Now in its 55th year, Milan’s Salone Del Mobile is the biggest and longest running global design event. Spread over six days, this year’s edition saw 300,000 visitors converge on Italy’s industry capital to attend over 22,000 exhibitions and over 1,000 events. A veritable festival of design, each of these exhibitions represents a launchpad for the latest collections and concepts by many of the finest artisans in the world.
Shunning the traditional practice whereby designers just display their latest work, here in Milan every effort has been made to encapsulate a complete and immersive experience. Even the restaurants, which Milan is not short of, have been engineered to provide a showcase for new and exciting work. This year the spotlight was on Tom Dixon, who has collaborated with stone specialist Caesarstone to create their unique take on dining out. Located in the late baroque church, La Rotonda Della Besana, their installation features four futuristic kitchens inspired by the elements of Fire, Water, Earth, and Air; with each theme accompanied by a corresponding dining hall.
In a similar vein, British designer Lee Broom has taken a decidedly unorthodox approach this year. His latest collection, Optical, was presented via a delivery van nicknamed the ‘Salone Del Automobile.’ Over the festival, the van moved between a variety of hotspots around the city, stopping at the Brera Design District, Zona Torona, and Spazio Rossana Orlandi. Those who managed to track down the wandering installation were invited to step into the back of the van and experience Broom’s interpretation of an Italian palazzo complete with his new range of monochrome floor and pendant lights. “I wanted to make the same impact as last year but without creating a huge installation,” Broom says. “While deciding where to exhibit, I thought: what about everywhere?”
Every facet of the design industry is celebrated here. From Salone Satellite, a platform for young designers and now in its 19th year, and Space & Interiors, which focusses on architecture, to the International Bathroom Expo; the extent and range on show mean it is impossible to see everything. We present our shortlist among the happenings during the most important week in design.
1. DESIGNER SPOTLIGHT: MICHAEL ANASTASSIADES FOR HERMAN MILLER
One of the most popular launches was Michael Anastassiades’ first furniture collection for US company Herman Miller. Known for his minimalist lighting range, the London-based designer has produced a collection of stools alongside tables and large-scale versions of his mobile-style lights at the Herman Miller showroom in Milan.
Working to create pieces that reflect Miller’s reputation for timeless pieces, the stools have been stripped to their bare fundamentals. Each one has been crafted from solid timber and features one leg in brass: a finish that appears regularly throughout Anastassiades’ lighting range. While further variations will be available at a later date, these first editions have been produced in American Oak or Walnut: materials which allow the stools to acquire a unique character over time.
Titled ‘The Double Dream of Spring’, a reference to a 1915 painting by 20th-century Italian metaphysical artist Giorgio de Chirico, the installation was housed in the Herman Miller showroom on Corso Garibaldi.
2. THE NEXT GENERATION OF DANISH DESIGN: MINDCRAFT
Now in its eighth year, Minecraft returns to Salone Del Mobile under the guidance of celebrated design duo GamFatesi. Focussed on showcasing new and original works by some of Denmark’s most talented craftspeople and designers, the latest edition was held at the Circle Filologica in central Milan.
This year’s theme sought to add another dimension to the exhibition by paying homage to the host building’s heritage. Titled, “In My Mind Craft’, GamFratesi explains their concept: “Like last year, we have chosen a historical venue for the MINDCRAFT exhibition: the Circolo Filologico in the center of Milan. This institution studies the origins of texts and literature, and driven by the notion of tracing the origins of a project, an idea, thought; we looked to historical ideas about the human brain as a source of inspiration for our exhibition concept. The designers and craftspeople selected to take part in MINDCRAFT16 have each interpreted the theme “In My Mind Craft” in their individual works.”
Presented by the Danish Arts Foundation, those participating included Benandsebastian, Anne Dorthe Vester and Maria Bruun, Christina Schou Christensen.
3. STANDOUT EXHIBITION: SOU FUJIMOTO’S ‘FOREST OF LIGHT’ FOR COS
By far the biggest showstopper of the week was architect Sou Fujimoto’s Forest of Light installation for fashion label COS. Exploring the concept of interaction and perspective, Fujimoto has transformed a former theatre with towering cones of light that respond to visitors’ movements.
Here, light is used as an architectural material with the series of conical spotlights arranged to represent abstract tree formations. The forest effect is enhanced by mirrored walls surrounding the installation which help create the illusion of an infinite landscape. A combination of fog and specially composed sounds provide the surreal ambience, all adding to Fujimoto’s immersive experience.
“In this installation for COS, I envisage to make a forest of light,” said Fujimoto. “A forest which consists of countless light cones made from spotlights above. These lights pulsate and constantly undergo transience of state and flow. People meander through this forest as if lured by the charm of the light. Light and people interact with one another, its existence defining the transition of the other.”
Located at the Via Pietro Masgani 8, the exhibition represents COS’ fifth showing at Salone Del Mobile. Since 2011, COS have commissioned an architecture or design studio to create an installation. Previous projects have included collaborations with Nendo in 2014 and Snarkitecture last year.
4. TREND WATCH: CHINESE DESIGN
Salone Del Mobile’s profile was significantly raised in the Chinese market with the official launch of their latest satellite exhibition coming to Shanghai in November. As a result, it comes as no surprise to see an influx of Asian design houses taking the opportunity to show their latest product lines in Milan, including Neri&Hu and Stellar Works.
Hong Kong designer André Fu presented his new ‘Tac/Tile’ collection of bespoke handblown lights (below). Created in collaboration with the Czech Republic-based glass manufacturer Lasvit, the project marks a return to the Hong Kong-based designer’s architectural roots. The series of lamps, each featuring a 23mm-thick seamless fold of handblown glass and paired with a minimalist matt-bronze frame, are part of what Fu describes as his ‘exploration of the materiality of glass.’
Further examples were shown in the ‘Alamak! Design in Asia’ exhibition which brought together 12 designers in hopes of making a “contemporary impression on the perception of what design in Asia is.”
Elsewhere, Superstudio Piu hosted an exhibition titled ’Tradition in Evolution’, which featured some show stopping pieces including Frank Jiang’s White Moon vanity and Qiang Yu’s Screen (above).