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Dismantling the Rules of Design. Meet Guillermo Santomà.

Often referred to as the “artist who destroys things,” Santomà believes that the path forward is to first go backward. Writer Ashleigh Kane speaks to the Barcelona-based artist about his conceptual works that shift between design, art and architecture realms, intersecting and then changing course. Always seeking the new.

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In December 2015, Spanish architect, designer, and artist, Guillermo Santomà finished work on Casa Horta, a 1920s-built house situated in El Guinardó, a neighborhood on the north-east edge of Barcelona. Behind an unassuming grey exterior, Santomà had envisioned, and executed, a live-in work of art. The previously derelict three-story house’s interior was shape-shifted with a contrasting color palette of candy floss pinks, deep-sea blues, and forest greens, striking geometry, and a genius use of light and space. He revealed to the New York Times that Casa Horta was built without ‘an architectural plan’ and aided by “five guys who had only very basic notions of construction.” It had taken just four months for the transformation to be completed. Fully functional, it is home to Santomà, his partner, graphic designer Raquel Quevedo, and their young son, Jan. They live alongside Santomà’s designs, Quevedo’s, and the work of other artists they admire, such as a giant foot by Sterling Ruby. This show-stopping, rule-breaking artistic intervention enraptured the world and, understandably, Casa Horta is the piece-de-resistance of Santomà’s oeuvre – but transformation is a key thread throughout his creative practice.
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Often referred to as the “artist who destroys things,” Santomà believes that the path forward is to first go backward. “The process is a lot like thinking. You have to turn complex ideas into simple things, into pieces that can explain what interests you,” he explains. “The deformation (in my work) is the result of a struggle. Not accepting reality as it appears (but instead) manufacturing it to feel how time intervenes.” Rather than the process itself, Santomà is concerned with “the idea of the final processed piece.” Speaking to the New York Times, he said: “I always tell the people in my studio that it’s 98 percent thinking and two percent making.” Fiction plays a vital role in Santomà’s universe as “the main part of the deformation”. He explains: “It is the equation from which language is created. It is the way that humans have to tell stories, to project a world that does not exist.” It’s through fantasy that he finds the freedom to take the familiar into the unknown, to create large-scale chandeliers out of objects found in his studio or to turn a toilet into a sink (“Toilet Sink”, 2020). “Everything is made of existing fragments, but according to their combinations, their results may be very different,” he observes.“ With the admission that he doesn’t sketch his ideas before embarking on them, it is as if Santomà’s work has a mind of its own – like he is merely planting the seeds and bearing witness to what it becomes.
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Santomà’s designs, projects, and collaborations are as wide-reaching as you can imagine. He is reluctant to repeat materials because “the main material is the project itself.” This method allows him to build a trajectory. Like, he says, “an asteroid lost in space but that has a direction: the possibility of continuous moment.” From utilizing the aluminium that Rimowa craft their sought-after suitcases from to build a working car inspired by J.G. Ballard’s Crash (“GAS”) or churning wood into sawdust and architecting a fountain (“Restoration of the Cloister at the Church of Santa María de Palacio”) for a church in La Rioja which dates back to the 12th and 13th century. Santomà shifts between design, architecture, art, and performance but often intersects with all four. He is a maverick who refused to be pigeon-holed. Just as the world thinks it can place him, Santomà changes course. Currently, Santomà is exploring the idea of nothingness, working on a structure in the middle of Barcelona with an abandoned garden. He says, “the only connection between soil and construction is water.” The building itself has no use, Santomà explains: “I imagine a place where apparently nothing happens, but that acts as a scenery.”
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Text: Ashleigh Kane Images (Top to Bottom): Guillermo Santomà, MATADERO, 2020 | Photo: © Geray Mena (1) - Guillermo Santomà, MATADERO, 2020 | Photo: © Geray Mena (2) - Guillermo Santomà, MONEGROS, 2020 | Car in the Monegros | Pho-to: © Thibeau Grevet for Kaledoscope Magazine (3) - Guillermo Santomà, GAS, 2020 | GAS exhibited at Spazio Maiochi Milan for Kaledoscope Magazine Photo: © Guillermo Santomà Studio (4) - Guillermo Santomà, Casa Horta, 2020 | Photo: © Jose Hevia (5) - Guillermo Santomà, TOILETSINK, 2020 | Porcelain, plaster, lime and RGB LED Photo: © Guillermo Santomà Studio (6) - Guillermo Santomà, DR, 2020 | Photo: © Guillermo Santomà Studio (7) - Guillermo Santomà, Miami Couch, 2020 | Soft foam and Purple Resin | Photo: © Guillermo Santomà Studio (8) - Guillermo Santomà, Pool, 2020 | Photo: © Jose Hevia (9)