Collaboration, craft and conscience
Sustainable sensibilities and small-run production captured the zeitgeist at Milan Design Week.
A slower pace emerges at Milan Design Week
This year’s edition of Milan Design Week saw a number of distinct shifts moving the annual event in new directions, creating a diverse and subtler offering for 2017 visitors. Experiential projects offered new sensory interactions; limited-edition objects handmade by designers and craftspeople prevailed. An underlying tone of slowing design toward sustainable longevity emerged in pockets across the city and out at the main Salone at Rho. A new venue, Ventura Centrale, opened revealing long-hidden parts of the city; Salone del Mobile celebrated 20 years of supporting new talent through the 20th edition of Salone Satellite; behemoth producer IKEA presented an unexpected offering at Lambrate; and the themes of craft, conscience and collaboration emerged, clearly defining the gestalt of Milan 2017. Anniversaries and new partnerships saw cross-disciplinary collaborations between designers and established brands, some not normally associated with Milan Design Week. These collaborations produced experiential installations across the city. For the 20th anniversary of iconic Dutch magazine Frame, Sabine Marcelis and Aesop (6) collaborated on an installation for Aesop’s flagship on Corsa Magenta. Marcelis combined her signature neon arcs with large transparent tubes, air and water to create ‘Vedovelle Fountain’. The fountain provided fresh drinking water for visitors, while exploring how the motion of water, in combination with material elements and light, can improve and change the perceptions of light, materials and space within its installed environment. Swedish minimalist clothing franchise COS paired with Studio Swine (7) in Cinema Arti, a theatre originally designed by Milanese architect Mario Cereghini in the 1930s. At the centre of the blackened space towered a bright white tree-like structure that bloomed with ethereal bubbles, which dissipated into mist on contact. The installation was inspired by Italy’s many public water fountains – rather than offering water, this installation offered visitors a new sensory experience. At Ventura Lambrate, Swedish giant IKEA (3) took up residence in a huge warehouse to present the IKEA Festival, a multi-modal
week-long event involving numerous collaborations with artists, entrepreneurs, musicians, inventors and designers. Most noteworthy was the teaser launch of the new ‘Ypperlig’ collection, the result of the ongoing collaboration between Danish brand Hay and IKEA, launching in Europe in October. This collection presents fresh and original design for IKEA, including a redesign of the iconic Frakta IKEA bag in new, more subtle tones of grey and forest green, and a beautiful injection-moulded armchair. The 35-piece collection also includes furniture, lighting, textiles and homewares. Small-scale brands and designer-generated production continues to see an ongoing resurgence of hand-made craft and oneoff manufacturing. This, combined with limited-production editions, commissions and an interest in culturally traditional objects, resulted in a diverse range of exhibitions. Norwegian Crafts presented ‘Everything is Connected’, bringing together 24 individual designers, craft artists and studios from around Norway into a truly beautiful, emphatically Nordic exhibition in the Lambrate district. Curated by Katrin Greiling, the exhibition defined how Norwegian craft and design co-exist today. The selection included furniture, small objects, lighting, ceramics and a three-dimensional rug crafted from thick mustard-coloured rope. GamFratesi was commissioned by Kvadrat to showcase the new ‘Canvas 2’ and ‘Steelcut Trio 3’ textile colours and range, which produced a series of individually crafted masks drawing inspiration from traditional African tribal masks, and were exhibited at the Kvadrat showroom on Corso Monforte. Jaime Hayon and Caesarstone (14) also drew inspiration from craft, masks and folklore from different cultures alongside Hayon’s signature clown faces. Hayon combined stone, steel and stained glass,
generating a series of bold one-off pieces to create a kaleidoscopic exhibition at the Palazzo Serbelloni. Japanese icon Nendo, led by Oki Sato (11) presented an edition of ‘Invisible Outlines’ at the Jil Sander showroom. The quintessentially Nendo exhibition was the epitome of crafted calm – subtle white and beautifully lit, drawing together a diverse range of Nendo’s work from production pieces to one-off and limited-edition installations. Spanish powerhouse Patricia Urquiola collaborated with art director Federico Pepe to realise a series of cabinets exploring the contemporary use of stained glass for furniture, which they produced using thousand-year-old techniques for boutique Spazio Pontaccio in Brera. A sense of authenticity and sustainability emerged in Milan this year. Two exhibitions demonstrated how end-of-life materials can be given authentic new form, in two distinctly different ways. Paul Cocksedge (17) presented work developed from material excavated from the foundation of his Hackney studio in London. The works paired reclaimed and refined concrete, mortar and brick cylinders, reminiscent of a strange hybridised extrusion, with glass to create a textural series of furniture – this included a multi-level shelf and a number of tables with varying compositions and scales. Max Lamb and Really CPH/Kvadrat (16) presented a series of benches and chairs in the Brera district to showcase and launch their new, fully up-cycled circular manufactured Solid Textile Board and acoustic textile felt. Both materials are engineered from end-of-life cotton and wool sourced from the fashion and textile industries, industrial laundries, households and offcuts from Kvadrat. In Denmark alone, hundreds of tonnes of textiles are incinerated each year at their end of life. Really removes this waste stream by turning it into unique, high-quality sheet material.
15. Tables at Dimore Studio. 16. A detail of a bench designed by Max Lamb for Really CPH/ Kvadrat. 17. Shelving and a table by Paul Cocksedge incorporate materials excavated from the foundations of his soon-to-bedemolished studio in Hackney, London. 18. Patricia Urquiola and art director Federico Pepe collaborated to create stainedglass furniture using ancient Italian artisan techniques.