Notes from Salone del Mobile Milan

Design lovers flocked to Milan earlier this month for Salone del Mobile, the world’s most significant design fair that also marks the unofficial start of the design season. The main event at Fiera Milano is definitely worth a visit, but it is away from the crowded exhibition hall that some of the more exciting events take place. Pockets of Milan come alive during the week with designers and artists from all around the world exhibiting a mix of critical and avant-garde, fun and frivolous work. Milan’s old districts, with their elegant and slightly crumbling buildings, sit in contrast forming a perfect setting for the contemporary work on show.

Palazzo Clerici, in the heart of Milan’s bohemian Brera Quarter, hosted a number of events to respond to this sumptuous former residence and frescos by famed Italian painter Tiepolo. Taking over the first floor of the palace, Islands by London design studio Raw-edges offers a new take on a variety of domestic spaces. Working with materials firm Caesarstone the exhibits propose to reshape the typical interior arrangement by positioning the working surfaces as the binding element of its design. The main focus is on the kitchen and the significance of the preparation of food for surfaces that respond more to our emotional needs.

Work With Me People III by Bart Hess is both fun and intriguing, inviting the audience to take part in creating the Dutch artist’s other-worldly materials – in this case rubber. Hess worked with MU art to create a mock-laboratory replete with protection masks and rubber gloves. His futuristic materials and textures are designed to push the boundaries of textile design.

Meanwhile Studio Minale-Maeda showed Keystones. It reduces the design of furniture to a single compact connector, which can be 3D printed on location so that only the most essential part of the furniture needs to be shipped.

By Porta Genova, another old Milan district hosting the fair, carmaker Mini revealed Parallels, a visually absorbing light and sound installation. Collaborating with London-based art and design collective United Visual Artists, it sets out to explore the interaction between man and machine. Parallels is a conceptual take on Mini Connected, the company’s latest in-car infotainment system that links the car to the driver, home and office with the interface feeding information silently through colour coded circles of light.

In Milan UVA explores connectivity also through light. Rings, fixed to the wall a meter apart, project a tunnel of light to create cylindrical bodies of light. We enter the installation, walk amongst and inside these light tunnels to experience the quite magical atmospheric world they create. The cylinder uses motion sensors to engage us in interactive dialogue, and our movements trigger feedback in the form of changes in colour – from diamond white via turquoise to a forceful dark blue – and sound effects.

Around the corner Turkish Stones worked with designers from Turkey, Italy and Japan for Marble Across Time. Using natural stone, this is a choreographed journey through time that begins in Turkey, passes through Italy as the symbol of contemporary society and ends in Japan as a place of progress.

Here Aziz Sariyer addresses the past with an allegorical kaleidoscope to keep visitors at a distance so that the past becomes a memory. ‘Past time is indeed the integrity of all the moments lived,’ says the Turkish designer of his Passage installation where ‘the mind, perceives the integrated moments as past time.’

Fabio Novembre’s Here I Am represents the now. ‘I live, I love, I’m happy. Present is not only a tense, in many languages it’s also meant as a gift. Live your present, the sky is the limit,’ says the Italian architect and designer. And Yoshioka Tokujin’s marble plate concludes the journey. A table of the Universe balances hanging between thin acrylic bands. The Japanese artist and designer describes it as a massive stone that has been freed from gravity and is free, floating in the air

Salone del Mobile runs from the 8-13 April at venues throughout Milan. Read about Lexus at the show here.

Nargess Shahmanesh Banks

Read our previous reports from Salone del Mobile Milan

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