After an exhausting week of looking at design day and night I couldn't quite bring myself to sort through the thousands of images and hundreds of press kits to create a Salone round up just yet.
Here are a selection of moments - design and non design - experienced during the week of Salone instead.
Images are by Design daily so you'll have to accept they are a bit rougher than normal.
The various palazzos around the city while heavily sign posted for the casual passer by to read about are mostly closed to the public except during fashion week and Salone. Often used by brands or design organisations to show their products or the work of a group of designers, the buildings are a visual treat in themselves with elaborate frescoes, inlaid floors and ornamental stone and plaster work. Add in contemporary design items and its a recipe for immediate success.
This year Palazzo Litta in Corso Magenta was taken over by a Belgian presence in a giant show called A Matter of Perception which saw designers such as Damien Gernay, Ben Storms and Muller van Severen from Belgium joined by brands as big as Vitra. Individual product launches were also in evidence by Daniel Rybakken showing product for Irish cut crystal company J.Hill's Standard and small studios from around the globe including Czech studio Dechem showing their beautifully glass pieces and Brazilian designer Leo di Caprio - among a host of others.
At Palazzo Serbelloni, Czech lighting company Lasvit created an enormous impression with 5 metre high capsules that housed their collection of glass chandeliers installed in the rooms surrounded by ceilings covered in frescoes.
The Dutch also took over an impressive palazzo, this time Palazzo Turati in via Merivigli in the 5vie district of central Milan. Flooding the courtyard space with 15,000 tulip plants and some colourful 'Setch' outdoor furniture by Bo Reudler for JSPR, the building from 1876 became an uplifting colourful experience. Upstairs in the palazzo designers and brands showed the diversity of Dutch design with furniture ceramics glass and jewellery while visitors donned clean room booties to protect the building’s ancient parquetry.
The main salon of Palazzo Francesco Turati featured this beautiful old fresco depicting a royal garden scene and formed an incredible backdrop to the contemporary craft and design objects.
Palazzo Turati - via Meravigli, 7.
Right near the Wallpaper* Handmade exhibition in via San Gregorio 39, is a huge vintage shop called L'eclettico. The shops founder Claudio Loria was actually the founder of the San Gregorio district and over the last few years has developed his cavernous shop from being a jumble of weird and wonderful 20th century vintage pieces to something approaching a vintage design gallery. Its not quite at the Nilufar level but it has a pleasing randomness to its selection of objects. Here you might find a bizarre piece of taxidermy beside original Pierre Cardin lounge chairs or battered wrought iron garden furniture next to a piece of 70's Italian design.
Speaking of Nilufar, the company which has been Milan’s go-to place for vintage and limited edition contemporary design pieces for the past twenty years, has expanded into new architecture designed premises by Milan's CLS Architectti. The new venture named Nilufar Depot opened for Salone last year and is staged in an enormous warehouse building in the Maciachini district. If you love vintage and contemporary furniture and lighting and are in Milan you must pay it a visit. By way of warning however, design of this calibre does not come cheap.
Nilufar Depot is at Viale Vincenzo Lancetti, 34. The closet metro is Maciachini on the MM3 (yellow) line.
The Dutch brand Moooi have been presenting their collection within the context of oversized photography for a good few years now (some may say one year too many) They certainly know how to create drama but this year’s show lacked the arty weirdness of previous years when photographers Erwin Olaf, Massimo Listri and Rahi Rezvani were featured and as other brands have copied the method their show Unexpected Welcome in Via Savona 56 has lost its jaw dropping qualities. For those who haven’t experienced it first-hand before, it remains a lesson in how furniture presentations should be styled and how introducing a sense of scale brings an added layer of visual excitement. While I couldn’t say that the centre piece of chesterfield sofas turned on their ends to create tall armchairs (a Marcel Wanders folly) thrilled me much, the new light 'NR2' by Bertjan Pot did, as did the fringed 'Amami' sofa by Italian designer Lorenza Bozzoli. A couple of the new rugs were also visually arresting, I just miss the textural qualities of handmade rugs but I guess that’s not what these graphic rugs are all about.
Nendo (Oki Sato) seems to have a never ending supply of good ideas. Anyone who has an interest in simple witty designs will most likely already be a Nendo fan. His favoured technique is the mass installation where objects are repeated with slight variants or with no variants at all. This year he installed 50 ‘Manga’ chairs in a former monastery in the heart of the Brera district (Facoltà Teologica dell’Italia Settentrionale). While the chairs are all made entirely from just chromed steel the 50 different designs reflect different parts of the surrounding architecture and environment arches, clouds, people………The result is a quiet contemplative space of white pebbles and the fragmented reflections of the building and sky.
Not content with one knock-out show, Nendo also created an installation for Italian stone furniture specialist Marsotto Edizioni. Basically a visual trick where half the room is essentially white with all objects in Carrara marble and the other half in black (Nero Marquina. What is so good is that each half is a perfect reflection of the other right down to the millimeter with identical objects on both sides and we are talking A LOT of objects. I’d have been worried about a floor collapse under the weight but I guess these Italian palazzos were made to last.
Danish brand Hay showed in a 2000 sq metre vintage futsal court in via Palermo. While Rolf Hay was particularly proud of the Bouroullec’s new flat-pack sofa, he also ensured that the French design studio’s 'Palissade' outdoor collection featured large in the courtyard both on the ground for visitors to sit on and on the walls to show the designs wonderful lines. Doshi Levien, Iskos Berlin Stefan Diez, Scholten & Baijings and Shane Schneck also showed new products. I captured this great moment with what has to be the best dressed and most co-ordinated baby on the planet. The child’s mother and father were also in super chic matching outfits but declined to be photographed.
Citizen watches created a pretty impressive display last year that consisted of thousands of watch mechanisms suspended from fine wires. The watch mechanisms caught the light and created a starry space that was delicate and beautiful. This year they followed the same concept – so while not a surprise was still a lovely environment to spend a few minutes escaping from the hustle and bustle of the fair.
Swiss design and architecture practice atelier Oi (Aurel Aebi, Armand Louis and Patrick Reymond) were invited by the Gifu prefecture to curate and design an exhibition entitled Casa Gifu. The result was a mix of Japanese minimalism in the form of fabric pendant lamps and cut paper ceiling treatments along with colourful, youthful wall designs in tape courtesy of HARU Stuck-on design by Nitoms.
While wandering around Tortona desperately looking for something rewarding to look at (this once inspiring area is now just a blatant excuse for a commercial opportunity) I came across massive advertising for a brand called queeboo on what I knew was Stefano Giovannoni’s building on via Stendhal. It turned out that it is Giovannoni’s new venture with designers such as Nika Zupanc, Front, Richard Hutten and Marcel Wanders (there he is again). Once inside the smell of new plastic was less than inviting and as a whole it seemed to me to be an attempt to do what Philippe Stark had successfully done years ago with his XO brand. Suffice to say I didn’t buy a golden plastic outdoor chair in the shape of a rabbit. I generally like Zupanc’s work but this seemed a crass way to take what were once quirky ideas to a mass market audience. As you can see however designers are BIG in Italy - literally. Each of the billboards are larger than the Mini parked opposite.
Before the fair started I managed to spend a day on and around Lake Como visiting three incredible Rationalist buildings courtesy of my friend Gianmatteo from Morbegno based architecture practice actromegialli. The first one we visited was actually a group of three – artist houses designed by Pietro Lingeri in the late 30’s after being given Mussellini’s blessing.
The buildings have none of the over-the-top grandeur of most facist architecture instead the share much of the materials and design language of rural houses found in the area with traditional hand cut slate roofs and a particular type of local stone called Moltrasio used for the walls.
While the exterior of the houses presents almost a box with a v-shaped roof, on close inspection you discover that the houses are full of beautifully considered details and wonderful proportions. Simple yes but highly resolved. I can’t think of a better place for an artist to have a retreat. The scenery from Comacina Island is breathtaking and the only other buildings on the island are a disused monastery and a restaurant. Design daily will do a full post on Lingeri’s Comacina houses in the near future.
Rossana Orlandi is one, if not the doyen of the Milan design scene. Her showroom is in an old tie factory and has a beautiful entrance courtyard where the world’s design elite congregate during Milan’s Design week. While it’s true that it is more and more crowded every year and that the food portions for it’s alfresco lunchtime dining get smaller, it remains a delightful way to spend an afternoon when the weather is fine - eating, drinking and socializing with regular little trips into the building to discover new and interesting design pieces - often with the designer there to explain their motivations with you.
The showroom of fashion designer Antonio Marras is always on my list when visiting the Tortona district. This year in addition to Marras’ fabulously eclectic shop interior, visitors were treated to two installations and a pop up restaurant with food by acclaimed chef, Roberto Serra - all within what is one of the most relaxing and beautiful courtyard environments in Milan.
Antoniomarras is situated at via Cola di Rienzo, 8, in the Tortona district. Nearest metro is San Agostino on the MM2 (green) line.
I came across this incredible Hanging Gardens of Babylon style house in viale Luigi Majno purely by accident. You constantly come across buildings covered with trailing plants in Milan - particularly in the San Babila area - and it makes you wonder why greenery of this type isn’t adopted by other cities in the same way. The recent explosion in Patrick Blanc-inspired green walls is great to see but the Milanese have been doing it for a very long time. There is a general feeling of being surrounded by nature even when the population is quite dense and the strong stone facades are softened by the foliage. Who needs backyards when you have wall gardens like these?
Another great little discovery near the Cos x Sou Fujimoto installation in Via Pietro Mascagni, San Babila was a fantastic little courtyard. While not generally open to the public it was a delightful look into the type of scenes you can find behind walls in the old parts of the city. It’s hard to imagine what it must be like to own such a building in the heart of a busy cosmopolitan city like Milan. I could sit looking at the beautiful trailing wisteria and ancient stone steps for many hours.
Stay tuned for next weeks post where Design daily will bring you all the product highlights of Salone del Mobile 2016 and other events from Milan Design Week's fuorisalone.