Something as simple as a citrus squeezer is easy to take for granted – as is often the case with the best and most useful designs. For a humble kitchen utensil to be considered an icon of industrial design with a stand in New York’s Museum of Modern Art takes some doing. Enter Philippe Starck.
Born in Paris in 1949, Philippe Starck is one of the most well-known and diverse creative designers of modern times, so much so that he’s become a household name. His working years only began in the 1980s, but that hasn’t stopped Starck from obtaining numerous awards and accolades since. When asked what he considered himself, he answered, ‘a Japanese architect, an American art director, a German industrial designer, a French artistic director and an Italian furniture designer.’
Starck has been designing for Kartell for nearly 30 years, and for Alessi for almost as long. His design focus shifted very early in his career from once-off pieces to products that help improve people’s daily lives. Since then, he’s been designing for the mass market, with the noble goal of simultaneously reducing costs and improving quality.
Today, Starck’s impressive body of work includes public and household furniture, decor, architecture, wind turbines, bathroom fittings, floor and wall coverings, lighting, domestic appliances, utensils, office equipment, clothing, luggage, toys, glassware, vehicles for land, sea, air and space, food, watches and even a toothbrush. He truly done it all.
In 1990, while having lunch along the Amalfi coast in Italy, Starck found himself wanting to squeeze lemon over his calamari. Right then and there, he came up with a design that was simultaneously practical and pleasing to the eye. Even though he’d just been commissioned to design a tray for Italian homeware company Alessi, he sketched the alien-like Juicy Salif Lemon Squeezer on a napkin and presented it to the company’s owner Alberto Alessi. The rest is history, and that napkin is now framed and on display in The Alessi Museum in Italy.
Starck’s exact design is still in circulation today. Produced by Alessi, which is easily accessible nationwide, an iconic Juicy Salif Lemon Squeezer will cost you around R1 200. Alessi celebrated this ingenious piece of design on its 10th and 25th anniversaries by bringing out limited-edited ranges. First, they produced 10 000 individually numbered, gold-plated Salifs, and in 2015, 299 die-cast bronze Salifs were made. Between 1991 and 2004, the Anthracite version came on the market, of which 47 000 un-numbered examples were produced. These are now collector’s items.
Whether or not the Juicy Salif Lemon Squeezer is the most functional kitchen utensil is another discussion; Starck himself admitted that it’s more of a ‘conversational piece of design’ rather than just a citrus squeezer. Regardless, it’s still a design icon that we’d love to own.