Desire through design at Milan design week
Milan is the epicentre of design and its design week the world’s most stylish. Creatives in their hundreds of thousands flock here from all over the world for the annual Salone del Mobile, the April fair that marks the unofficial start of the global design season. The main event at Milan Fairgrounds is worth a visit for it offers a glimpse into trends within furniture and product design, materials and fabrics. Yet increasingly it is away from this at Fuorisalone (outside show) and on the streets of Milan where some of the more exciting conceptual exhibits take place.
This year every corner of Milan came alive with the spirit of design – creatives from all around the world exhibiting a mix of critical and avant-garde, fun and the frivolous. The city’s urban feel, areas like Brera with its golden elegance and crumbling old buildings, as well as the more industrial and bohemian Tortona and Navigli, form an ideal backdrop.
Spinach sent a team to observe the bigger names in design and discover promising emerging creatives. Londoner Lee Broom’s boldly designed latest Observatory lighting collection, manufactured at the eponymous company’s factory in Bow, really stood out. Likewise, Oki Sato’s Forms of Movement is fascinating for it sheds light on the Japanese designer’s multidisciplinary studio Nendo and its creative process. Elsewhere, Dirk Vander Kooij is one to watch on the emerging design scene, taking over the garden space at Rossana Orlandi’s gallery with work that has robots print items from recycled plastic. Moreover, we enjoyed the light installation by New York design team Gabriel Scott created for the legendary Bar Basso and in collaboration with the owner Maurizio Stocchetto to honour the Negroni Sbagliato, the classic cocktail invented here some forty years ago.
On the speculative design front, carmaker MINI presented the latest development in the MINI Living series that investigates how a new approach to design can improve urban life. For Milan, the marque worked with London architect Studiomama for Built by All, a study that places the occupants at the centre of the design process so that their individual needs and ideas are met through a series of suggestive modular spaces. The project will directly feed into the first of many real-life buildings opening in Shanghai in April 2019. Then at the Leonardo da Vinci Museum of Science and Technology, the Lexus pavilion offered a truly conceptual and immersive visitor experience through otherworldly spaces, a blend of tech and nature, sound and light designed by Japanese architect Sota Ichikawa of dNA.
We also paid a visit to Fondaziona Prada to witness the near-completion of the final building Torre, the monumental white concrete nine-story tower designed by the Dutch architect Rem Koolhaas and his firm OMA. This incredible cultural space is symbolic of Milan where the creative pillars of art and architecture, design and fashion increasingly meet. Milan’s Salone is all about desire through design which expresses the city perfectly – one that has been conducting an interesting discourse with design since the 1960s. It was then that Italy realised its strengths in having an ecosystem of creative education, design history and skills, manufacturing and the critical culture to keep it alive. It certainly feels more commercial at Milan Fairgrounds, but on the backstreets of city you can still feel the rebellious spirit of the 60s.