Reflections from the World Design Capital: Feria Hábitat Valencia 2022
Valerie Gow reports highlights from the show.
Located on the Mediterranean coast, the vibrant port city of Valencia seamlessly integrates its historic heart, El Carmen, with surrounding neighbourhoods. It’s also the hometown of international architect Santiago Calatrava, whose futuristic City of Arts and Sciences sits at the edge of the old town. This dichotomy made it the perfect setting for Feria Hébitat Valencia, a trade show that showcases innovative products inspired by Mediterranean traditions.
Together with sister shows for kitchen design and home textiles, Feria Hábitat Valencia filled 90,000 square metres with 971 exhibiting brands in furniture, lighting, and interior design. Phillipe Starck, Monica Armani and Jaime Hayon were a few of the international design leaders celebrated on the main stage. Patricia Urquiola, one of the most influential contemporary Spanish furniture designers, capped the festivities with a launch of her latest designs for Andreu World, a Spanish furniture company with showrooms in Valencia, Toronto and around the world. Excitement was further heightened as Valencia celebrated its status as World Design Capital 2022, a designation given by the World Design Organization that led to design events and exhibitions throughout the city.
Feria Hábitat Valencia cancelled its 2020 edition at the height of the global pandemic, and a common theme in its displays stemmed from the question: How are people living now? Designers from both North America and Europe share a sense that we are currently focused on how to live better, how to live in closer quarters with our families, how to integrate with the environment and with the Earth. As a society, we are spending more time at home, and have brought the workplace home. The Spanish furniture industry has reacted to this by creating furniture pieces that can be easily used for both commercial and home settings. Furniture that is specific to either work or home—such as desks or beds—is being cleverly designed to co-exist with a switch in room use, or be put away.
In Spain, living outside has always been part of the culture. People spend time on balconies, enjoy family meals in gardens, sip coffee on sunny terraces. The importance of this style of living was reflected in the sophistication of the outdoor furniture collections on show. Wood from sustainably managed forests, metals with high levels of recycled content, and traditional Spanish rope have been incorporated into enduring products, making them ideal for both domestic and export markets.
Here’s our round-up of standouts from the show.
A collaboration between designers Marco Pocci and Claudio Dondoli of Archirivolto Design, the Fluit chair is made of 80% recycled fibreglass and 20% polypropylene plastic from fruit and vegetable crates sourced from Andalusia, Spain—an arid agricultural region that feeds Europe, but is flooded with plastic waste. The strong, stable, and stackable chair is produced through a double gas injection process that reinforces resistance while providing a soft finish. Bolstered by UVI protection, the fluid design easily flows between indoor and outdoor settings, making Fluit an easy fit for a corporate office or a covered terrace.
Designers Jordi Iranzo and Àngela Montagud of Clap Studio have created a playfully oversized seat for .annud that evokes the sensation of comfort before you even sit on it. The design aligns with their body of work, which focuses on shaping experiences through interiors, products and installations. The soft lounge chair is conceived as an air-filled balloon, trapped by metal legs that compress the rounded cushion like a child’s gripping fingers. A separate ottoman can be placed behind the back of Balloon to double its seating.
French designer Patrick Norguet’s elegant Match chair, created for Spanish furniture company Capdell, has a comfortable upholstered seat and ergonomic backrest. The chair pairs solid oak veneer and metal—a perfect match between nature and industry. This unexpected marriage of materials makes the chair a good fit for both warm residential and sleek commercial settings.
Described by designer Christophe Pillet as a contemporary take on the art of Mediterranean living, the City armchair for POINT is fashioned from a powder-painted aluminum structure, nautical teak arms, and water-resistant upholstered cushions. Its four-millimetre rope backing is reminiscent of a strongly roped hammock, traditional Andalusian bulrush weaving, or tightly stretched sailboat rigging—facets of a seaside lifestyle redefined in City’s elegantly modern finish.
A collaboration between Netherlandish design studio Raw Color (Christoph Brach and Daniera ter Haar) and Spanish manufacturer Sancal, the Link & Loop project emerged during the Covid-19 pandemic as an artistic vision for reviving social gathering. Based on the sinuous volumes of a chain, Link seats form a series of connections that can be steadily increased. The playful Loop pouf features a similar cylindrical form. The Designer’s Edition is finished in two-tone patchwork fabric by Danish textile company Kvadrat that visually disrupts the loop. Together, Link and Loop break down the social boundaries established during the pandemic by encouraging a sense of fun and connection among sitters.
The Centro del Carmen de Cultura Contemporanea featured the exhibition Jaime Hayon: InfinitaMente, a collection of installations, art pieces and company products designed over the course of Hayon’s career to date. Known for spanning fluidly between fine art and design, the Spanish-born Hayon is a global design influencer with a creative base in Valencia and offices in Barcelona and Treviso, Italy.
Combining function with fun, Hayon’s designs introduce humour and liveliness into the home. Exhibited pieces included the Green Chicken, a rocking chair that takes inspiration not from the horse but from the unexplored form of the chicken.
Mesamachine was Hayon’s response to AHEC’s CONNECTED project, which challenged nine international designers to each create a table and seating suited to their lives in the wake of the pandemic. Translated to “table machine”, Mesmachine is a complex piece of cherry furniture that unites the different parts of the designer’s life within a singular space to work, play, and eat. The table’s stools, extending shelves, smiley-faced seats, and bench are symbolic of the variety of functions that the home performed during Covid-19. The project also responds to another key design objective of the post-pandemic world: sustainability. The carbon footprint of the table machine is -102 kg CO2 equivalent, implying a design that is better than carbon neutral.