School dropout Philippe Starck jump-started his career by designing two nightclub interiors in Paris in the 1970s. The success of the clubs won the attention of then-President François Mitterrand, who asked Starck to refurbish one of the private apartments in the Élysée Palace. Two years later, Starck designed the interior of the Café Costes in Paris and was on his way to becoming a design celebrity. In quick succession, he created elegant interiors for the Royalton and Paramount hotels in New York, the Delano in Miami and the Mondrian in Los Angeles. He also began to produce chairs, lamps, motorbikes, boats and a line of housewares and kitchen utensils, like his Juicy Salif for Alessi. During the 1980s and ’90s Starck continued his prolific creativity. His products have sensual, appealing forms suggestive of character or personal identity, and Starck often conferred upon them clever, poetic or whimsical names (for example, his Rosy Angelis Lamp, the La Marie Chair and playful Prince Aha Stool). Starck’s furniture also often reworks earlier decorative styles. For example, the elegant Dr. No Chair is a traditional club chair made unexpectedly of injection-molded plastic. While the material and form would seem to be contradictions, it is just such paradoxes that make Starck’s work so compelling. Starck’s approach to design is subversive, intelligent and always interesting. His objects surprise and delight even as they transgress boundaries and subvert expectations. During the ’90s Starck also began to promote product longevity and stipulate that morality, honesty and objectivity become part of the design process. He has said that the designer’s role is to create more “happiness” with less. One can almost hear echoes of Charles and Ray Eames, who “wanted to make the world a better place.” For all his fame and fashionableness, Starck’s work remains a serious and important expression of 20th-century creativity.
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