Philosophy as design’s partner

Philosophy as design’s partner

Design was born from specific needs and it responds to them. Andrea Cesarman knows it. She took this idea to C Cúbica Arquitectos 30 years ago, and to Design Week Mexico, 10 years ago. This thought goes with her in every single decision she makes, every day. In return, design has led her to be one of the most respected voices in this global scene.

NURIA OCAÑA: You have talked about design like an exercise which, beyond the esthetics, brushes against an individual responsibility, can you go deeper into that? 

ANDREA CESARMAN: Through the years, of everything I have seen while practicing architecture and design, I started having this conversation with myself. People don’t realize that what they do in their everyday life has to do with a design decision. From the moment you get up until you go to bed at night, everything you touch has a creative relationship. Whether your bed is high or low if you can reach the button to snooze the alarm clock or not if the size of the spoon for eating a yogurt corresponds to the size of the cup. Everything around you has to do with a decision some creative person made behind it. This makes me wonder about how big or important the creative community must be for everyday matters. It is my flag, in a way.

NO: All this as a consequence, in part, of the boom resulting from Design Thinking...

AC: Absolutely. But I believe that, instead, they put words to already existing situations. There has always been a problem-solving process through design; now it has a name and a last name. Along these 20 years, generally, and perhaps for the past 10 in Mexico, the idea that through design you can reach solutions for other fields has become solid.

When you ask yourself why is this century so different, think about how life structures have been through time. You were considered rich if you had pieces of land, centuries ago; later, when you owned an industry and a considerable workforce. Today, you are rich when you produce an idea that becomes solid and this can be seen in all the important companies today. Uber, Airbnb are just ideas; industries based on the core of a creative idea. That gives so much value to thought.

NO: Don’t you find a risk in validating that all of us have this ability?

AC: Ideology is always dangerous. But, in a country like Mexico, it is important to value creativity and managing for it to be sustainable; in other words, establishing that what you think is worthy. Perhaps we cannot compete with countries that are technologically more advanced, but there is great potential in creative development.

This also helps recognize the importance of education. It is not only about thinking that an idea is good and assuming that this will make it grow; but to study, to be documented, to confront, and to make this produce other values. In conclusion, instead of dangerous, I think it is important that it happens.

NO: What turns any piece into a “good design”?

AC: That it has balance, because how much can a chair or bed evolve? And yet year after year we get different beds and chairs. There’s the idea of design only as something for an object and esthetic. Pretty things fill our souls and that too is important, but they must be functional, not only in a practical way but in all senses. This is what can turn something into a really “good design”.

The way in which the world is moving forward has led to an increasingly humanitarian design, more tactile, more focused on the community and less an object in itself

NO: Balance

AC: Sí. Yes. There is also the value offered by the fact that what you design really solves a problem. Young designers are increasingly drifting away from the object and dedicating themselves to solving real, social, more complex problems.

NO: The conception of design has changed, then

AC: No. Design has always existed to solve a problem and that is always the greatest challenge designers find. In Mexico, it has been happening since the pre-Hispanic era, for example. A clay vessel was designed, for example, because a water container was needed for drinking it. That is design because it solves a particular concern. Then other values follow, but there is a responsibility of the creative thought towards real problems.

NO: And when people talk about the “object of desire”?

AC: Well, when talking about design, people identify it like, I don’t know, Karl Lagerfeld’s dress, Philippe Starck’s chair; these objects that truly turn into an “object of desire”, separated from everyday things. What I try to explain is their function to make your life easier. Having a good subway ticket, which slides easily into the machine so you don’t have to stand in a kilometric line; that the women’s restroom has seven toilets, instead of five. That part which, beyond the object, makes your life nicer.

NO: When working with urban design, how much is the identity of a construction created and how much is it already defined by the context, the historical moment, its geographic location?

AC: A good designer, a good architect, the first thing they have to assess is the context. That is the most important thing. But by changing the context, by intervening it, a better life is also achieved. I mean, if you reach a desert and build a place that still does not exist, but which shelters you from the sun, it is a good design. There are different layers.

NO: Do you find trends that are currently moving to Mexico?

AC: It depends on the kind of design we are talking about, but yes, of course. Mexico is one of the countries to have mostly absorbed and which have best reinterpreted the different plastic movements from all over the world, Art Nouveau, Art Deco; look for example at Palacio de Bellas Artes (Fine Art Palace).

Obviously, you are always influenced by global movements, especially today that communication is so big and immediate, and that is a good thing. But there is a lot of attachment in this country and we are very honored of our artisanal processes. Now, we are looking for a way to unite this with technology, mainly within industrial design and architecture. Architects are trying to recover ancient methodologies and typologies, in order to create different spaces with current technologies.

NO: What job would you choose, had you not been into design?

AC: The truth is that before studying Architecture, I was inclined towards Philosophy and Literature. So, it is not hard for me to say that my things truly are literature and philosophy.

PHOTOs by Fabian ML