The past year brought about extensive change for everyone around the world. Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, we’ve experienced adaptations in how we work, live, and play; changes in attitudes regarding what really matters; and a shift in our appreciation of nature, our relationships with one another, and what it means to work and be part of a team.
With so much more of our workday occurring in a digital world, Spark interviewed designer Patricia Urquiola to understand how the past year altered her perspective and design approach. Learn how the “new normal” played into the design of the 2021 virtual show place, House of Haworth.
“The House of Haworth shows the new items and products we have in a fresh way. I think digital has its limits—but it also has a very nice side with more creative freedom than often found in reality. We did our best to capture that freedom in this digital representation.”
Architect & Designer
Designed by Patricia Urquiola and Studio Urquiola—in collaboration with Kohler—the House of Haworth is a virtual experience like no other.
“This year we are growing on the idea in our imagination and our inspiration,” says Patricia. The new House of Haworth is something between a domestic space and a retreat. “It is a place with another kind of relational integration and a space designed in relation to nature.”
The connection between the indoors and outdoors is where Patricia envisions people desire to go—using hybrid spaces for working, relaxing, brainstorming, and collaborating. Envisioning ideal workplaces that seamlessly incorporate nature, Patricia reminisced about her many visits to Haworth’s global headquarters in Holland, Michigan.
“The headquarters is an incredible building with floor-to-ceiling windows that face nature—where most of the people work with views of the landscape. You can freely see the seasons and the weather—the time evolving. All the furniture placed outdoors for moments of relaxation, coffee breaks, or casual networking take on an even more important role—they provide comfortable flex spaces that allow people to choose where to work throughout the day.”
To Patricia, nature holds profound value and connection to our past, present, and future. “It is something that is in all of us. It's like our shadow. It's an argument that is looking to the future and it is part of everything. Then, I think nature is also part of our culture. Nature binds—and also transcends—cultural needs and thoughts.” A connection to natural elements in space design can help improve mood, productivity, and enhance well-being.
Pandemic Impact on Design
Reflecting on the COVID-19 pandemic and the many drastic changes it created, Haworth sought to design a space with considerations to how people felt, and what they learned, while spending more time at home. In recent months, the space we call home has been forced to meet different needs and take on new purposes—and the work from anywhere movement is playing a big role in what that means.
With Patricia’s home serving as a studio and a safe workplace for her team, she regularly challenges everyone to look beyond the confines of their four walls.
“I have a terrace garden on the rooftop and a little patio in our courtyard, which is not only for us, but for the whole building. In these shared spaces we learned how to be more linked to our neighbors. It is interesting because sometimes when we could work together, to be safe the team would spread out into the courtyard. While there, someone from another area of the building wandered over and became a model for a presentation. Then later, another neighbor asked to see some of our prototypes.”
Patricia noticed how well conversations and work flowed when supported by nature. “My house as a dormitory disappeared and became a laboratory of working in virtual ways. For example, in the mountains where I live, when it was not so cold like the spring months or early autumn, our mindset changed and we kept saying things like, ‘Let’s talk a moment, and then let’s go out on the rooftop and continue the conversation there.’” For Patricia, choosing to do work in outdoor spaces became vital to design.
In addition to the team benefits of working in the courtyard and meeting neighbors, Patricia relishes how she and her family benefited from their additional time together. “We created a kind of a WhatsApp call with my family, with our daughters, and with our team. We discovered all the ways to connect. We learned how to eat and cook in different ways—or to deeply understand and discuss topics and ideas that, perhaps before, we had less time for.”
Patricia says, “I think we all experienced the last of something and likely will again in the coming years. This is difficult to define because the moment we are in now is so intense, and many of us had to change our habits completely. But with all the difficulties, progress has been made and new ways of doing things have come forth. I think the pandemic obliged us to do many things in different ways. Some are just temporary solutions, but others are concrete changes that helped us to rewind and reset our way of doing things. Even during this difficult time I had the ability to keep working with my team—and my house and my studio are working in tandem.”
The Spaces That Make a Home
Moving from an urban home to a domestic retreat allowed Patricia and her team to incorporate a gorgeous kitchen, bedroom, and bathrooms—another departure and enhancement from the 2020 House of Haworth.
In a nod to how much Haworth and its family of companies have evolved, Patricia says, “When I came to Haworth the first time, it was an office furniture company. I remember meeting with the Haworth family, the CEO, and the president. They all said, ‘We need you to apply your idea of empathy and design so that we can meld everything in a better way.’ I think we're working on that and I am proud of how far we’ve all come.”
The melding of products from different brands within Haworth, in collaboration with Kohler, helped Patricia and her team select furniture, lighting, and materials to create the new House of Haworth virtual space. The design works to understand and show how the whole house—including the kitchen, bedroom, bathroom, and patio—support the way we live and work. “It’s the concept of enlarging and enhancing well-being, where working and living is a large part of the design perspective,” explains Patricia.
Natural Blending of Products
Patricia’s designs often meld products with respect and purpose. For the House of Haworth, Patricia says, “We are really finding a way to do crossovers in a natural way, and that is important. For me, the key is developing a path that we are creating together.” Different companies often have different aims and perspectives, but when we choose to dialogue and work together, great things—especially design—will happen.
Wherever you are, you can explore the virtual House of Haworth designed by Patricia Urquiola and Studio Urquiola. From the kitchen to the home office—and even an outdoor pool and garden space—you’ll find the breadth of brands coordinated to design perfection.