Before we dive into the Top 4 Installations of the Milan Design Week 2018, let me give you a short personal round-up of this year’s edition:
First and foremost (and I know I should put another point as no.1), this has been the most visited edition ever. I have never seen Milan so packed in the previous 10 years, which is wonderful and a bit scary too. You start to line up at shows you never needed to do so before. Great for Milan, a little complicated for the visitor. From now on, you need to plan more time, it gets undeniably more tiring and you can’t get rid of the feeling you could have seen more. I have talked to several friends in the business and we all agree, it was far too crowded. Let’s be honest and not just go: What a great show! Yes, it was a privilege and yea, the city was too crowded.
Ventura Lambrate has split in two areas which are now Ventura Centrale (debuting with great success last year) and Ventura Future (a new edition this time). I enjoyed very much the first location, and I have to say, I did not need the second one, which was split in 3 areas. I found it was somehow a bit of lost time and would have preferred seeing other areas. The interesting thing though is if you go on the Venture Future site, the projects sound interesting and promising. I believe it was a question of the quantity of rooms (many tiny) and the difference of quality of exhibitors.
There was not much risk this year. Brands are working more with line extensions instead of launching several new collections that blow your mind. As Patricia Urquiola put it in a recent interview, the market (end consumer) can’t keep up with high rotation, either can a brand. It takes a year to develop a concept, translate into an approved design, produce and launch. Then you need to market the collection and see results, try a different communication or channels if necessary – that takes another year to see reliable results. So, ideally speaking we see a two-years cycle. And that is one of the reasons it is highly improbable to keep up a very high design level and overwhelm the visitor year after year.
This year, and in case we still needed a further proof, it was clear the Milan Design Week is not about interior design only, but brands such as Google and Sony offered a new approach on how technology and design could seamlessly blend in and offer a one-of-a-kind experience for the visitor. Such was the case of Sony who surprised with an interactive installation that would blow our minds. Technology and innovation have become an important part of the show, and it makes so much sense. I did not add the Sony installation to the Top4 list, it feels impossible to recreate the sensorial interactions we have seen. But my highlight of this year has been observing this addition becoming the MDW a 360º design show.
Now, let’s see the Top 4 Installations we picked this year:
1// Giants with Dwarf
Giants with Dwarf by Swiss designer Stephan Hürlemann was one of the most interesting installation at this year Milan Design Week. Hürlemann and his team assembled more than 30 parts of chair and tables from the collection of the oldest Swiss furniture manufacture horgenglarus to create seven wooden puppets, up to three meters tall, that could be moved by pulling a wooden arrow that were hanging in front of them. The installation, that was part of the Ventura Centrale exhibition and won the Unicorn 2018, plays with one of the design archetype – the chair- allowing the visitors to physically interact with it.
The wooden furniture part, some of which goes back more than a hundred years, were connected with cables ties and merely drilled, preserving the archaic allure of the pieces. I went of couple of times there and were surprised the puppets looked entirely ok after thousands of visitors had played with them. This year’s Design Week had luckily a few interactive installation where the visitor would not only read and observe (which is fine but imagine our brains after 5 days visiting:), but actually could play for a while which I particularly appreciated a lot.
2// The Diner
This was a true surprise! I mean, you don’t expect to see an installation paying homage to an American culture such as the diner, even the design looked ‘Europeanised’.
Also located in Ventura Centrale, in the abandoned warehouses underneath Milan’s Central Station, the Diner is a pop-up fully functioning restaurant created for the 25th anniversary celebration of American design magazine Surface by Iconic architect David Rockwell and design studio 2×4.
The space consists of four different areas that represents a journey from West to East of the US: the roadside diner, the East Coast luncheonette, the Midwest diner, and the West Coast diner. I have to admit, not knowing any of these four styles, I could hardly distinguish them, but the idea was surely brilliant.
Guests of all ages were invited to go through the sliding doors and immerse themselves into a space of wonder; you did not quite distinguish at first if the diner was part of a county fair, a museum style installation or a real restaurant.
The four spaces are divided up: visitors go through a grey toned and metallic detailed area, a bright pink section divided by a cascade of drapery where the neon font spelling by 2×4 studio promise “Sizzling, Shakes, Fries, Refreshing, Beefy”.
The connecting element is the custom counter created by Spanish company Cosentino in their signature Silestone quartz.
Diners are uniquely American and enduring in our cultural iconography. Our goal is to capture the restaurant’s inherently optimistic and democratic spirit that draws people of all backgrounds to create a welcoming, lively, engaging, and fun environment.- David Rockwell
Pictures by Marco Menghi
3// Phillip K Smith x COS
A few friends said they were disappointed by the installation COS offered this year taking into account that last year was difficult to top. I do have a slightly different feeling since we worked with the American artist Phillip K. Smith III for our Spring/Summer 2019 report and I know his work by large now. Open sky is a semi-circular sculpture of micro-polished stainless steel, a “light and reflection-based art installation”, inspired and limited at the same time by both the Renaissance architecture of the 16th century Palazzo Isimbardi as well as by the hustle and bustle of the Salone del Mobile.
Therefore, he created an installation that could calm away the visitors by creating a silent dialogue with the solid, classical beauty of the surrounding and the ever-changing experience of the natural element of the Milanese sky. If you stopped trying to take pictures for a moment (difficult task due to the large queue), it was not too difficult to sense that intention.
4// TRAM CORALLO
One of our favourite Italian designers has gifted us during these days with an extraordinary project and piece of tailor-made artisan craftsmanship. Cristina Celestino transforms a 1928 tram travelling through the Brera Design District into a ‘travelling salon’ in collaboration with high-end textiles company Rubelli. One could think of a surreal living room traveling on rails, which suggests the dreamlike atmospheres of Wes Anderson’s films.
Celestino named Brera Ambassador was inspired by the Coral Theaters and adapted a cinema experience to the interiors. Inside, the division into two zones creates two specific moments, recurring situations in theaters and cinemas.
The foyer, seen as the main volume, mimics a soft, enveloping waiting room, featuring rigorous settees, windows screened by abundant Rubelli drapes visible from the outside, and soft inlaid carpeting. The back of the streetcar, behind a light passementerie curtain, introduces to the intimate screening room, where the visitors, seated comfortably on ottomans, can experience an unforeseen cinematic perspective on the city of Milan.
Mattia Balsamini photography (imagen 4+5)
There were other smaller and meaningful installations introduced by Li Edelkoort x Google and Mini Living we covered in this article. Wellness + Wonder by Wallpaper and Danish Mindcraft are definitely on my favourite list too, both were stunning but honestly, too large to share them in a post.
Coming back to the Milan 2018 trends, I will do a recap on 3-4 Macro Trends that were clearly interwoven in all installations, shows and stands sharing my point of view on how we want to live and what moves us as a private person and collective.
You will find the report soon as a bonus in our Spring/Summer 2019 Trend Book.