Take a tour of our off-venue favourites
More than a pop-up
The show that had everyone talking was The Diner, a celebration of the 25th birthday of Surface magazine. A collaboration between the magazine, David Rockwell and design studio 2x4, The Diner was a pop-up restaurant, bar and event space in a barrel-vaulted abandoned warehouse under Milan Central Station. Billed as a ‘coast-to-coast journey through the United States’, four spaces were inspired by a roadside diner, an East Coast luncheonette, a Midwest diner and a West Coast diner. On the menu? Burgers and deli classics provided by cult New York artisan food retailer, Murray’s Cheese. The space featured events – designer karaoke, anyone? – and talks during the day, and transformed into a cocktail bar by night. Partner support, naturally, was evident with furniture sourced from Design Within Reach, while the 14m central bar was provided by Silestone; table tops came from Dekton. No word on how much dancing they endured.
Sound and vision
While Hay showed at the main Salone, we loved its collaboration at Palazzo Clerici with Sonos and WeWork, an American design company specialising in shared workspaces. The idea? To present a shared vision for the future of design, collaboration and living spaces – in essence, uniting design with lighting, furniture and sound in a heritage space. The Palazzo is a lavish neoclassical residence, all gilt and tapestries, which worked surprisingly well as a backdrop for Hay’s collection of clean-lined designs in its signature flat, slightly dirty greys, reds and greens across new designs from Ronan & Erwan
Bouroullec, Stefan Diez, GamFratesi, Shane Schneck and many others. A highlight was the ‘Élémentaire’ chair by Ronan & Erwan Bouroullec for Hay, a “plastic chair that does not look like a plastic chair”. Those in need of a rest, meanwhile, could take a break in the leafy courtyard furnished with the very lovely ‘Palissade’ outdoor furniture collection by the Bouroullec brothers for Hay. There were also smaller objects to covet, such as the new ‘Sonos One’ speakers by Hay for Sonos, in a range of classic Hay colours.
Chairs through time
Along with its typically impressive offering at the fair proper, Swiss manufacturer Vitra also staged Typecasting – an exhibition of ‘iconic, forgotten and new Vitra characters’ at La Pelota, a former sports stadium not far from central Milan. Against the white concrete institutional backdrop, Vitra installed a huge, elliptical yellow stage, on which the Vitra characters were beautifully placed: design geeks will spot the ‘Wiggle’ chair by Frank Gehry, and more than a few Eames. The effect was almost toy-like – an impression emphasised by a black steel platform which allowed viewers to look down on the collection. The exhibition was more than just a pretty effect, though. Designer Robert Sadler, curator of the exhibition, sought to emphasise the social role of furniture – and of chairs in particular – as a key theme. His reasoning: that there are few things finer than a chair, and few things more personal.
Above and below The Diner, a restaurant and bar, was a hugely popular pop-up in an abandoned warehouse under Milan Central Station.
Left ‘Dapper’ by Doshi Levien for Hay. Above A ‘Sonos One’ speaker by Hay for Sonos. Bottom left Vitra’s exhibition of iconic furniture appeared toy-like when viewed from above.