Konstantin Grcic and Patricia Urquiola need little in the way of introduction. Their always exceptional design work has earned them multiple and regular appearances in the pages of this magazine. Friends and first team talent for the same design companies, and joint winners of last year’s Wallpaper* Designer of the Year gong, the pair joined forces on this year’s judging panel

Meeting at Fondazione Prada in Milan – with Urquiola’s husband, and Grcic’s partner and baby daughter patiently in tow – the duo discussed who got top marks and why, across 11 different categories.

They admit they came to the task reluctantly – no designer is comfortable sitting in judgement on the work of peers, friends and colleagues. Luckily, many of the Judges’ Awards categories don’t require this kind of discomfort. And in others, the result was so clear cut there was little need for tortured debate. The Fondazione Prada, winner of Best New Public Building, was a case in point.

‘There were no compromises made,’ observes Grcic of the sprawling complex. It was designed by Rem Koolhaas’ OMA, which transformed seven early-20th-century buildings and designed three new structures, all of which pop up and play harmoniously in the vast campus. ‘The choice of architect, and the time span of developing such a project in all of its detail, make the building stand for the kind of quality that we see so rarely today.’ 

Urquiola agrees. ‘This kind of attitude, to think but then to also act, is so important,’ she says of Prada’s CEO Patrizio Bertelli and his wife and creative director Miuccia Prada, who spent over a decade planning the project. ‘As someone who lives in Milan, they have really given us something special,’ she adds.  

Urquiola was spellbound by the foamy, air-pierced aluminium that wraps around many of the foundation’s walls and inspired the pair’s on-site illustration of the space, created for this month’s limited-edition subscriber cover. ‘I’ve often seen this material but it’s never been well proposed,’ Urquiola says. ‘The way it’s been used here is fantastic.’ 

The designers were also in accord when it came to the Designer of the Year award. 

‘All of the contenders were great,’ Grcic says. ‘But the Bouroullec brothers have done such fantastic work over such a long period of time, they deserve it just a little bit more than the others. They’ve been going at it for 15 years, always at the top level. It’s incredible.’

‘It was very easy for me,’ Urquiola agrees. ‘They did a fantastic job this year.’ 

Other categories mulled over by our duo were Best New Hotel, which went to the Aman Tokyo (‘I’ve been there,’ says Urquiola. ‘The entrance is an incredible piece of architecture’); Best City, which went to Copenhagen (‘They seem to be creating a city for today for a citizen for today,’ remarks Grcic. ‘It’s very open minded’); and the twin fashion awards with Best Men’s Fashion Collection A/W 2015 going to Stefano Pilati at Ermenegildo Zegna Couture and the womenswear award for the same season handed to Phoebe Philo at Céline.

‘I feel very inspired by good fashion designers and what they’re able to do,’ Grcic says. ‘We keep designing tables, chairs and storage. They have to redesign the jacket, shirt and trousers. The choice of materials, fabrics and the construction of something three-dimensional is very interesting.

As originally featured in the February 2016 issue of Wallpaper* (W*203)

See the Design Awards 2016 in full – including our extra-special Judges' Awards - here