El Último Grito – EUG for short – is a very distinctive studio which you could almost describe as groundbreaking. It was founded in 1997 by Madrid-born Rosario Hurtado and Robert Feo who was born in London but grew up in Madrid. They both moved to London in 1990. In 2007, they relocated to Berlin and now divide their time between there and London. Today, they describe themselves as ‘a creative studio focused entirely on design’.
The name of the studio (meaning the latest craze or – in French – le dernier cri) reflects a sense of humour they’d like to see design in general infused with. Their work has a free-spirited, playful quality conducive to finding inspiration through experimentation – be it through using materials with tactile qualities or through the most ordinary everyday rituals, such as how you roll up a newspaper.
One of its most notable designs for Spanish companies is its Composite bench of 2008, manufactured by Valencia-based company Uno Design. It’s a low bench, lacquered in white, which has different coloured cushions arranged on it at irregular intervals and heights. This original, versatile piece is inspired by the design of Japanese gardens; Rosario says it’s a sofa stripped down to its most essential elements.
More recently, Rosario and Roberto, who combine their work as designers with tutoring in London (Rosario at Goldsmiths University, Roberto at the Royal College of Art), have unveiled their new outdoor furniture line, called LA Collection, for the Spanish company Point, based in Alicante.
Interiors from Spain took the opportunity to get together with EUG at the Milan Furniture Fair held last April. We quizzed them about what makes them tick – and about their projects:
Interiors from Spain: EUG’s projects tend to be very innovative. What words or adjectives best describe your style?
El Último Grito: First of all – an entire way of life. Design reflects the way we, society as a whole, understand ourselves. Designers actively contribute to constructing our collective image of ourselves –of us as individuals and of our world as a whole. For us, our work consists as much in designing and making an object as it is in delivering a lecture. It’s the way we explore the question of what design is and what potential it has. If we had to pick an adjective, we’d describe our approach to design as ‘discursive’.
IFS: How does the Rosario/ Roberto team work? Do you split your tasks between you?
EUG: In an ideal situation, the most accurate description of us would be a four-armed Hindu goddess, whose arms move in concert, governed by two minds working as one, although on a day-to-day basis our conversations are often like the Two-headed Monster in Sesame Street who didn’t talk much sense!
Our type of work doesn’t often lend itself to us dividing up our tasks. We tend to come up with different working methods depending on what we’re doing. The aspect of our work we’re most interested in is developing a project. When it comes to realising it, we often collaborate with other people, depending on what we need to do.
IFS: EUG is a multidisciplinary studio. Which area do you feel comfortable designing: furniture, lighting, curating exhibitions…?
EUG: We don’t believe in dividing design into different areas. El Último Grito focuses purely on design – that’s the best possible description of what we do – and that’s a big field in itself.
As for what we prefer to design, we enjoy taking on any type of project. When working in an industrial context, we can only realise projects which we can undertake with the means at our disposal. Our collaboration is very interesting because it leads us to consider other aspects when you produce a one-off piece or design a public space – and also because you’re working with manufacturing experts who can produce practically anything.
When you work with cultural institutions, like we did with our project Nowhere/ Now/ Here, which we curated for LABoral Centro de Arte y Creación Industrial (LABoral Art and Industrial Creation Centre) in Asturias, Spain, you enter into another territory which opens up totally new horizons. But we also need to design work that’s more introspective like one-off pieces and public spaces. These give us the opportunity to reflect and, when we’ve got the time, explore and consolidate our new ideas. And that’s not to forget all our teaching work, another huge driving force behind our work.
IFS: You spend a lot of time outside Spain… How do you think both Spanish design and the phenomenon of new generations of Spanish designers who’ve been educated abroad are perceived? Do you think this will have repercussions in industry?
EUG: We think there’s been a major change in the way in which Spain itself regards Spanish designers who’ve been trained abroad, and this is certainly starting to have repercussions in our industry. Most of these designers begin their studies in Spain, then do postgraduate courses abroad. This makes them an interesting generation because they have a different perspective on the world. They learn how design and business are understood in other countries.
In the past, you normally couldn’t see work by young Spanish designers because the design industry usually worked with established designers and didn’t take risks. It’s now up to industry to give new designers career opportunities, to support young talent.
IFS: In your role as teachers, what advice would you give today to young students destined to be tomorrow’s big names?
EUG: One day one of our pupils gave us a badge which they’d made and which bore the words ‘before or better’. It seems like we’d said these words in a tutorial in relation to the student’s work. What we meant by this is that if you want to create anything consequential, you need to make it before others do so. But if it’s already been made, you need to make sure you make a better version. In another conversation later, we added the deliberately ironic word ‘bigger’ to this advice, a reference to the Spanish phrase ‘burro grande, ande o no ande’, meaning that something might not be very good but can be impressive simply for being big.
IFS: You’ve collaborated with various Spanish brands to date, for example, Uno Design, Arturo Álvarez and Point… Are you planning any other collaborations with Spanish companies or institutions? What new projects have you got lined up for this year?
EUR: In 2010 and in 2011 so far, we’ve created an armchair with Barcelona-based firm Figueras for an auditorium designed by the Madrid-based architects Selgas Cano. And we’re going to continue collaborating with Point this year and next year.
We recently resumed our collaboration with LABoral Centro de Arte y Creación Industrial via our design for its online shop. It’s a project which brings together ideas about education, industrial manufacturing and communication in cyber-space.
That’s all for now, but we hope to carry on working with Spanish brands in the future because, whenever we’ve done so in the past, we’ve thoroughly enjoyed collaborating with them.