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Sun 1 Apr 2007 10:11 AM

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The Gothic tradition

Imagine a restaurant where Bram Stoker meets Mary Shelley. Welcome to the Philippe Starck designed Bon restaurant in Moscow.

There is scarcely a facet of design that is not touched by the eclectic genius of Philippe Starck. The list of companies he has designed for reads like a Who's Who of contemporary design, from angular taps for Hansgrohe, lamps for Flos, sanitaryware for Duravit, and furniture ranges for industry heavyweights such as Vitra, Kartell and Driade.

In 2006 alone, hospitality projects that Starck designed opened their doors in Thailand, Argentina, Bejing, Germany, Canada, Denmark and many more. Whilst it is impossible to categorise Starck's style, one 2006 interior design project captured our attention for its eccentricity and unusual foray into the gothic: Bon restaurant in Moscow.

The restaurant on Moscow's Yakimanskaya Quay boasts the theme ‘luxurious chaos' in which grey distressed graffiti walls provide the background décor to an inimitable collection of mismatching furniture and irregular shapes - everything is designed to be in an organised universal disorder. Starck filled the space with half burned gilded armchairs; side-table stools in the form of auto-tyre casings and Kalashnikov lamps. Accessories include stuffed owls and crows positioned alongside coral; gilded ceramic heads and Limoges ware, cut-glassware and silverware executed in three different variations.

Cupboards filled with Frankenstein-inspired paraphernalia - test tubes and anatomical models - line the entrance walls leading into the main restaurant. A huge electric pink and blue stained glass window with lips and eyes overshadows the room as diners sit at varying sized tables and chairs in perspex, gilt and mirror finishes.

Starck embraces the gothic theme, with skulls in gold, silver and bronze and heavy dripping wax candles, which complements the atmospheric walls where historical characters keep a watchful eye over diners. The eccentric disorder continues into the bathrooms where exquisite silver swan taps nestle in between mirrored console tables and Venetian mirrors. Tattoo inspired stained glass windows in vivid red feature in the male bathrooms.

Starck accompanied the restaurant's opening with an expressive monologue about design, and its role in his life. He spoke for an hour and a half about life and its meaning, about creative work and sources of inspiration. He said: "I do not work like architects or interior designers, I work more like a movie director and I just imagine what the life of the people who will be in the places I design. I do not want to show my talent but I just want to try so that these places have the elegance of intelligence and the beauty of the happiness of the people who will be there."

"Because I am not interested by design architecture ... I just work for the effect of my projects that is much more interesting by the object itself. I fly in physics, mathematics, astrophysics and biology. My ambition brings me to new, fresh, more interesting and free territories: the future of our beautiful human adventure," he continued: "I do not try to please everybody. Trying to please everybody is an obsolete idea of the 50s. This theory that we all like the same product is impossible."

When asked about his inspiration for the myriad of designs he executes he says: "My daughter tells me that I am a modern autist. I do not go to movie theatres, exhibitions, I do not read deco magazines. I have no external source of inspiration. I just read scientific books, good literature and I mix all that with my own fantasy, craziness and that looks enough." He adds: "I am not interested by trends, that is why I cannot tell you what the next trends will be. The only thing I strongly believe is that the only trend for the future will be freedom. Freedom to choose what you want, what you are, the freedom to blossom yourself. The next trend, it is you, me, us."

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