Philippe Starck: Combining passion and necessity

© Benjamin Flao

Article from new Tara’s 10th journal


Celebrated French architect and designer, a pioneer and author of many creations, Philippe Starck unveils his love for the sea and his gratitude to the Tara.

capture starckTara Expeditions News: What does the Tara represent for you?

PHILIPPE STARCK: Every human endeavour has its negative and positive sides, it’s natural. We are used to that fact and accept it, as if there is always a price to pay. I am always on a quest for and inspired by the few human endeavours that escape this baleful equilibrium. The Tara is one of those rare examples whose every aspect benefits mankind without claiming any negative compensation. For the Tara to exist at all is a rare thing. Her work of discovering, pioneering, analysing, synthesizing and campaigning is absolutely vital. All human actions should be of this order. The Tara does it magnificently with an unassuming elegance which is unique to her and attests to her strength. If all human endeavours were of the Tara’s calibre and structure, we would not be in this state of emergency.

You say that the Tara is “working to save us”. You receive hundreds of requests every day. Why did you decide to support Tara Expeditions?

It is true that, from my viewpoint, I get to see a wide range of projects and actions. If, in most cases, I turn them down, it is because they are mainly driven by money and foolhardiness. This sad state of affairs can only prompt us to support initiatives such as Tara Expeditions. Besides, it is always pleasant when projects are not punitive but combine necessity with passion. Being an amphibian by nature, living permanently on water; being a man or indeed a couple of sprays of the sea, we—with my wife Jasmine—can only but feel emotionally close to the sole tangible element of the Tara, namely her magnificent and intelligent vessel. We live in an era where, except for professional seafaring, ninety per cent of what we produce exists merely to indicate a social status, so it is great to see the Tara combine elegance with integrity.

“The current state of the planet is such
that every minute counts”

Philippe Starck

Do you see a link between the desire to be who you are, an architect and a designer, with the need to save the oceans and the biodiversity they sustain?

It matters little whether you’re a designer or an architect or anything else once you’ve understood that saving the oceans and everything they contain is a matter of the utmost urgency. Indeed, the main catalyst for me to fully comprehend the challenges we are facing came from something Étienne Bourgois once said: “Every second breath you take comes from the oceans.” Being a little claustrophobic, I can strongly relate to that.

Tara Expeditions will be going to Asia and the Pacific in 2016. You are familiar with this part of the world. Can the Tara help convey crucial messages?

Asia is a vast and diverse region. While some countries are currently in a post-development stage, and are already aware and have taken steps towards protecting the oceans, others are still caught in the dazzle and inconsistency of development. Of course, these countries will one day take action but the current state of the planet is such that every minute counts. The Tara’s message is sufficiently clear to enable certain countries to speed up their awareness-raising and thus save what remains to be saved.

As a designer, what inspiration do you draw from the planktonic forms and species newly discovered by the Tara’s scientists?

The infinite and fabulous riches of the plankton aesthetic is a permanent lesson for a producer, like me, of shapes and colours. Plankton is a true master of creation. But beyond that, the Tara made me aware of my responsibility as a producer of objects that are mostly made from plastic, and that such substances are harmful to plankton. I wish I were in a position to legislate so that all plastics were compatible and organic so that they would become—we can dream—a source of food for plankton. To the best of my knowledge there’s nothing unrealistic about my proposal. The most interesting bioplastics are made from stuff such as algae. The connection appears obvious and simple, but only state legislation could make it feasible. This could be part of the solution. The one and only genuine solution is the increasingly vital question: “Is economic decline inevitable and would it be positive or negative?”

Interview by Michel Temman

Other articles from Tara’s 10th Journal:

- Voices for the Ocean: zoom on MR. GOODFISH
- Voices for the Ocean: zoom on Algalita
The Ocean, our common project
Plankton: Lifting the Lid on a Mysterious World
Polar Research: Ice in the Water
Climate System: High Seas Emergency
- Plankton Planet: Oceanography 2.0

Download the whole Tara’s 10th journal here