Milan Design Week 2017: Part Three


7 April 2017

Excavation: Evicted by Paul Cocksedge

There is an element of showmanship to much of the designer Paul Cocksedge’s work, with his studio having come to specialise in eye-catching lighting installations and monumental furniture pieces. In the case of Cocksedge’s new Excavation: Eviction furniture collection for Friedman Benda, this trait is expertly anchored to a muted materiality to create a body of work imbued with a compelling narrative.

When informed that he was to be evicted from his London studio, Cocksedge began drilling down into the floor of the space, extracting concrete cores that also contain red brick: a trace of the space’s former life as a stable. These cores, pebble-dashed with the history of the space, have been cut and polished and subsequently used as the structural elements in a series of tables and shelves whose only other material constituent is clear glass: ably shifting attention back onto the concrete/brick cores and the story that they tell.

It is a compelling narrative, with clear relevance to discussion around urban development, but as much as this, it feels like an intelligent endgame for the industry’s fixation on the studio space and its desire to intimately link a design to its place of conception and production. Excavation: Evicted is a collection in which designer, studio and work begin to blur and become one.

Excavation: Evicted: Fondazione Luigi Rovati, Corso Venezia 52

For Salviati, Luca Nichetto collaborated with the perfume designer Ben Gorham (of Byredo) on a pair of installations using Murano glass. IMAGE Chris Jones

Decode/Recode by Luca Nichetto and Ben Gorham

The revitalisation of the heritage Murano glass brand Salviati continues, since the company came under new ownership in 2015. Following on from the successful launch of its Nereidi collection by De Allegri and Fogale in Paris this January, the studio staged a major installation in Ventura Centrale created by designer Luca Nichetto in collaboration with the perfumer Ben Gorham.

The exhibition comes in two parts. Pyrae is a set of 53 glass totems, composed of 226 glass pieces that vary in finish, colour, form and texture. Seen en masse, the effect is extraordinary. The glass forms balance delicately atop one another, but such is the scale of the installation that it is difficult to focus on indidivual sections. Instead, the totems wash over the viewer as a field. Strata feels even more ambitious – a set of vast towers that are covered on all sides by curved sheets of Murano glass. The effect is beautiful and delicate but – delightfully – also strangely bureaucratic: the sheets are organised in forms that resemble rolodexes, such that the entire structure gives off the impression of being an archive for glass.

Nichetto is principally known as an industrial designer, but the ambition of the Ventura installation reveals compelling new facets to his work. Similarly, it feels like another successful entry in Salviati’s ongoing efforts to modernise both itself and perceptions of Murano glass as a material. For that, Nichetto and Gorham deserve great credit.

Decode/Recode: via Ferrante Aporti 19 - 21

A capacious survey of Nendo's career showed a sustained preoccupation with edges, borders and outlines. IMAGE Courtesy of Nendo.

Nendo: Invisible Outlines

Nendo: Invisible Outlines at the expansive Jil Sander showroom on via Luca Beltrami offers a survey of the Japanese studio's work, in the form of both products (some of which can be seen at the fair stands outside of town, as with the Gaku lights for Flos) and in more experimental one-off projects. The unifying theme is a preoccupation with the edges, borders, and outlines of things. Some objects aim to trace or augment outlines that might otherwise go unnoticed: Trace, for example, is a collection of cabinets that make manifest, by use of delicate metal frameworks, the course a drawer or door will take when it swings open. Similarly, Border Table creeps along corners and edges like parasites (the exhibition guide's word, not ours), snuggling into nooks and crannies, emphasising the liminal spaces that are typically considered difficult in interior design.

Other projects delight in the texture of outlines as produced by different materials. Unprinted Material is a collection of 3D-printed outlines evoking paper sheets, some with seemingly torn edges whose frazzled textures are expertly reproduced. The appeal of these works is their delicacy and precision – which might make it somewhat disappointing that the presentation of Nendo: Invisible Outlines is sometimes sloppily executed. The boxes that frame Gaku support awkwardly fitted wiring and mishaps with the white spray paint can abound in the Border Table installation. The overall effect is still as unruffled and pristine as Nendo's work ever was, but look closer, and human error shows. It's almost reassuring.

Nendo: Invisible Outlines: Via Luca Beltrami 5

The experience of Yuri Suzuki's Sonic Pendulum was marred by security, filming and branding. IMAGE Disegno

Sonic Pendulum by Yuri Suzuki in collaboration with Audi

As observed in Disegno’s 2015 Milan report, the presence of commercially-led, spectacle-based installations in Milan is nothing new. This year alone sees major exhibitions and installations by Caesarstone, Airbnb, Mini, COS, not to mention an entire festival staged by Ikea. Unfortunately, creating a memorable and exciting experience that is discussed throughout and beyond Salone tends to be the driving point for these installations, the designs themselves becoming secondary. This of course isn’t always the case: a commercially successful brand sponsoring a designer to create an installation provides a certain financial freedom that designers are unlikely to achieve alone.

Sonic Pendulum, sponsored by automotive giant Audi, unfortunately falls into the former category. The sound installation is created by London-based designer Yuri Suzuki and uses artificial intelligence to create a continuous soundscape. Comprising 30 pendulums hung in a series of frames that are positioned around a traditional Milanese courtyard, the hum that the installation omits is generated according to the sounds and disturbances created by passing members of public. Like much of Suzuki’s work, the installation is intended to be highly interactive and relies upon engagement from the public.

Sadly, however, this was not the case with Sonic Pendulum. Instead, a slickly dressed security guard barked at anyone that stepped too near the installation. Once more, when I visited the installation (midday in the heat of the sunshine), half of the courtyard had been invisibly cordoned off so not to interrupt filming that was taking place at the time; the security guard making sure nobody dared cross the invisible border. This defeated the object of the installation entirely. What is the point of a public and supposedly immersive installation when the public is not allowed to interact with the very display? The problem here was not Suzuki’s work itself. Should I have been allowed to interact with the piece in the way that Suzuki intended, I am confident that the installation would have been satisfying. Instead, it was blinded by Audi’s demands and commercial priorities. Three glistening Audi cars plonked in the middle of the installation added further insult to injury. With branded installations increasingly becoming a ubiquitous staple of Milan, you can only hope that this is not the fate for other branded installations.

Yuri Suzuki: Sonic Pendulum: Corso Venezia 11