This year is the 20th anniversary of Philippe Starck’s controversial ‘Juicy Salif’ lemon squeezer, which set tongues wagging back in 1990 by defying the basic rule of design which states that, if an object has to perform a certain function, then its design must support that function as best it can.
Designed by Starck on the back of a napkin while eating a dish of squid and squeezing a lemon over it, the Juicy Salif lemon squeezer looks more like an alien than a kitchen accessory and is ill-equipped for its apparent function, which is to squeeze lemons (the juice is said to go everywhere). As a result, it has often been criticised as having more style than substance.
But this matters little. Over the years, the design has sold around the world as an avant-garde status symbol, particularly popular on the wedding lists of young, middle-class professionals. Starck himself is rumoured to have said, “My juicer is not meant to squeeze lemons; it is meant to start conversations,” and this it has done with great success.
Manufactured by Italian kitchenware company, Alessi, the Juicy Salif lemon squeezer continues to be one of Alessi’s (and indeed Starck’s) most talked about products, prompting endless discussions about the design’s meaning and whether indeed form should always follow function.
But the ride between designer and manufacturer has not been as smooth as one might imagine. On the Juicy Salif’s 10th anniversary, Alessi launched 10,000 limited edition, individually numbered and gold plated versions of the design as a way of celebrating its success. While the citric acid in the lemon was said to discolour and erode this gold-plated version forcing it to become strictly ornamental, Starck professed to hate the whole idea (which he said was done without his agreement) so much that he stopped working with Alessi.
The cooling period has been a long one. But, as the Juicy Salif celebrates its 20th anniversary, these two great collaborators have, once again, found some common ground.
This has come in the form of another lemon squeezer, the mysqueeze (£33), which, this month, went on sale exclusively in the UK at mydeco.com as part of Alessi’s ‘Objets Bijoux’ collection. Designed by Roland Kreiter and manufactured by Alessi, the mysqueeze is the result of a competition, run by mydeco and judged by Philippe Starck, to find a young designer who could design an item to be made using 3D printing processes.
“As many people will have noticed, it's been a few years now since Alessi presented any new projects by Philippe Starck,” comments Alberto Alessi, Managing Director of Alessi. “Not to worry: both of us are obviously going through a period where it's hard to find the same harmony that at other times has allowed us to create truly extraordinary objects. So in this context I was surprised to get a call from Philippe in the summer of 2009. He wanted to tell me that, as a juror in a competition held by mydeco, he had awarded a project by a young German designer, Roland Kreiter, which he thought deserved to be produced. This seemed to me like a worthy tribute to ‘Juicy Salif’, the most controversial citrus-squeezer of the twentieth century.”
And a worthy tribute it is. Made from stainless steel, the mysqueeze is designed in an innovative torpedo shape that prizes form and function by allowing both sides to be used at once, while maintaining a sleek and contemporary aesthetic. Kreiter remains a little shell-shocked by his success. "To create something that is being compared to Starck’s Juicy Salif, and for it to not only lead to my dream job but also reignite the collaboration between Starck and Alessi, has been remarkable,” he says “I will need some time to realise what just happened.” As for Starck and Alessi? Let’s hope that this is just the start of a new and long alliance.