Design vision: Karim Rashid of Karim Rashid Inc
Karim Rashid, president of Karim Rashid Inc, discusses his commitment to pluralism, collaboration with Prizeotel and dedication to work in our latest TOPHOTELDESIGN exclusive.
After establishing design studio Karim Rashid Inc in New York City in 1992, Karim Rashid has rapidly made a name for himself as one of the most unique voices in the industry. The designer, who expanded his global reach with the launch of a studio in Shenzhen in 2014, has worked on countless hospitality projects down the years, including Park Inn by Radisson Amsterdam City West, Temptation Cancun Resort and various Prizeotel properties.
What does your role at the company involve?
I am perceived as an industrial designer and someone who has worked in hospitality design.
Could you tell us about your career to date?
I always saw myself as a pluralist, even when I was a student. I do not like the idea of specialisation and admired creative people who touched many different aspects of visual culture.
The first realised interior I designed was for Masaharu Morimoto, the Iron Chef, in Philadelphia in 2001, which fortunately won many awards.
What key hotel projects have you worked on down the years?
Creating a successful restaurant interior afforded me many more interior projects, including the Semiramis Hotel in Athens in 2002. I moved on to do many more hotels for NH Hotels, Prizeotel, Radisson, and retail and restaurants for MGM and many more.
I am very proud of the democratic chain of budget hotels I created for Prizeotel all over Europe – Bern, Bonn, Düsseldorf, Erfurt, Munich, Münster, Rostock, Vienna and Wiesbaden. They are purposefully designed for savvy travellers on a budget that want beautiful places to stay. I’m looking to meet the needs of the progressive business / budget traveller, by being mindful of seamlessness, comfort, colour, enthusiasm and luxury at a budget price.
What achievement are you most proud of in your career?
I have worked in over 40 countries, created over 4,000 designs and received over 400 awards in the last 25 years since I moved to New York City. It is one marker of success but I feel the real accolade is seeing my objects in everyday homes or seeing a space realised, enjoyed and experienced by people. Design is for people, not for museums.
The highlight now is to see that over 1 million people on Facebook like me because I always saw design as a populist act, not an elitist act. The big challenge of design is to create something that, although accessible to all consumers, touches people’s lives and gives them some sense of elevated experience and pleasure, and is original.
What’s been the biggest challenge in your career?
Probably my design for the Naples Metro. It is my longest project to date! I started in 2004 and it wasn’t completed until 2011.
But I am very proud of the finished product. They selected various famous architects to design each station. The stations in Naples are referred to as ‘Art Stations’. Gae Aulenti’s station has work by Michelangelo Pistoletto and Joseph Kosuth. Some stations have art from Sol Lewitt to Sandro Chia.
Alessandro Mendini likes my sensibility, which was really flattering considering I aspired to his vision when I was in university and always saw him as a mentor. Rather than design a station that is somewhat conservative and ‘accent’ it with art, I just did the whole station as my digital art.
So I sunk the art budget into the interior walls and spaces, instead of selecting art. I will always love the impact and challenge that was the Naples Metro. It is the epitome of democratic design.
How would you sum up your design philosophy?
Designers must humanise our physical and virtual world. Through the use of soft flowing curves and organic shapes, a sense of comfort and security is immediately established.
I believe something is well-designed when it is not overly adorned or embellished. If you take the embellishment away from an object and the object still functions, then it is more style than design.
If an object is well-designed, then no part is inseparable from the form. And with new technologies, I can create sensual and organic shapes that never existed before in history.
What would your dream hotel look like?
A dream hotel must emphasise the pleasurable, the sensorial and the experiential with heightening experiences that are forever memorable, yet seamless.
I see the future of our aesthetic world crossing all the aesthetic disciplines, so that design, art, architecture, fashion, food and music fuse together to increase our existence and bring greater pleasure to our material and immaterial lives. As art takes its ideas from everyday life, I hope that everyday life will take its ideas from art.
What’s your advice to up-and-coming talent looking to make a name for themselves?
For young designers, I always give the advice: be smart, be patient, learn to learn, learn to be practical but imbue poetics, aesthetics and new paradigms of our changing product landscape.
You must find new languages, new semantics, new aesthetics, and experiment with new material and behavioural approaches. Also, always remember obvious human issues like pragmatic, functional work that has ease of use, technological advances, poetry and emotion, humour and meaning, and a positive energetic and proud spirit in our built and virtual landscape. Remember design is to shape a better human experience.
What are your main hobbies outside work?
I am not happy unless I’m busy and feel like I am accomplishing something, even if it is minor. My work is my life and defines me.
I always said ‘make your hobby your job’, then you will be truly happy and contribute more to this world. I don’t think of life as ‘work’ versus ‘fun’, I just see it as bringing meaning.
But I also stay relaxed by working out everyday, dancing, listening to my large music collection, eating and drinking raw organic foods, sleeping seven hours a night, and frequently getting massages.
For more info about the firm, and to view an extensive gallery of hi-res images, check out the Karim Rashid Inc page on the TOPHOTELDESIGN website.
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