24-Hour Salone

By Jo Phillips

24 hours in Milan during the world’s biggest design fair Salone del Mobile is not a long time. Even in one week, you can not hope to cover what goes on at the big fair, let alone what goes on around the city, which is so magnificent is this time of year. However, here are just a handful of things to do in 24 hours in 24-hour Salone.

Get started with a trip to the well-respected space Superstudio. Here the trends are always on show, as well as many international brands utilising this stage to show their wares. Exhibits and designs by around 40 designers, ranging from furniture, lighting, textiles, installations, and more under the theme ‘Inspiration Innovation Imagination’ were presented.

Making your way by foot beware as you will pass a ton of events carrying on through every turn of a street, so don’t be distracted. Like Yoox’s Colour Squad, a project where artists, writers and creators, interpret according to their artistic sensibility. The main theme of this edition was, “Future Laboratory”.

A blank canvas ready to be filled by artists’ performances and visitors, called to express themselves and their visions and giving a voice to their ideas thanks to the collaboration with Posca, the main partner of the initiative creativity comes alive.

This year, on walking into Superstudio, the first thing to be greeted with was a power bar. A stripe that can be placed in homes, cities, streets etc where not only you can charge your electric car but also any other device you may have. YouPower – The Energy Company, a Swiss company leader in energy-related solutions, presents the YouPower BAR, the innovative recharging station for electric vehicles, as a world preview. The Infinite/Unlimited Recharge installation designed by Studio Milo is intended as a playful, entertainment and meeting place: a modern agora with a Re-Charge Area in which to sit, rest and discover new technology.

Daamstudio reinvents the classic Italian artisanal culture of porcelain dolls, or think of the type of figures your granny had. Contemporary culture meets a new cult object D’art. A collection of craftsmanship objects made of fine porcelain and reinvented according to contemporary and fashion-forward designs.

So when is a room divider, not a room divider when it is Cortina, a sculptural screen made of handcrafted wood which allows for a more three-dimensional effect. Light plays through rounded linear carved shapes. Designed by Sebastiano Bottos

South-East London-based Paul Kelley showed Re-Make Re-Model, Re-Imagine. A handmade installation of 350 multifunctional magnetic cubes, using the latest range of colours and finishes by Abet Laminati. It was this company that worked with the original designers of the Memphis group, The bright bold colours and patterns of the blocks were so beautiful they were almost lickable. (picture on left)

Samsung Electronics showed their Bespoke Home, Bespoke Life. As a “sustainability zone”, the designer Seungji Mun chose recycled materials. A selection of appliances recalls the themes of reuse and connectivity, the use of apps in the kitchen to connect the rooms of the house and everyday life. From green initiatives from fridges to cookers via washing machines, all items blended almost like art into the home. Even paintings hid machinery behind them, giving the look of absolute comfort whilst camouflaging the daily necessary goods we all need to run our homes and lives.

Lighting involving fabric was a big trend across the whole of the week at Superstudio. Andon, by GPJ X Yutaka, is a lighting fixture inspired by traditional and ancient Japanese paper-covered lanterns. Andon is the word for a lantern and these look like part art installation part paper lantern. Made of hollow aluminium tubes with fabric, combined with LED lights.

Several students and universities choose the Superstudio space to show off new ideas and new thinking. Although the RCA (Royal College of Art in London) didn’t officially show several students from the university banded together to bring their works to the event. Object ions the title of the collective’s work hints at the ideas of play. The unexpected and playful objects were the result of the individual experimentation of 13 emerging designers, produced with new materials and innovative processes, whilst moving away from traditional processes.

Another School on show was the ISIA Florence Institute which presented a series of soft armchairs which challenged the short life cycle of objects,  called Design Fiction. Fifteen hacked armchairs, each completely differently interpreted showed the expanded potential use over a lifetime.

Quantum a young Japanese start-up presented five Lights. Taking everyday items, a cup, a glass and a lamp and asking the question what should these look like? Their answers? Flag, a rechargeable table lamp that can, if necessary, lengthen or shorten, thus modifying the projection of the shadow. Cut, a modular ambient lighting system that can be hung, placed or spread out as if it were fabric or a piece of paper, so as not to be immediately recognizable in its function; Paper Plane, a mobile lamp, whose beam of light changes according to the wind and the atmosphere. Then there were routes, a wall lamp that resembles a hanging clock and finally, Sun, a  portable light, recharged with sunlight, when it perceives a certain degree of darkness, it lights up by itself.

By this point, overload has set in but the next brand collaboration may well aid. GN Architects + Phononic Vibes showed SoundSpline.

Engineering and architecture meet in a futuristic high-tech sculpture. The red structured panels rise, and wrap around themselves, inspired by the curves of the human ear. 

Designed as an “acoustic cradle” in which those who want to make a work call without distractions, wish to study, or simply be in a more silent environment can stay and even take refuge.

This piece is the first example of an acoustic island made with metamaterials, the idea that comes from a collaboration between Phononic Vibes and GN Architetti. Imagine if cities installed these and how this would help eliminate noise. Sounds that we may well learn to block out still affect us in harmful ways.

Lexus the Japanese car company run a yearly important design competition, now in its 11th year. The space held a multi-sensory spatial experience that involved art, design and innovation, which clearly illustrates the company’s zero-impact vision.

The space was dominated by a new installation by Suchi ReddyShaped by Air, inspired by the Lexus Electrified Sport, with prototypes created by the four winners of the Lexus Design Award 2023. Both the Installation and Lexus Design Awards shared the theme of shaping the future.

The yearly competition invited designers to submit concepts that anticipate the challenge of the future, address it with an innovative solution and captivate the imagination with exceptional design, while seamlessly enhancing happiness. Ultimately highlighting Lexus’s belief that design has the power to deliver positive change. 4 finalists were on show with their prototypes for ‘Design for a Better Tomorrow’.

Pavels Hedström (Sweden, based in Denmark), designed the remarkable Fog-X. A jacket that transforms into a tent or shelter that can catch fog and turn it into drinking water. A survivalist dream product but one with great potential in a world where water becomes more and more precious as droughts become more common.

Jiaming Liu (China), designed a Print Clay Humidifier, a sustainable, 3D-printed humidifier made with recycled ceramic waste.

Temporary Office, from Singapore (Vincent Lai) and Canada (Douglas Lee), from the USA, designers of Touch the Valley, a 3D topographic puzzle that helps visually impaired people learn about the physical environment through touch.

Kyeongho Park and Yejin Heo from the Republic of Korea, designed the Zero Bag, a new clothing package that dissolves in water and contains a detergent that can remove chemicals from products while reducing plastic waste.

The Lexus Design Award also welcomed the public to take part in the Your Choice Award and vote for the idea they feel best represents ‘Design for a Better Tomorrow’. Voting for the ‘Your Choice’ award was held both online and at an exhibition of the four Lexus Design Award-winning prototypes at Milan design week. The Fog X, a jacket making drinking water from fog, has won the first public vote in the Lexus Design Awards, which recognises prototypes that aim to build a better future.

Time to eat before the next event, so what about stopping off at one of the numerous eateries dotted through the city, serving modern takes on traditional Italian cuisine, for example, a fried pizza? Yes, that’s right, pizza made in a frying pan. Don’t knock it until you’ve tried it. Delicious.

Next up, after a little bit to eat comes cocktail hour at Future Impact, where young Singapore designers revealed their vision for a better tomorrow, a showcase curated by Tony Chambers and Maria Cristina Didero.

A design-led hub of innovation and creativity in which impactful design solutions and technology intertwine to shape a brighter future for everyone, and emphasises the urgent need for sustainability in design and production today. The curators, alongside DesignSingapore Council, Singapore’s national agency for design, invited Singapore’s most talented and imaginative designers to share their unique vision for a global future.

Six designers presented forward-thinking ideas including Forest & Whale, Viewport Studio, Gabriel Tan, Nathan Yong, Studio Juju and Tiffany Loy.

“Singapore has been a hotbed of progressive design talent for many years, and I am delighted to help bring this message to a global audience during Milan Design Week. I’m confident that Future Impact will also leave its own positive and lasting impression.”

Tony Chambers, co-curator

Nathan Yong showed his project Bent Onyx, a bridge between the past and future, traditional craft and technological innovation to sculpt Onyx, one of the most fragile and brittle natural stones. Using a patented technology that reduces the surplus waste created during the production process of making Onyx furniture and interior objects. Blocks are thinly sliced into sheets and then laminated to create dramatic new shapes and volumes, thus positively impacting the amount of material used, and protecting the stone for future generational use.

Studio Juju OO Collection is a group of five sculptural objects characterised by circular holes. Abstract in their function, the familiar and ubiquitous holes punctuate the pieces, leaving one to imagine their purposes. The pieces are constructed entirely from Dekton a sophisticated, high-performance, ultra-compact stone slab material by Cosentino that has achieved carbon neutrality for its entire life cycle.

Tiffany Loy showed Building Futures Line by Line. The textile designer Tiffany Loy teams up with SUTD’s DManD (Singapore University of Technology and Design’s Digital Manufacturing and Design Centre) to explore advanced automated textile construction as a means of additive manufacturing. Despite it’s historic existence and association with craft, weaving and knitting have been consistently rejuvenated with digital accompaniments such as software and automation of hardware.

This collaboration explores the construction of multi-material, pliable 3D forms, filling a gap in the current world of 3D printed options. Textile construction methods allow material properties to be retained in the final product, unlike 3D printing processes which are often restricted by types of fusible materials used. With this starting point, Loy and the team at DManD explore an imagined future of a world built with lines.

Gabriel Tan presented Aiming for Peace; The Carnation Lamp. Aiming for Peace is a floor and pendant lamp that carries both a sense of hope and poignancy. Inspired by the Flower Power movement flowers triumph over conflict and become an iconic symbol of non-violence and harmony, this lamp is a beacon of light amid the chaos. Made from furniture production offcuts, a recycled steel pipe stem and a 3D-printed lampshade made from recycled plastic, the lamp uses a low-energy 2.5W LED source.

Viewport Studio showed Rinnovare. The studio produced two sculptural room divider screens made from waste metal parts from their ongoing collaboration with Italian manufacturer Equilibri. One is designed via conversations directly with the manufacturer and the other via conversations with an AI (Chat GPT). Viewport Studio will let the viewers decide for themselves which approach they prefer and leave room for reflection on the usefulness of AI at this moment and in the future. The manmade one was slightly softer with more curves and connections but the differences were subtle.

Forest & Whale showed Wallflower. For their project, they presented an interactive poster that transforms a piece of art into a growing plant world via seeds bringing a constant presence and visibility to our living environment. Composed of multicoloured tesserae, these colour chips, embedded with seeds, can be torn off, planted and grown into herbs. As more chips are used, the artwork evolves, growing smaller until it finally disappears, leaving no waste behind.

In collaboration with Fab.Pub, Forest & Whale designed a limited edition of vases that will be 3D-printed onsite using a clay-based filament. With a surface that undulates and ripples like plant roots, the herb vessels elevate the visual form of the ubiquitous pot into a taller silhouette, drawing intention to the ritual of kitchen gardening. Visitors to the installation will witness the growing of herbs and terracotta vessels at the same time.

The DesignSingapore Council’s (Dsg’s) vision is for Singapore to be an innovation-driven economy and a loveable city by design. Singapore was designated a UNESCO Creative City of Design in December 2015.

Tony Chambers is a Creative Director, Design Consultant and Editor. He is the founder of the creative agency TC & Friends and co-founder, with artist Ryan Gander, of OTOMOTO – the design, art and ideas platform. He is the editor and creative director of the definitive monograph of designer Paul Smith published by Phaidon and the Co-Chair of Brainstorm Design, Fortune magazine’s design & business conference. From 2003 to 2018 Tony served as Editor-in-Chief and Creative Director of Wallpaper magazine.

Maria Cristina Didero is an independent design curator, author, and consultant. She has collaborated with magazines including Domus, Vogue Italia, and Apartamento and was editor-at-large of ICON Design from 2018 to 2020. She currently holds the role of Milan editor for Wallpaper magazine.

Finally comes dinner, but before that comes a visit to the new Lodes showroom. Previously known as Studio Italia Design, they have been designing and producing lighting solutions for interiors and exteriors since 1950, with a redesign in 2020 brought a new logo and new collaborations.

This season Lodes and internationally renowned artist and designer Ron Arad joined forces to create Cono di Luce, a one-of-a-kind suspension conical lamp that combines the former’s cutting-edge expertise with the latter’s creativity.

Using a flexible printed circuit board in a groundbreaking way, encapsulated within an element as simple as a transparent Pyrex cone, the lamp exudes a dualism between on and off that is easily discernible. This sounds far more simple than the project truly was.

Before embarking on the design phase, Lodes set the designer a challenge: to use borosilicate glass to design an iconic object. Arad consequently opted for a slender, truncated cone shape as the archetype, with a light source placed on top, hence its name Cono di Luce, meaning cone of light.

Lodes was able to transfer Arad’s intuitive response to the brief, as shown in his initial sketch, into a real lamp finding a technical solution that solved critical issues while simultaneously fulfilling several functions.

The flexible board, once taken from flat to cone-shaped, means that the touching of points enables the light to work.

A technical feat saw continuous exchanges between the company and the designer bringing new technology to meet with artistic creation.

“Sometimes you start with an idea and in the process of making it, you lose something. In this case, I don’t think we lost anything. If anything, we gained something. I am very happy to see this and I am very happy that through the interesting journey that we had getting here”.

Ron Arad

The PCB is the result of a process that includes 33 steps and several layers composed of fibreglass and copper for the LED chip electric circuits, which by nature have both translucent and opaque areas. A sheet of fibreglass, which is extremely thin, flexible, and insulating, on which a copper path is smeared, acts as a conductor of the electrical polarity, which on reaching the LED allows them to emit light.

It gives Arad the possibility to play with areas of dark and light bands and with the moiré effect given by the overlapping of the stripes. Lodes was able to employ this aesthetic to design an electrical circuit connecting more than 200 LED chips.

The frame, also designed by Lodes, consists of a white rigid PCB that performs three functions: refracting light so that the luminous effect of the lamp can be uniform, connecting electric circuits that give power to the LEDs and finally, acting as a mechanical suspension of the product itself.

Also presented during Milan design week was the collection Diesel Living with Lodes. This collection marks the exclusive collaboration debut between the two lifestyle brands. Comprising of three exclusive additions (Flask, Vinyl and Urban Concrete) as well as five renovated best sellers (Cage, Fork, Gask, Glass Drop and Pipe) all of which feature a versatile selection of lighting pieces for residential spaces and public interiors.

Diesel was not the only luxury fashion brand to hold a presence at the design fair from Bottega Veneta to Loewe via Dior and G’star many houses showed off great design thinking and innovation across the city

Last but not least designer Daniel Nikolovski brings his collection called ‘Sacred Wellbeing’ to the table, literally. The exhibition is arranged on a grand, monumental table, showcasing the craftsmanship of glassware, a tray with a function of a mirror and soft bent metal stools. The glass ware have classical designs from Roman times, while interweaving with a futuristic twist.

So in 24 hours in Milan during Salone Del Mobile the themes that consistently came up from the new young talent to established names included ideas of colour pattern and exuberance. Long gone in many ways is the cream, coffee, tan, beige nothingness of minimalism, very much replaced with maximalism. Vibrancy, as if this season for the first time since the pandemic we all need to be reminded life is not just precious but needs to be lived with joy.

Of course, nearly all products had green, sustainable elements but the technology was brought to the fore and made itself felt where it met with craft, but also where digital meets with physical.

Another big trend was the coming together of industrial waste utilized with innovative production techniques making use of everything from reclaimed materials to artificial intelligence.

The 24 hours in the city of Milan only lift our spirits as the world is filled with a far more bright loving future, much of it spurred on by new global talent.

Salone Del Mobile, Milan design week took place from 18 to 23 April. If you enjoyed reading 24 Hour Milan why not read Open Armed Milan Here

.Cent Magazine London, Be Inspired; Get Involved

Verified by MonsterInsights