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A catch-up in Seoul with Cassina’s creative director. Words by Chul-Joon Park. Photograph by Jaean Lee.

On a recent afternoon in Seoul, Spanish industrial designer Patricia Urquiola stopped by for a quick coffee and a conversation with Kinfolk’s Chul-Joon Park. Against the backdrop of Kinfolk Dosan’s Three Rooms exhibition of mid-century and contemporary furniture, the Cassina creative director spoke about how she makes the most of her busy travel schedule, the advice of her mentors and her own hopes for the next generation.

CHUL-JOON PARK: Welcome to Seoul. You’ve worked on several projects here, including retail and hotel spaces. What are you enjoying about the city?

PATRICIA URQUIOLA: When traveling, we all get in touch with a side of us that’s rather childish. You’re more curious and much more aware. My head is a bit in the clouds and my thoughts are scattered, but the haziness from jet lag lets me be more lenient with my thinking and reveals more about the things I’m seeing. There are a lot of incredible contemporary buildings in Korea, but I’ve fallen in love with the small shops in between them. Yesterday, we came across a shop with a depth of one meter and a length of one meter, with two chairs inside. It felt perfectly connected to the city.

CJP: Collaboration is clearly important to your work. How do you begin a project?

PU: My teacher [Milanese furniture designer] Achille Castiglione always mentioned that the fundamental elements of a project have to be clear, and you can evolve from there. There must be something driving you. That can evolve and change but cannot be compromised.

CJP: What keeps you driven?

PU: I’m lucky to have a life with a lot of possibilities. I’m happy that I could have a voice, travel the world and understand things. It’s all about making choices. I use my energy in many different ways, and I try to be myself and be genuine. Good relationships help a lot. One thing I always say to younger people is that you have to be adaptable but, at the same time, you have to maintain your compass or your foundation. For example, if you run in the morning as part of your daily routine but also have a dog, then you take the dog with you. It’s not an argument; you do it happily.

CJP: What do you do when things aren’t going so well? How do you slow down?

PU: I always say that when you have a bad moment—perhaps you think about what happened the day before—just go out and take a walk or figure out a plan to pull your mind out of the bad energy. Find a way to see how fantastic each day is. But energy has nothing to do with speed: I live my life [at my own pace], I enjoy things. When you’re young, there are so many dramas and you can easily lose your intention. At my age, it’s very easy to understand that we have to find what we need nearby. 

CJP: What are your thoughts on the next generation?

PU: I try to give them possibilities and believe in them. My generation didn’t have to earn that belief because it was a time with a lot of humanism. We have to let them become more open to understanding how to deal with our current circumstances. We have to also take care of things from the past to enable the connection with the contemporary. I believe we can all evolve regardless of age.

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