Geografias ingenuas

Javier Mariscal has been dubbed the Peter Pan of Spanish design, but his work is often full of social commentary.

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"He was born in February, when the midday sun feels like a caress, in Valencia, in 1950. He was eventually one of 11 brothers and sisters. They lived in the Parterre, in Plaza Alfonso el Magnánimo. In 1957 the river flooded and the shops in Valencia redecorated. Valencia was all full of neon, formica and plastic pastel colours and the doleful style of the years after the Civil War was ditched. Those were the years of Cola-Cao, Coca-Cola, Choleck, the bikini, and Barrachina, the Sistine Chapel of sandwiches and mixed grills. In 1969 he decided to move to Barcelona. In 1981 he became the father of Julia. In 1988 he created Estudio Mariscal. In 1999 he was awarded the National Design Prize. In 2000 he reached his half-century. In 2002 Alma and Linus were born and there were 45 people in the studio. At other times there were 64, or 24. Now the bougainvillea in the studio spans 26 metres and the studio is working on 64 projects and a 280-metre sculpture and a four-page book."

What are lifestyle and other influences impacting on Spanish design at present?

On a formal style level, Spain is dropping minimalism, after at least 10 years of an invasion of that style. One can see a return to organic forms, curves, textures, prints, taking inspiration from nature. On the one hand the "neo-baroque" style is becoming fashionable, revisiting the overly done ornamental elements of the 18th and 19th centuries but adding irony and a sense of humor, simply not taking the convoluted and ostentatious forms seriously at all. And on the other hand, it is clear that the new technologies and the concern for the sustainability of the planet have a strong influence upon the designers and architects, who are searching for ever more clean technologies and new materials that will not deplete the resources we still have. Society is involved in such violence, that design, I believe, is trying to make life more humane, be the foundation for a kinder, easier, more fun and peaceful daily life.

How do you think your personal work will change or develop this year?

I never start a new year thinking about the future, so I have no idea what is going to happen in the next 12 months. My style evolves almost without me being aware of it. Only after I develop into something new do I think about the changes that took place and what caused them.

What are some of the main projects you will be working on personally this year?

An animated film, I am very excited about this project; we've been working on this for some time. We are also making children's furniture for Magis, and furniture collections for other designer furniture producers. Furthermore, we are doing a hotel in Toronto, a big store in the centre of Barcelona; we are still developing the Image and Communication strategy of the America's Cup, and so on…

Could you share some aspects of your presentation at the Design Indaba?

I face conferences as objects, as another job. I don't just want to explain how I work but I want the audience to see me working at that time. Conferences are always a "work in progress". I design them, work around them just as I would do around any other design, I change and renew them. The one I am taking to the Design Indaba is completely new; I am still working on it. I do not even know if I am going to be able to finish it. I started from scratch, and I turn it over and over because it is a piece I am very excited about, as if it were a piece of interiorism or a visual identity. At present we are preparing the technical material, as the conference comes with a sophisticated audiovisual material, with music and sound effects. I do show my work, however, I also explain myself, who I am, where I am going and where I come from, or just the opposite.

What are your expectations of the conference?

I hope I'll be taking part in a designing event with very interesting people. I hope I will learn a lot from the experience and will expand my vision of current design. I also hope my work will be good and people will have fun with it and I could engage in an exchange of ideas and viewpoints regarding design, art and the world in general. South Africa is very far away from Spain, so I do expect to be pleasantly surprised with just about everything.

Watch the Talk with Javier Mariscal