From Broken Nature to mycelium architecture, from Magis’s flat-pack innovation to Starck’s whimsical mirror, and from Rossana Orlandi’s plastic rehab project to the rise of glass, Azure’s editors saw and loved a lot at this year’s Milan Design Week. Here are our 40 favourite moments.
Paola Antonelli’s exceptional Broken Nature exhibition at Milan’s Triennale seems to have made an impact on the imaginations of designers. Totems (left) by Neri Oxman and her Mediated Matter Group at MIT, which represents melanin suspended in fluid, and Patricia Piccinini’s silicone Sanctuary (right) – with its embracing Bonobos – book-end the exhibition.
Carlo Ratti’s Mycelium Arches at L’Orto Botanico
Italian architecture firm Carlo Ratti Associati (in collaboration with the energy company ENI) installed a series of mycelium arches in the botanical gardens of Brera. Each of the structures features a kilometre of mycelium, which was grown over six weeks and will be composted post-Salone. It was one of the most convincing arguments for using mushroom fibre as a building material in recent memory.
Rossana Orlandi’s Plastic Master’s Show
The iconic Italian design gallerist Rossana Orlandi has made it her mission over the past year to commission designers and artists to rethink plastic, whether though the use of recycled polymers or bioplastics. Her collective show at Milan’s museum of science and technology featured a number of creatives re-using plastic, including Chris Jordan’s bottle-cap-pointillism ode to Seurat.
Cos and Arthur Mamou-Mani
The ethereal installation at Palazzo Isimbardi, by architect Arthur Mamou-Mani for COS, was made of 3D printed bioplastic bricks, showing biopolymer’s large-scale potential.
Biodegradable at Kartell
Italy’s foremost manufacturer of plastic designs, Kartell has in recent years invested in bioplastics. Could they lead the way in non-conspicuous consumption?
Offsite and at the fair greenery abounded, a mute reference to the urgent need to protect the environment. Here it covers Fritz Hansen’s new Planner shelving system.
Emanuela Crotti’s table, with its resin-fossilized coral reef, at Rossana Orlandi. Wow.
Stefano Boeri for Riva 1920
Stefano Boeri is best known as the architect of Bosco Verticale, which has been hugely influential in showing how major plant life can be integrated directly into architecture. At Riva 1920 he debuted a solid-wood table. He’s on the right, inspecting his work.
Stefano Boeri Studio
We had a chance to see what other verdant visions Boeri’s team is bringing to life as part of a visit to the firm’s studio. Here is a model of an experimental concept.
Bauhaus in Technicolour
The 100th anniversary of the Bauhaus played into many reissues, including Rietveld’s 636 buffet at Cassina. Tecta also released a number of Bauhaus pieces reimagined in vibrant new fabrics, including Walter Gropius’s F51 as reinterpreted by Katrin Greiling.
Lowlife, a sofa by Prostoria, exemplifies the trend of ultra soft comfort. It seems that “lo chilling,” as one company rep at Salone referred to it, has entered the Italian lexicon.
Sunbrella’s display at Rossana Orlandi’s gallery encapsulates the bold colour spectrum of 2019.
Vitra’s Art Vibes
Vitra displayed the Bouroullec brothers’ vases made of vibrant, bricolage-like components and based on the duo’s expressionistic paintings. It was one of the best examples of the handmade trend coursing through the Salone and beyond.
The Bouroullec Brotherhood
Here they are in the flesh: Ronan and Erwan Bouroullec test drive their new Cotone sofa for Cassina.
Trompe L’Oeil at Zanotta
Zanotta’s famed Sacco – dating to 1968 – got super heavy with a sculptural take on the bean bag chair by Krishnaraj Chonat in Carrara marble.
Eileen Fisher and Waste No More
At Rossana Orlandi’s gallery, Eileen Fisher presented a critique on fast fashion. The designer is recycling post-consumer fibres into canvases and other products.
The Design Holding exhibition at Salone’s new S Pavilion showcased three heavyweights – B&B Italia, Louis Poulsen and Flos – joining forces. The entrance itself was impactful – an interactive media wall alit with designer products through the years – but B&B Italia’s furniture display, with wall-mounted deconstructions of its new releases, was a knock out all on its own.
Konstantin Gric at Flos
Noctambule, Konstantin Grcic’s modular glass lighting system for Flos, is larger than life. The man himself is humble and open to having his photo taken.
Living Divani Celebrates 50 Years
A mesmerizing light show at Living Divani’s headquarters near Como featured a lineup of Lissoni’s bestselling Extrasoft sofa series.
Piero Lissoni Still Shines
The cast aluminum Poltrona 02 by Piero Lissoni, from the Uncollected Collection in celebration of Living Divani’s 50th anniversary.
Romance Never Dies
Ingo Maurer’s whimsical butterfly fixture La Festa Delle Farfalle was nothing short of captivating.
Craft is Big
Marni’s Moon Walk was full of gorgeous, colourful pieces made by Colombian artisans. The sheer calibre of craftsmanship was exhilarating.
Old and New
Milan’s architecture often provided a beautiful juxtaposition between old and new. Here, the 18th century home of the Unification-era writer Alessandro Manzoni was foregrounded by a Nemozena installation by Liz West called Aglow.
Interni Gets into Human Nature
Another big showcase exploring our growing consciousness around nature was at Interni’s annual takeover of Milan’s university. One of the installations on display was the Escher-like Multiply structure by Waugh Thistleton Architects.
Of Nature and Human Nature
Also at Interni’s Human Nature show, this glowing maze confounded spectators who hoped to actually experience it. It was off limits.
Hermès at La Pelota
The Hermès homage to craft was simply inspiring, with furniture, tableware and textiles displayed in a maze (one actually navigable!) of brick blocks that was itself an example of beautiful handiwork.
Carpet Magic at Gan
Patricia Urquiola and Raw Edges (mid-interview, next image) were among the talents contributing dreamlike designs for Gan.
De-Coding at Palazzo Reale
It’s always a joy to enter the Palazzo Reale, and this time around the venue hosted two compelling shows: The Art Side of Kartell and De-Coding. The latter featured monumental works that riffed on the hidden messages inside the palace’s artworks. It was purely delightful.
Nendo x Wonderglass
The Shape of Gravity, at the Istituto dei Ciechi, showed Nendo making furniture and lighting for WonderGlass that seemed to be just that – shaped by gravity, with no visible joinery. It was mind-bending.
While Nendo showed glass pieces incomprehensibly shaped by gravity, this installation the Ventura Centrale by the Japanese company AGC, demonstrated how thin yet strong the company can manufacture glass. The series of concave panels iterated the stop-motion formation of a bubble.
Moooi inaugurated a new location with a showcase of new pieces irreverently displayed.
Big Style at Cassina
At the Cassina showroom in town, Patricia Urquiola (background, left) showed off the Italian manufacturer’s new directions, which were deeply influenced by the past. There was a ’70s vibe in the air, and Le Corbusier’s wood hand displaying its peace sign.
Davide Groppi Does it Again
The uber-minimalist Davide Groppi once again displayed his talent for creating indelible lighting effects while almost disappearing the light source.
Olafur Eliasson for Louis Poulsen
Olafur Eliasson, in his debut for Louis Poulsen, did the opposite. By exposing the inner workings of his multi-faceted OE Quasi light, he created a piece that makes a different impression from various angles.
Swiss window and door company Sky-Frame tapped into James Turrell – and maybe Stanley Kubrick, too – with this experiential coloured-light installation.
Art in the Heart of Tortona
Alex Chinneck’s peeling facade also felt like an homage, this one to James Wines and Site. It was much Instagrammed, and audacious in its own right.
Bohinc at Wallpaper Handmade
Bohinc Studio’s Planetaria was among the eye-popping delights at the Wallpaper Handmade show. The collection felt retro and loopy, in a good way.
The Playful Outdoors
This playful outdoor furniture set at Rossana Orlandi exuded the promise of spring.
Flat-Pack All Grown-Up
Stefan Diez designed the flat-pack Costume chair for Magis, which also features a thin foam seat and back. A bouncy spring interior allows the chair to remain comfortable.
Philippe is the Fairest of Them All
What can we say? We’re into Philippe Starck’s sense of humour. At Flos, a video of the French designer morphing into a dog and then back to himself was on constant replay on hanging screens positioned in front of his oval, edge-lit mirrors.