Things we loved at Milan Design Week
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Founder Nina Yashar looked on “The Bright Side of Design” in a dazzling display of art and lighting from past masters and contemporary designers presented at both the Nilufar Depot on Viale Vincenzo Lancetti and her gallery on Via della Spiga. The cavernous Depot was the backdrop to vibrant standout furniture, including a rainbow-hued table by Filippo Carandini and Gal Gaon’s stripy Macaron seating. Poikilos was equally enticing: a collection of iridescent liquid resin furniture from design duo Objects of Common Interest. And Osanna Visconti provided a head-turner in the form of her bronze Bamboo Forest Chandelier.
Beyond the Surface by SolidNature x OMA
One of the most talked-about shows came from Dutch stone brand SolidNature and architectural practice OMA – both having collaborated on previous projects such as the Fondazione Prada. Their wonderland unfolded in the basement and gardens of a private residence in the city’s Brera district: an experiential odyssey in which monoliths were suspended from the ceiling and onyx walls opened to reveal a room of emerald green marble. In the garden, a colour-graduated stone table and bar by Sabine Marcelis made an impactful impression.
Lexus Design Award 2023
A glimpse into the future from six brilliant young minds. The award-winners included Sweden’s Pavels Hedström’s neon orange Fog-X jacket, designed for desert environments, that transformed into a tent while also ingeniously capturing water (via a sail-like attachment) for drinking supplies. Korea’s Kyeongho Park and Yejin Heo’s Zero Bag took on the problem of plastic waste, creating packaging for clothes with an alginate water-soluble bag lined with paper detergent, which dissolved when thrown in the washing machine, laundering the garments sustainably while eliminating waste. China’s Jiaming Liu presented his Print Clay Humidifier, made from recycled ceramic waste; while US-based design duo Temporary Office unveiled a 3D topographic puzzle designed for visually impaired people.
The next-gen award-winners might well be the next-gen billionaires: each finalist was given a mentor to turn their ideas into commercially viable prospects – the applications of Zero Bag, for instance, were also explored for wrapping fruit and vegetables – and the event, held inside Tortona’s hanger-like Superstudio Più building, provided a talking point for the brand’s Lexus Electrified Sport – an all-electric concept vehicle with nifty tech such as nanotechnology that cleans the air within the interior.
Dimorestudio’s Silence and No Sense
Dimorestudio upped the ante for its 20th anniversary in Milan with a pair of exhibitions. Silence was a visual biography of the studio at the new Dimorecentrale headquarters, while No Sense was a design intervention at an apartment at Via Solferino, transforming six rooms into a series of nonsensical sets furnished with masterpieces from Galleria Massimo Minini alongside works by young artists. An atmospheric soundscape created a sense of theatre as one descended down the Dimore rabbit hole – and way beyond the comfort zone of conventional interior design into wonderfully discombobulating ensembles of furniture and art.
The Italian connection
This was a festival of titanic Italian collaborations, notably three beloved heritage brands. The porcelain maker Ginori 1735, Venetian glass master Barovier&Toso and the fabric house Rubelli’s Domus collection combined a series of modern, artisanal-made furniture and accessories designed by Luca Nichetto. Standouts included the totem-like Conterie floor lamp – the design drawing on porcelain pieces found in the Ginori 1735 archive and crafted in handblown glass and porcelain.
Across town, Poltrona Frau presented Duo, a collaboration with artisanal furniture brand Ceccotti Collezioni culminating in a series of retro silhouettes designed by Roberto Lazzeroni (which will be launched in the UK next month at Design Centre Chelsea Harbour). The highlight here for Gio Ponti lovers, however, was the unveiling of a re-edition of his Dezza armchair upholstered in a never-seen-before Redevance fabric – a design sampled from one of Ponti’s own graphic patterns.
Italian design brand Molteni&C returned to the festival with a Vincent Van Duysen-designed outdoor furniture collection plus its Porta Volta chair by Swiss architects Herzog & de Meuron. Lastly, Cassina celebrated the 50th anniversary of its Cassina iMaestri Collection – a collection of re-editions of masters such as Le Corbusier, Pierre Jeanneret and Charlotte Perriand – with an exhibition at Palazzo Broggi.
Ikea’s 80 years of democratic design
Ikea took over the Padiglione Visconti building in Tortona for a retrospective of accessible design dating back to the ’60s, shipped over from its museum in Älmhult, Sweden. The brand also looked to the future, presenting its new Nytillverkad collection of bedding, furniture and accessories, which updated memorable designs of the past in punchy colour to celebrate the homewares giant’s 80th anniversary. According to Ikea Sweden’s managing director Fredrika Inger, this is the first in a series of planned launches over the next few years: “We will release carefully selected home furnishings from our design archive, updated to match the bold outlook of the next generation,” she says.
The fashion pack
The fashion crowd staged a city takeover. Louis Vuitton’s Objets Nomades’ sixth Milan outing was a disco-ball glittering, paper-bird swooping deep-dive into design, offering 10 new pieces from its stable of designers. The sweeping profile of Raw Edges’ Binda sofa and armchair was a standout, while the Campana brothers’ limited-edition glass-mosaic-clad Disco Cocoon chair got plenty of social-media action. The brand also launched Marc Newson’s Cabinet of Curiosities – a reworking of the Louis Vuitton trunk, with an interior divided by versatile leather storage cubes. Disco balls reappeared at Missoni in an installation punctuated by its donut-shaped Panettone and Ciambellone pouffes sporting the brand’s signature prints as well as the new Nastri fabric.
Fendi stepped out in style with almost a dozen new designs, including the Taiko sofa by Piero Lissoni, Cristina Celestino’s Ottavia chairs and a reimagining of Louis Poulsen’s Artichoke pendant in yellow glass. Hermès took over La Pelota to present a clean-lined home collection elevated by exquisite materials. Dior teamed up with Philippe Starck to present the Monsieur Dior and Miss Dior Sweet chairs in an immersive show that drew big crowds. Loewe paid homage to the Welsh stick chair at its Palazzo Isimbardi installation featuring 30 artisan-envisaged iterations.
Tod’s celebrated craft in collaboration with photographer Tim Walker at Le Cavallerizze Museo Nazionale della Scienza e della Tecnologia; Dolce & Gabbana presented a vision in lemon at its Limonaia installation by Antonio Aricò; Etro showed six tapestry-inspired blankets; Versace showcased its Zensational sofa in a black box installation; Zegna teamed up with Microsoft to unveil a digital service offering billions of personal configurations of luxury leisurewear, and Armani pulled out the stops, opening to the public for the first time its Palazzo Orsini HQ, where it showcased its first-ever outdoor collection.
Gubi at Bagni Misteriosi
Gubi made a splash with a design happening at the city’s iconic ’30s Bagni Misteriosi lido, a super-cool spot for experiencing its indoor and outdoor furniture. The brand’s multi-experience extravaganza included TEN: Beyond the Beetle – ten interpretations of its iconic design by GamFratesi in an exhibit curated by Marco Sammicheli, which included the extraordinary Oca chair by fashion designer Arthur Arbesser. New furniture and lighting designs scattered throughout included a clean-lined Outdoor Lounge Chair by Mathias Steen Rasmussen, a series of shapely ceramic tables by OEO Studio, and a portable version of Space Copenhagen’s Seine lighting.
Michelangelo Foundation moved into the breathtaking baroque beauty, Palazzo Litta, for a playful romp through artisanal innovation, which presented designs by creatives such as Adam Nathaniel Furman, Atelier Biagetti and Jaime Hayon. The creativity bar was set high: from examples of folding screens, including Zoe Piter’s Zig Zag creation, to a sweeping wicker chair with arms extending to human-like hands and legs to feet by José Luis Álvarez, joyous glass table accessories in child-like organic forms, and the striking Armadillo Chair by Adriana Gómez Navarro.
The shape of water – and light
Two standout shows – Shaped by Water (tech giant Google’s collaboration with the American artist Lachlan Turczan) and Elle Decor Italia’s The Art of Light – amplified the wonders of natural elements. Housed in a spare industrial building in the city, Shaped by Water took visitors to rooms filled with stainless-steel basins where sound was used to “sculpt” water in a dramatic presentation that also revealed the influence of water on Google’s hardware designs. In contrast, visitors to The Art of Light, housed in the historic Palazzo Bovara, were led through a series of interiors exploring how light can transform the atmosphere of the home. Motorised curtains opened and closed to represent day and night, light fittings became sculpture objects of appreciation along the way, while colour-filled spaces dazzled in mood-shifting settings.