(Updated on Jan 3rd) – Yves Behar, a Swiss multi-talented designer based in San Francisco, was invited by Studio Mortazavi to furnish the Villa San Francisco. We had the pleasure of meeting him to exchange about his projects.

Today leading a team of more than 75 people scattered around the world, he is literally riding the contemporary wave, as the following interview done by Isabella Demeulenaere tells you.

In philosophy, we demonstrate that beauty helps to live. Do you see design as a social elevator? The opportunity for everyone to be able to enjoy a little more aesthetics in their life?

Yves Behar la villa

Yves Béhar at La Villa San Francisco (on the sofa he designed)

“I think all designers associate their work with everyday life. It is an art of living that we try to share, to promote”.

I really like your project of houses in Mexico, built on-site using a 3D printer. They have beautiful architectural features (high ceilings, decorative breezeway, terrace…). Will it soon be possible to build similar ones in the San Francisco Bay Area or elsewhere?

“Construction using a 3D printer is still in its infancy. It is perfect for small areas (max 650 square feet) but now we can add floors, which increases its applications tenfold, especially for a family. It is interesting when you can build on-site because it is very economical. For the prefabricated it is the opposite, we do everything in the workshop and we assemble the elements on-site but it is also a process of the future for building very good quality economic housing”.

Your “Ocean Clean Up” glasses are made from plastics collected from the Pacific Ocean. Is this the start of an era of salvage design?

“Yes, I hope so. The goal was to demonstrate that there is value in waste and that recycling it makes a nice product while cleaning the oceans. If I sell a lot of them, that plastic Yves Behar glassesmass will already be drastically reduced”. (Editor’s note: the income generated by the sale of each pair of glasses is reinvested annually in The Ocean Cleanup project”

You have just created an air purifier that looks like a piece of furniture. Why not instead create a piece of furniture that contains an air purifier?

“These new functional technological objects now adorn our daily lives. It is interesting to blend them into the decor because no longer considering them only as a function has a relaxing effect. The next step will be to integrate them completely into the furniture, but it is necessary to proceed in stages because the consumer does not yet really know what he wants at home. It’s like the framed TV screen. Today we find it attractive, but there was a time when everyone wanted a big screen in their living room. It was a form of status”.

The Neo watch produced in partnership with Vodafone and Disney was designed so that parents and a close circle can stay in contact with children through voice or text messages. In the era of helicopter parents, do you think it has real educational qualities?

“Above all, it allows parents to delay the purchase of the first real smartphone. The watch has a few applications sufficient for children’s use and to reassure parents. It helps to become a little more responsible at an age when using a real smartphone remains problematic because children are not yet mature to filter its usages”.

You are a surfer and close to nature. Is this reflected in your design?

“I am “in life”, be it nature, the city, etc… What interests me is to guide behavior to improve our living conditions. We are working on concepts that will allow homes to adapt to a changing population. For example, we manufacture remote-controlled automatic locks, which allow interactions with the house without being on-site, or everyday objects for the elderly that make it possible to fight against loneliness: look at ElliQ robot which, not only provides information but takes the initiative to ask questions, suggest activities …”.

How are your projects born?

“Some are commands that respond to real demand. Others arise from the exchange of ideas and research into the usefulness of a new object or concept. These must allow a certain cohesion, a rallying. Some are launched and then do not work at all, others, sometimes improbable, meet with tremendous support”.

The final word: “In a way, objects have to become, like people, role-models”.

We also asked Yves Béhar about 3 highlights in San Francisco:

  • Hookfish at Ocean Beach serves sustainably fish, has a friendly staff, and is the best after-surf meal.
  • Independent and local galleries in San Francisco are a great way to get to know both international and Bay Area artists: the new Jessica Silverman Gallery in Chinatown, Ratio3 in the Mission, Aimee Friberg Cult in Nopa and Altman-Siegel in the Dogpatch.
  • Exercise and culture in the presidio: run around the Spire and the Woodline both by Andy Goldsworthy


Merci Isabella Demeulenaere

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