Veteran French designer Philippe Starck now looks to space

PHILIPPE Starck, the prolific French architect and designer who has made everything from lemon juicers to wind turbines, shows no sign of slowing down and is increasingly turning his eye to space.

Visiting an exhibition at the Museum of Decorative Arts in Paris featuring some his early work, the 73-year-old seemed bemused by the volume of items on display.

"I don't have the software for periods and dates," he told AFP when asked about the period.

"To me, the 1980s were like being abandoned in an Amazon jungle with nothing to eat, wild animals everywhere, a rusty machete... I just did what I could. And when you do what you can, you don't remember what's going on elsewhere."

Starck made his name as an interior decorator for Paris nightclubs in the 1970s, before landing a dream commission to refurbish the Elysee Palace apartments for President Francois Mitterrand in 1983.

He went on to design luxurious hotels and restaurants around the world.

But he also gave the world an uber-electic range of everyday items, from his futuristic lemon juicer to electric bikes, toothbrushes, water bottles - and on to boats, wind turbines and control towers.

There was always a hint of humour and surrealism, he said, but also a desire to "democratise design" by keeping things affordable.

"We managed to remove two zeros from prices," he said. "At the time, in today's prices, sitting on something designer cost 20,000 euros, which wasn't right. Today, it's 700 euros, which isn't bad."

These days, Starck cares less about household objects and has his eyes on bigger things.

There is a long-awaited "labouratory for pure creativity" being built in Qatar, and immediately after the exhibition, he was due at the launch of a new hydrogen energy project.

But his real focus appears to be skyward: working with US company Axiom Space on the living quarters it plans to connect to the International Space Station, and teaming up with Nasa for a new astronaut training camp.

The focus on space is part of our "necessary change" as a species, he said.

"Except when we're dead, we've been fixed by gravity, but that's clearly over, so I'm tackling it head-on."

Some early memories remain - being left with some old toys and his grandfather's workbench during the holidays as a young child: "I made my first items on that workbench and I haven't stopped since."

A surreal early inspiration comes to him: seeing Mick Jagger dancing around with a neon tube in some film.

"I found it extraordinary and chic - I thought to myself that someone should make it for real so that everyone could be Jagger for a minute." AFP


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