Born at SaloneSatellite
27 May 2019
New York-based Venezuelan architect and designer Rodolfo Agrella takes a cross-disciplinary approach, based on a desire to produce objects capable of transmitting universal messages that will touch mankind and thus improve human civilisation.
Your artworks for your clients are very suggestive; they are artistic and narrative collages. Sometimes this approach becomes the semiotic language of your items. Can you talk about your creative process?
I’m a strong believer that you need to manifest your own language and stay away from trends and cookie-cutters formulas, although it is important to see and be aware of what’s happening in the market, for me is crucial to have my own way to express it, it keeps me grounded. My process starts with a graphic and/or plastic expression, a visual meditation, there I can tap into an infinite energy source where ideas can be expressed without any constrains. Inside that metaphorical space everything is possible. Then, in order to download that information and transform it into a physical project, me and my team start to add technical and material variables, exploring the best ways to produce the idea remaining true to it soul and its purpose.
What is the goal that you would like for your design?
I’m working hard to create products and ideas that touch people’s emotions and enhance the way we live. My ultimate goal is to create that rapport through the use of happiness and joy. Positivism is what we need as a civilization in order to design a better future, a better human. I’m extremely excited to be part of this new renaissance era and be an outlet for change.
The “15% Cabinets Collection” embodies the spirit of the so-called Bolivarian Diaspora. This is an invitation to see under the surface of the objects and furniture? Maybe this period need this kind of message. What do you think about?
Absolutely yes!!! Every project I design has multiple layers of information, always inviting the curious eye to see under the surface and reveal a story, a design speech that connects you directly to the soul of the object. As everything in life, there must be a balance where the story, the function and the structure becomes a stable tripod, almost as Vitruvio’s triad.
We definitely need to populate the world with objects that communicate something, rather than occupy a space in a toxic way. As a designer I have the tools to create that and communicate something to society, and I believe we need to start by sensitizing kids and the new generations.
Your “Memorabilia” rug is part of the SaloneSatellite 20th Anniversary Collection. It is an homage to the mid-century modern architecture from Caracas, Venezuela. Is your country a source of inspiration for you? Why?
My roots always play a big part on my creation process. Everything I am, from a visual and phenomenological perspective I owe it to my roots. The way I solve issues –design and life ones- the way I understand things, and that mental place where I go to find inspiration is represented by my roots, my country and its people. What I feel absolutely proud of is that I learned how to translate the spirit of Venezuela into an international language.
You have many and various collaborations also for brand concept, visual communication and merchandising system, interior design consultation, marketing strategy and creative direction.
It seems a very challenging work. How many people work in your studio?
It is challenging, especially for a society that celebrates the uber-specificity, but I feel super grateful of being able to do successfully such a diverse and open range of projects. In the end “Tutto è progetto” [everything is a project] so me and my collaborators are open, willing and eager to erase, blur and move those discipline borders, observing carefully all the technicalities.
As a New York base designer with projects and collaborations around the world, my team is extremely flexible in terms of size, it expands and contracts according to the projects, but always embodied by collaborators with that organic way of understand design.
Do you have characters that had influenced your career?
I have multiple characters that had and still are influencing my career, from a very romantic perspective Munari and Ponti had played an important part thanks to their capability to extrapolate design to multiple scenarios and do it successfully, all with a very thoughtful and playful process. Artists like Alexander Calder, Brancusi, or the Venezuelans Magdalena Fernandez and Miguel Arroyo, all with a clear approach to space, shapes and color. Of course there are my teachers at the university that allowed me to experiment with sensual shapes, and weird concepts on a context extremely influenced by the Bauhaus. But overall, I owe everything to my both grandfathers, they taught me to laugh, to find fun on everything and to express it loudly, they are my real masters.
In view of your experience can you give a message to the new generation of designers?
I’m in a constant learning curve, so until now, what I’m totally certain and would like to transmit to new generation of designers is that 1st: inertia never generates energy! Being freeze by overthinking is the worst thing that could happen to a designer, so keep going and move forward. The 2nd would be: Wrong is Great! Mistakes are a great way to reveal new paths to expand design and creation, you just need to embrace it without negative judgment.