I’ve been revisiting the Milan fair after what feels like a long hiatus. The new naming for the Salone del Mobile this year comes charged with expectations, and so does the idea of what kind of messages, design, and innovation we might see in 2021 considering that 2022 will be the 60th anniversary of the Salone del Mobile and might come with a big bang. I am sharing with you below a few explanations and thoughts on this year’s edition.
SO, WHAT IS THE SUPERSALONE?
You could find at the Supersalone the co-presence of companies, schools, and talks in one single space located on the Rho fairground and curated by Stefano Boeri. The idea is to offer a more open and horizontal overview of the current design scene by exchanging ideas. On a different note, Maria Porro is appointedP resident of the Salone del Mobile Milano, the first woman ever to hold this position.
Supersalone opens the fairground pavilions to the public for the entire duration of the event to present products and work by students, emerging designers, independent makers and workshops alongside the best-known brands and companies, and that is the novelty. It’s like merging the Off Salone with the Salone del Mobile on a much smaller scale.
THE SPATIAL DESIGN
Please think of small spaces instead of big fair stands. Exhibitors did not have 200-500m2 and walls around their exhibition.
The spatial design was reduced to one wall and a flooring platform, most of the brands did not show more than 4m.
All exhibitions were set up in large open corridors facing each other; think of a supermarket where you walk in between aisles with product shelves on left and right – that’s the set up.
The supersalone was packed on Sunday. Everybody could go this year; the fair visit was not limited to professionals during the week.
It made it difficult to take the designs in, you often saw every (aprox.) 4 m a new brand, and there were loads of people in that aisle (a far cry from the what the render below illustrates). The good news is there was much interest, but from a professional perspective, it made it difficult to walk and actually appreciate what was on display. With no border between the brands, you couldn’t visually and mentally close the information and then move to the next one.
Render by Andrea Caputo.
In former editions, nobody has to use the stand walls to display product, so it must have been quite a struggle to decide what to present in such a reduced space, I saw much messaging on the walls to give it sense.
Going greener, second life, sustainability, and renew our connection with nature were the most used manifestos (you can see the corresponding images in my stories/highlights/supersalone).
The secret to being seen this year was COLOR. The brands which dived into a visible and more energetic color palette were clearly standing out. You would pay more attention, and it was pleasant to the eye after so many chipboard walls and platforms.
Anyhow, I am observing that color is coming back stronger in the home industry. Maybe we have now learned more about color psychology, its therapeutic effect, and dare to live with it? If you go to stories/highlights, you’ll see how much color there was, more or less muted, but bringing more joy and vibrance.
1// TUBESRADIATOR – Milano
I haven’t seen so far a radiator body with such a personality making a statement in any single room, still blending in due to its soft and curvy forms. Milano by Tubesradiator can go as a floor-standing or wall-mounted system. It’s such a beauty you can even think of placing it now in front of a floor-to-ceiling window where it wouldn’t bother but add to the space almost as if it was a sculpture.
From a technical point of view, the Milano radiator is electric and features touch controls to switch it on and off and adjust the temperature. You can also program weekly.
Designed by Antonia Astori and Nicola de Ponti, the stand and product design were outstanding.
Highlight: Because a functional piece becomes art. What we used to hide, we want to place in a primary position now.
The Italian furniture manufacturer presented a trio of the latest designs for contract and residential and have received a lot of attention at the supersalone thanks to their versatile and un office/wfh solutions. “Blume” by Sebastian Herkner and “Ila” by Patrick Jouin, “Caementum” by Marco Merendi and Diego Vencato have been shown during the fair (more info here).
How attract through color paletting and show the most without physical product?
The back wall of the stand designed by Calvi Brambilla was used to display manifestos or show catalog images. Meanwhile I was visiting, that aisle was packed, people were drawn towards the joyful and fluid exhibition of five settings.
Highlight: If we need to work (from home), let’s make it fun and comfortable. Pedrali answers to emotions (I need comfort) and functionality sat the same time solving spatial design issues such as privacy and acoustics.
THE LOST GRADUATION SHOW
Over the course of 2020/21, thousands of design students completed their studies. But unlike their peers before them, these students graduated without having had the chance to present their works to the public.
This exhibition is an opportunity to bring young design students from all over eh world together on one large stage.
I’ll share with you today just a few snippets, there was no time to prepare much more, and they were literally hundreds of showcases this time. More projects are going to be published step by step in the following weeks.
The installation showcased 170 projects by students who graduated between 2020 and 2021, from 48 schools of design in 22 different countries. It must have been quite a challenge to decide who would participate with 300 design schools in 59 countries responding to the open call in early June.
Here go a few projects I thought worth sharing due to their message, innovation of materials and also beauty of the design.
1// Seam of skin by Chiaki Yoshihara
Musashino Art University (JP)
Blue foam , normally used for insulation and cushioning, is water resistant, light and durable, and easy to produce. Seam of Skin furniture is made by welding blue foam of polystyrene resin with nitrocellulose lacquer coating, and pressing.
2// Hypatia Project by Tair Almor
The Hypatia Project was born out of questions of the representation of the female body and sexuality and questions about the role of the designer in society, women in design and design for women.
The designer women to take part in my design process. I asked 100 women, aged 19 to 76, questions about nudity, pain, pleasure, looking at their own body and intimate experiences with another person. From the sequence of answers from each woman I created a ceramic vase, using modular molds. Each “slice” of the vase has a color, shape and size representing one of the answers, creating a personal and unique vase for each woman who participated (pic 3+4) in the project.
3// Kaarigari by Rashmi Bidasaria
Royal School of Art and Design; London (UK)
Handblock printing, a 500 year-old tradition in India, is becoming redundant due to advances in digital printing.
Karigari means more than just the specific skills of an artisan or the type of craftsmanship. It is an overarching idea that encompasses the community, their safeguarding of the craft and passing down of knowledge. Every artisan has a signature style and movement in the way they print. These movements are an individual’s understanding of the craft. Their dexterity and skills is a way to showcase their craftsmanship and this project is an attempt to bring that voice to the fore-front. The project encodes the movement of block printing artisans from Sanganer, Rajasthan, into a visual data – charting their individual unique and signature styles. This serves as their identity. A way to pay homage to the craftsmen, that celebrates what they do.
THE MAKERS SHOW
The new Makers Show features self-producing designers and artisans who are reinventing the way we work with an almost unimaginable variety of materials.
The projects featured in between stands of market players of the furniture industry invite to open a new dialogue between established brands and emerging designers who dare to think differently – and take matters into their own hands paying attention to sustainability as an essential requirement moving away from the concept of going greener as a trend.The idea is to build up a collective picture of the status quo of independent design and the direction it’s taking.
1// Satellite by KOOIJ
The open faced Satellite is built additively from honey-toned ribbons of recycled plastic. It’s deep, crystalline basin facilitates focused light mixing: cool to warm, light to dark, bled together through the corrugations of 3D printing.
Two tactile knobs facilitate this transition, inviting interaction with the otherwise unreachable creature. All elements of the Satellite have been developed and produced in Amsterdam.
2// Robot shelf by Ryo Kobayashi
The London based designer combines in his sculptural shelf design the robotic and the human, the male and the female, the dead and the living, home storage and artful crafts combined. Rio Kobayashi’s core idea is that a shelf shows a lot about the personality of the owner. I never thought about it that way, but I guess, he is right.
I did not find big innovations, it was more of a confirmation on the trends I’ve been working on for a while, though a few new directions are coming up; but hey, this is not the moment for big changes.
We are still settling in somehow.
We all needed to see physical products again, and exhibitors needed to have face-to-face conversations, too.
I’m more than happy to have traveled despite the complicated circumstances of living with your green pass in your hand, QR codes, temperature measurements at every spot, signing more documents to visit an exhibition, queues, and wearing a mask 12 hours/day.
But also, those difficulties apart, the Salone and Off Salone stopped being a jewel three/four years ago when too many people started attending (let’s be honest). This year’s edition was so much more relaxing; less novelty, more peace.
I had an interesting conversation with a designer exhibiting at Rossana Orlandi. He said: It’s a 10% public this year of what we used to have, and I am so glad. I can finally talk again to people and have a conversation which gives me joy and is part of wanting to exhibit.
We will publish part II next week sharing a selection of Off Salone projects with a few personal comments and observations from a trend perspective.