the designer is to give emotional meaning to materials in the context of concrete, practical applications.”
The practical application for the first in the Lazy line was to create a comfortable, flexible patio chair with one position for sitting and another for lounging. Urquiola explains the chair’s essential quality: “It’s for the moment. You sit outside for a bit of conversation. Then the Sun comes out and you become lazy. The chair becomes lazy like you.”
The chair’s manufacturer, B&B Italia, was so pleased with the Lazy, they asked her to make something for indoor use. “They wanted to do something very elegant, but also to add a bit of irony, make it a bit contemporary,” Urquiola says. She began her process by sketching various options for a high-back dining room chair. Ever mindful of the real-life application of her designs, she points out, “Sitting at a table, we are all so elegant. But in our contemporary times, this can be too severe, too bourgeois. There’s a new way of living and eating with friends. I wanted to be conceptual and a little bit provocative from the very beginning. I wanted to do the thing that is not any more in fashion. All the designers now are making low back dining chairs. So I do the high back, but in a modern theme.” The formality of the high-back chair is lightened by the sensuality of the shape, almost like a slender-shouldered, ample-hipped woman. In addition, the chair’s metal wire frame allows it to flex with a person’s movement, so it’s extremely comfortable.
With the outdoor and high-back versions of the Lazy chairs complete, a family was beginning to take shape. A low-back chair was added, then an armchair, and finally a stool for the kitchen. “You need a papa, mama, etcetera,” Urquiola says. “We created them all over the course of a few years. You need that time and mental space to create the whole family.” All of the chairs are based on a
simple, wire frame structure: a “wire spaghetti” Urquiola calls it. The interior seating also has removable fabric coverings that can be washed or replaced to give the chairs a longer, more flexible life. Urquiola reports that the fabrication and manufacturing was quite straightforward. “This product went quite quickly,” she jokes, “Just like the Lazy name says, it went the easy way.”
All teasing aside however, Urquiola points out the importance of paying attention to every detail, especially the final upholstery and fabric. “The skin of a product must take a lot of care because it is the last layer, the one that is in view. You can’t leave that part to someone else,” she says. “If I design the dress, I also want to design the jacket.”
But Urquiola also knows the value of collaboration. “I am not afraid of the brief,” she says. “A brief gives a frame to the fantasy.” She goes on, “Design is a long process and working with a company there are a lot of limits and compromises, from commercial concerns to marketing. They propose to you the problems, sometimes they think the problems are too big, sometimes they help you resolve them. But you have to pick and choose which problems you will accept. You must understand when you say no, why you’re saying no.”
Urquiola also feels that self-awareness is critical to getting an end product that is true to the original design sensibility. “I am now beginning to be an adult, and know myself, and know how to use myself to get things done,” she says. “I like to inspect, design, take time to get to a conclusion that we agree about. Because, you see, I am not so easy. But I try to be half of the day funny and sweet, and the other half of the day a little more demanding. Of course, you have to accept compromise, but one or two compromises. And your ‘no’ must be more seducing than your ‘yes.’ It’s much more difficult to say a good ‘no’ than a good ‘yes’,” she points out.
Urquiola relates in a very personal way to her creations. She not only expects the Lazy line to grow—“perhaps one day we do uncles and brothers that are part of the family,” she says —but she also has high expectations for the specific contributions her designs should make.
Side by side comparisons show prototypes and final versions, including the two back positions, of the Lazy Llounge Chair.
Credit: Fabrizio Bergamo
® The Lazy Chairs are made with “spaghetti” metal frames that flex when someone sits or moves, enhancing their comfort.
Credit: Fabrizio Bergamo
Initial sketches of the high-back dining room chair make a nod to, even as they veer away from, traditional and formal ideas of a dining chair.
Credit: Patricia Urquiola
The Lazy Dining Room Chair was designed to reflect the human form as well as our more modern, less formal lifestyle. Credit: Patricia Urquiola
For Urquiola, design is about creating products that enhance our lives. “You provoke in the creative dimension,” she says, “always to get something. But the product itself does not need to be provocative; it must be easy for life. We designers are not people who are changing the world. I am moving with my society, trying to get the most contemporary way, but I know the limits of my work. Products should give you an idea of something new, but they should also give you confidence.” She concludes, “You need to have products that you can live with, your eyes can have a comfort with, and they can help with you with living.”
© Scaled down models of the dining chair were used to refine the proportion and line. The high-back design was chosen as a nod to tradition and a provocation to the current trend towards midback dining chairs.
Credit: Fobrizio Bergamo
The entire Lazy family offers a chair for every part of the home, from the dining room table, to the kitchen, living room, and out on the patio. Credit: Fabrizio Bergamo