Francisco Franco ruled Spain from the end of
the civil war in 1939 until his death in 1975.
Democracy and a design revolution followed.
Delayed by decades of civil
war and dictatorship, contemporary Spanish design is
now a force to be reckoned
with in the international
Raised in the Asturias region of
northern Spain, Urquiola studied
architecture in Madrid before moving to Milan, where she graduated
from the Politecnico di Milano. Since
opening her own studio in 2001,
she has designed products for
nearly every important Italian furniture company, but only recently
has she been reclaimed for Spain by
Kettal. Last year’s Maia collection
combined an aluminum frame with
a diamond-shaped pattern of handwoven synthetic fiber.
Germany has an extensive industrial capacity
and a gift for advanced technology, Italy has huge
manufacturers with a long tradition of supporting
innovative design, and Scandinavia has mastered
a minimalist style ideally suited to mass production
in a global marketplace. Having spent the better
part of the 20th century either at war or under right-wing dictatorships, Spain came very late to the
game of product, industrial, and furniture design.
Until the 1960s it was largely closed off to international trade, and its major industries remained
state owned long after that. But, since the death of
Francisco Franco in 1975, what Spanish design has
lacked in technology and industrial capacity it
has made up for in spirit. An abundance of quirky,
playful, and defiantly individualistic designers
has emerged in the post-Franco era, reveling in the
freedom of living in one of the most progressive
countries in western Europe. And what Spain lacks
in size and market share it makes up for in its large
assortment of small-to-medium-size companies
eager to get a piece of up-and-coming designers
before they are snapped up by international competition. It’s good to be a young designer in Spain.