Milan 2014

Disegno's Milan Preview 2014


4 April 2014

On Monday, Milan's annual Salone del Mobile begins. It is the most important event in the design industry calendar, yet is so sprawling as to prove hard to digest – its constituents ranging from product launches and prototypes, through to exhibitions, installations, workshops and performances. Here, we publish our annual guide to some of the festival's highlights.

Given the citywide scale of the festival, this preview is by no means exhaustive. Instead, it represents a curated sample of events that Disegno's editorial team have received information on to date. Broken up into six of the main zones at the Salone, it aims to provide an accessible representation of some of what can be seen in each district.

Leon Ransmeier's Chiaro chair for Mattiazzi

Salone Internazionale del Mobile

Milan's fairgrounds returned to prominence in 2013, after a period in which critical focus during the design week had fallen on events and exhibitions hosted in the city, rather than the sprawling trade show that lies in its outskirts where most major brands show new work. The Rho fairgrounds is undeniably traditional and commercial, yet it was enlivened last year by a number of successful launches; it remains a valuable space to gain insight into many of the major themes within contemporary design.

Attention is typically centred on halls 16 and 20, where many of the most noteworthy brands display. One such company is E15, which will broaden its furniture catalogue this year to also include lighting, displaying the Colour lamp from the avant grade Norwegian lighting designers Daniel Rybakken and Andreas Engesvik. Given that Colour was originally shown by French brand Ligne Roset in 2011, it will be intriguing to gauge reception to the rereleased design and what the move into lighting signals for E15's future.

Italian brand Mattiazzi also represents an interesting story. Mattiazzi typically uses the Salone as an opportunity to launch a wooden chair by a high-profile designer – the honour falling last year to Jasper Morrison – and this year's central launch, the Chiaro, has been created by American Leon Ransmeier. While it would have been refreshing to see Mattiazzi work with a female designer – its collaborators to date have all been male – the decision to work with Ransmeier is nonetheless encouraging; he is less heralded than previous collaborators, yet his work is strong and he ought to provide an interesting counterpoint to the brand's stable of European designers.

Eleswhere, Glas Italia will display a series of glass desks by Ronan and Erwan Bouroullec – works that recall Konstantin Grcic's recent Man Machine exhibition – and Hella Jongerius will unveil carpets for Danskina, the Dutch brand of which she is the new creative director. Jongerius is likely to be a dominant figure at this year's Salone – she is also the newly appointed art director of Finnish brand Artek, which will display reworked Alvar Aalto furniture that Jongerius has created a tonal colour palette for.

  1. Fuori Salone Milan Fairgrounds, Rho; pavilions 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 10, 12, 14, 16, 18, 20

  2. E15 Pavilion 16 E53

  3. Mattiazzi Pavilion 20 E25

  4. Glas Italia Pavilion 16 C23, D18

  5. Danskina Pavilion 16 D20

  6. Artek Pavilion 20 C08

Moustache's Half Decade Beast installation has been designed by Jean-Baptiste Fastrez

Rossana Orlandi

To an extent the Rossana Orlandi gallery acts as a miniature version of the city's fairgrounds – it displays a cluster of new work created by designers and brands, albeit presented in a more bohemian format than the more openly commercial Salone.

Evoking such bohemia is likely to be French brand Moustache's Half Decade Beast, an installation created by Jean-Baptiste Fastrez to display work for the brand by studios including Formafantasma and Bertjan Pot. The installation is described by Moustache as a breathing organism and this sense of showmanship – and perhaps borderline absurdity – is one of the points of intrigue of Milan. Brands compete to outperform one another through presentation, meaning that Moustache will be far from the only company to go in for theatrics.

Luca Nichetto's Walk the Line exhibition, by contrast, is likely to be more modest. Focusing on craftsmanship over showmanship, Walk the Line has been co-curated by Russian designer Lera Moiseeva and will compare the production process of Nichetto's porcelain Sucabaruca coffee set with Moiseeva's ceramic Cheburashka tableware.

Also worth visiting in Rossana Orlandi is a stand from J. Hill's Standard, a new hand-cut crystal brand based in Waterford, Ireland. The company is small – aimed at revitalising Waterford's faded crystal industry – but has attracted impressive collaborators in Scholten & Baijings and Martino Gamper. It should make for an interesting debut.

  1. Spazio Rossana Orlandi Via Matteo Bandello 14-16, 20123. Milan

Faudet Harrison's Crosscut table for SCP

Edit by Designjunction
Given the announcement that Most – one of Milan's group venues – has been cancelled this year, interest in Edit by Designjunction should increase. Like Most, Edit provides a valuable outlet for smaller brands and designers that are not otherwise represented in Milan, but it still has much to prove. Last year's version of Edit met with mixed reviews, while the full Designjunction exhibition that ran during the London Design Festival (LDF) in September 2013 understandably struggled to match the excitement of the previous year's edition – an inevitability given that the 2012 event benefitted from the frisson of opening up London's vast Sorting Office building as an LDF venue for the first time.

Yet there are promising signs for this year's edition of Edit. Studios such as De Allegri/Feldkamp and Utopia and Utility are run by talented young designers, while British brand SCP will display work from more established practices such as Faudet Harrison, Jasper Morrison and Peter Marigold. Perhaps most exciting is a collaboration between furniture brand Stellar Works and porcelain company Arita, which will see designers Neri & Hu, Michael Anstassiades, Ilse Crawford and Ross Lovegrove begin a project examining Japanese porcelain.

  1. Edit by Designjunction Palazzo Morando, Via Sant'Andrea, 20121. Milan

Studio Glithero's Made to Measure

Ventura Lambrate

Since its foundation in 2010, Ventura Lambrate has largely secured its reputation through the design schools that exhibit there. This year is no different. Geneva's HEAD will display Conversation Pieces, an exhibition built up from a series of workshops overseen by designer Nitzan Cohen, while students of Design Academy Eindhoven will also display work in the school's travelling Self Unself exhibition.

Two of the central draws of the area this year however are owed to more established designers. Maarten Baas will show his solo show Baas Is In Town, which features collaborations with designers including Bertjan Pot and Walter van Beirendonck. Baas his been less prominent in recent years since his celebrated emergence from Eindhoven in the early 2000s; this exhibition – themed around notions of theatre and circus – represents an opportunity for him to return to the spotlight.

The second exhibition we have selected in Lambrate is owed to Studio Glithero. A London-based practice, Glithero has created Made to Measure, a joint commission from the Netherlands' Zuiderzee and Textiel museums. The result is a series of delicately coloured fabrics that have been woven from music organ punch cards. Dealing with the theme of immaterial heritage and built around a now largely-extinct form of craftsmanship, Made to Measure seems highly promising.

  1. Ventura Lambrate The area surrounding Via Ventura 5, 20134. Milan

  2. Conversation Pieces Via Sbodio 30-6, 20134. Milan

  3. Self Unself LAP, Via Cletto Arrighi 19, 20134. Milan

  4. Baas is in Town Via Zecca Vecchia 3, 20123. Milan

  5. Made to Measure LAP, Via Cletto Arrighi 19, 20134. Milan

Terrazo Project's TP Panels used in its House of Cards installation

Milan's design museum hosts its seventh exhibition about Italian design, titled Italian Design Beyond the Crisis: Autarky, Austerity, Autonomy. Whereas previous editions have been resolutely backwards looking, Italian Design Beyond the Crisis seems more progressive, taking as its theme the notion of self-production.

While the show retains a historical context – looking at the 1930s and 70s, and displaying work from past masters such as Franco Albini, Gio Ponti, Alessandro Mendini and Enzo Mari – it also looks at contemporary design with contributions from studios including Formafantasma and Martino Gamper. Moreover, its theme of self-production and its curatorial argument that austerity encourages creativity seem particularly relevant to an industry that is increasingly reflecting on the ways in which it produces and which continues to show scars from the 2008 banking crisis.

There are further points of interest to be found in the museum. Dutch brand Lensvelt will screen two documentaries dealing with the life and work of Belgian furniture designer Maarten van Severen (1956-2005). Van Severen's work was quiet and understated – a laudable counterpart to the glitz that is visible elsewhere in Milan – and a celebration of his design is very welcome. Elsewhere, at Via Giovanni Ventura 5, Lensvelt will also stage an exhibition of work from Van Severen's first furniture collection, created in 1986.

  1. Triennale di Milano Viale Alemagna, 6, 20121. Milan


Some of the great pleasures of past Milans have been exhibitions and events that occur outside of the main districts, and this year is likely to prove no different. The Salone is a festival that rewards exploration.

Danish brand Kvadrat will show Divina: Every Colour is Divine, an exhibition in which 22 designers have reinterpreted Divina, a textile created for the brand in 1984. While the exhibition is undeniably a marketing exercise for the brand, the calibre of participating designers – including Anton Alvarez, Big-Game, Max Lamb, Muller Van Severen and Bethan Laura Wood – suggests that it will be worth seeking out.

Source Material, an exhibition curated by designers Jasper Morrison, Jonathan Olivares and Marco Velardi, is set to continue the present vogue for interest in everyday objects. In a manner similar to Martino Gamper's ongoing Design is a State of Mind exhibition at the Sepentine Sackler, Source Material will display objects, books and ideas that have inspired an assortment of designers' practices. While the exhibition's theme may be familiar, its strong curatorial team is promising.

Two final exhibitions also catch the eye. Terrazo Project is the work of designers Stéphane Halmaï-Voisard and Philippe-Albert Lefebvre, and in Milan it will show its House of Cards installation. The installation is a display of the brand's TP panels – a modern take on the traditional terrazzo material – and images of these saturated, Memphis-like slabs are extremely beautiful.

While House of Cards attracts for aesthetic reasons, The Scale of Things – an exhibition displaying work by Swedish designers Jonas Wagell, Jens Fager, Färg & Blanche, Matti Klenell, Lukas Dahlén and Folkform – appeals for its concept. The exhibition's contributing designers have produced products and furniture that play with notions of scale and distance. It is a intriguing hook for an exhibition that might otherwise have been a simple showcase.

  1. Divina: Every Colour is Divine Arcade, Via San Gregorio 43/Via Casati 32, 20124. Milan
  2. Source Material Kaleidoscope Project Space, Via Macedonio Melloni 33, 20129. Milan
  3. House of Cards Spazio Orso 16, Via Dell'Orso 16, 20121. Milan
  4. The Scale of Things Spazio Pelota, Via Palermo 10, 20121. Milan