Milan Design Week 2018: Part One


16 April 2018

Amidst the panoply of installations and product launches that make up the daily bread of Milan Design Week, it is easy for the work on display to become lost amongst the shuffle.

This year, then, it has been pleasing to see a number of brands offer renewed attention to the curation of their offer, with a number of thoughtful and effective modes of display emerging in the week’s early offerings.

Kvadrat and Kinnasand

Displays of textiles can frequently collapse into being flat and one-note, so Kvadrat are to applauded for the brio with which they have approached the launch of its new collections by London-based studio Doshi Levien. Titled Raas and Lila, the two collections were displayed by Doshi Levien in a series of large-scale layered mobiles, which blended sections of the fabric with snatches of perforated metal and polished golden elements. The effect was understated but effective, granting the new collections a sense of body and tactility without recourse to the theatricality and cultural baggage observed in last year’s display of masks by GamFratesi.

Corso Monforte, 15

Further pleasure was to be found in Kvadrat’s stablemate Kinnasand, with the textile and carpet brand turning to designer Katrin Greiling to enliven its mode of presentation. Greiling drew upon her background as a furniture designer to produce Structures, a series of skeletal frames designed out of tubular metal, over which Kinnasand textiles had been draped. Last year Kinnasand turned to Wieki Somers for Shields, an installation in which textiles were used to create a canopy of ethereal kites, and Greiling’s 2018 edition of the installation felt like a worthy follow up. Whereas Somers’s work prized delicacy and airiness, Greiling’s constructs feel earthy and robust, rising up from the floor to create proto-landscapes.

Corso Monforte, 15

Lasvit and Wonderglass

The high cabaret camp of Czech glass brand Lasvit’s Monster Cabaret is a compelling project, offering up a selection of glass beasties created by a series of international designers that are being displayed within the confines of Milan’s Teatro Gerolamo. The glasswork on display hits a range of notes, from Maarten Baas’s cuddly, gumdrop BHSD creatures; Fabio Novembre’s wry Vitruvian man composed of sex toy elements, Toyboy; and Nendo’s oddly unsettling Something Underneath glasswear, in which forms seem to push up from beneath the material. Most delightful, however, are the strange, quixotic works created by Czech glass artists such as Jaroslav Brychta, René Roubíček and Vladimír Kopecky, many of whom will be relative unknowns to a Salone audience; Monster Cabaret is a charming introduction to their oeuvre.

Piazza Cesare Beccaria, 8

Further glasswork came from Venetian brand Wonderglass, who premiered the Alcova collection by Erwan and Ronan Bouroullec: a series of thick, handcrafted geometric glass cylinders and shades, arranged such that the pieces overlap and form layers of transparency and colour. The arrangement recalled aspects of the Bouroullecs’ Ruutu collection for Iittala, but the Alcova pieces are less obviously refined than the Iittala vessels: they are deliciously thick and beautifully variable and primal in texture, with marked patterning within the material revealing the manner in which the molten glass that they were forged from settled and cooled.

Istituto dei Ciechi, Via Vivaio, 7

Cos and Vitra

Cos has spent the past few Milans premiering a series of all-white installations by studios such as Snarkitecture, Sou Fujimoto and, in 2017, Studio Swine, whose New Springs installation showed an artificial tree that shed mist-filled bubbles like shivering catkins. New Springs proved a rousing success on Instagram – a platform fast becoming a key battleground for brands eager for attention during an ever-more congested week – and this likely factored into this year’s offering by the American light artist Phillip K. Smith III. Smith has created Open Sky an open-air concrete rotunda that opens up to reveal an internal a curve of mirrors that reflect the sky and surroundings of the 16th-century courtyard of Palazzo Isimbardi. The effect is beautiful and deeply restful, although it is disconcerting as to how effectively companies have been able to brand qualities such as respite and relaxation during the Salone – Panasonic is also displaying an installation this year that promises to “contain the cleanest, purest air in Milan".

Palazzo Isimbard, Corso Monforte, 35

While Cos has pursued its minimalist stylings to strong effect with Smith, furniture brand Vitra has moved in the opposite direction, turning to the designer Robert Stadler to curate a maximalist dive into its archives with Typecasting. Set in Milan’s cavernous La Pelota sports hall, Typecasting fills the space with 200 objects drawn from Vitra’s archives, mixing together current products and new commissions with work from the 20th-century, early prototypes, past failures and speculative future projects. The effect is somewhat bewildering (perhaps aided by the acid chartreuse platform upon which it all sits, as well as the lack of captions to explain what is actually on display), with Stadler having ignored typology or historical origin in favour of a display in which objects are grouped according to more gnomic behavioural traits or aesthetic similarities. Like Cos, one senses that Vitra may have had one eye on Instagram (there is a viewing platform from which the whole assemblage might be viewed in its full jumble sale glory), but there is undoubtedly depth here that extended study of the installation would bring out. Typecasting is enticing and it displays a laudable sense of derring-do in a week frequently dogged by conservatism. A patient audience is likely to draw a great deal from it.

Pelota, Via Palermo, 10