Philippe Starck unveils new Dior chair, predicts the death of design

French designer Philippe Starck poses by models of "Miss Dior" Medallion chairs he designed for Dior. PHOTO: AFP

MILAN (AFP) - Philippe Starck made his name making everyday objects extraordinary, but the French designer and architect believes the "dematerialisation" of modern life will soon make such talents redundant.

"What is the future of design? Well, there isn't one, because you must understand that everything has a birth, a life and a death. And for design, it is the same," he said on the sidelines of the Milan Furniture Fair.

He is there to present a new chair created for fashion house Dior, an update on the iconic version of the Louis XVI medallion chair that featured in the first boutique founded by Christian Dior in Paris in 1947.

Starck, 73, is one of the most prolific inventors of his generation, designing everything from top hotels and best-selling furniture to juicers and toothbrushes.

He believes, however, that the advance of technology means talents such as his may one day become redundant.

"We make everything disappear," he said. "Look at your iPhone - the number of products it replaces, it's extraordinary. Before, the size of a computer - it was a building, a suburban house. Now, it is embedded under the skin."

The process will reach its end, he says with a smile, when "man is naked on the beach, ultra-powerful, ultra-calculating, ultra-communicative".

The new Miss Dior chair is made entirely of aluminium, available in black chrome, pink copper or gold. One of the three models has just one armrest.

The new Miss Dior chair is made entirely of aluminium, available in black chrome, pink copper or gold. PHOTO: AFP

It comes two decades after Starck launched his best-selling ultra-modern plastic Louis Ghost model, also inspired by the 18th-century Louis XVI medallion chair with its distinctive oval back.

Unlike the plastic chair, however, which retailed for about €350 (S$516), the Miss Dior costs between €1,700 and €5,000.

"Chairs are an interesting exercise because they are very difficult, despite appearances. Slightly easier than going to the moon, but not far off," Starck quipped.

He wanted to ensure his new creation would last, so he chose an "extremely solid, extremely technical material, a very ecological and totally recyclable aluminium".

He is a keen advocate of ecological design, dreaming up electric bikes, intelligent thermostats and personal wind turbines among his many creations. "Ecology, above all, is saying: I want to buy this, but do I need it? If you are honest with yourself, 80 per cent of the time you would say no," he said.

It also means buying something "for always - it must last".

He traces his pursuit of industrial minimalism to his father, who designed airplanes. "To make a plane fly, it must be light, you have to remove everything that serves no use," he said. "All my life, I've tried to find the centre of things, the sense of things, the soul of things."

He said concern for the environment can be met "by not producing" - but he is not giving up yet. "I have an idea every 16 seconds."

He justified making something by asking "if the object is right, if it deserves to exist, if it was made with the minimum of material and energy, if it is accessible to the maximum number of people, if it brings happiness, laughter".

If it also allows someone to "sit down, wash, eat - then, in that case, it is useful and I am proud of it", he said.

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