Operating out of his studio in New York City since 1993, Canadian industrial designer Karim Rashid continues to make an indelible impression on the world of design and architecture. When we learn that Karim’s application to the Architectural Studies Program at Carleton University in Ottawa, Ontario was not completed in time to be admitted, we might ask if the design that first earned him universal fame resulted from a twist in fate.
Karim’s approach to design is broadened by an interest in anthropology; how we sit in and enjoy space and how it can improve the quality of our lives. Imbued with a desire to investigate our relationship with space at multiple levels and to witness how it serves and affects us, Karim is a true pluralist. It is from that perspective that he flirts with art, fashion, and music, determined to creatively touch every aspect of our physical and virtual landscape. He has a passion for color, and his understanding of how it is applied in relation to the distance from the equator has motivated him to expand our awareness and to advocate for change. His belief that a paradigm that uses more color in our built environments in very warm climates should be reversed, is reflected in some very striking building projects. That Karim enlists a team of architects who work with mechanical and structural engineers to ensure the physical integrity of his boldly creative designs, has opened doors for him and positioned him to greatly influence the future of design.
The doors to a future in design were opened for Karim at the age of 7, when his father took him and his brother to Expo 1967 in Montreal. While there, Karim found himself overwhelmed by wonder almost daily. His eyes took in a utopian world as shaped by people like Buckminster Fuller, Eero Saarinen, Luigi Colani, George Nelson, Andre Courreges, Marshall McLuhan, Isaac Asimov, Philip K. Dick, Pierre Cardin, and many others. He recognized the richness of a world he looked forward to grow up in. And, when at the age of 11, he visited the new Domestic Landscape show at MOMA in New York, he fell in love with Italian Radical Design. That experience galvanized a desire to design and shape the world of the future.
Sorting through that broadening maze to choose a place where he might begin however, was not as easy. In his teens he found himself confused as to what profession to enter. He had been accelerated through high school, so when it came time to apply to university, he was only 16. Torn between architecture, fine art, and fashion, he initially applied to study architecture at Carleton University in Ottawa. But by the time he applied, the program was full.