This year, for me, Milan Design Week is all about The Milan Report 2017, a self-publishing venture that I’m launching along with the excellent Giovanna Dunmall (London design expert and writer) and Marcus Piper (multi-talented graphic designer, designer, typographer and writer).
We’re currently putting together a range of design week Q&As, themed features, diaries, picks, contributions from experts, as well as original photography, graphic design and typography – to see for yourself, pre-order here.
And, while I dedicate my time to that, check out a few highlights in picture form as follows – all photos taken by me.
This year I’m reporting on the fair from home in Sydney, but thanks to email and social media (hello Instagram), there is plenty filtering through already from the world’s largest furniture design event, the Milan Furniture Fair. Here’s five designs that have instantly caught my attention, from designers near and afar, even before the fair begins.
1. Ross Gardam’s Polar Desk Lamp
Since launching his studio in Melbourne in 2007, Ross Gardam has launched several furniture and lighting pieces and his Polar desk lamp is being shown at Ventura Lambrate in Milan this year. These photos by Haydn Cattach show a variety of colours and backdrops – it will be interesting to see how these translate to different environments.
I wrote this article following an interview with Li Edelkoort, one of the world’s leading trend futurists. The interview was conducted over a garden breakfast during the Milan Furniture Fair 2014, was commissioned by Kobe Johns (now of JP Finsbury) and was first published in the DesignEX catalogue 2014.
“My job is to anticipate what will be coming.” Lidewij Edelkoort, or Li for short, is one of the best known and most respected trend forecasters in the world. The list of brands she has worked with reads like a who’s who, including Coca-Cola, Lacoste, Disney, Siemens, GAP, L’Oreal. She regularly releases trend books that are sold to top brands all over the world, she started a number of magazines, including Bloom, which presents fashion, design, perfume and more inspired by horticulture. She directed the Design Academy Eindhoven from 1998 to 2008 and established a new design school in Poland in 2011 that merges design with humanities subjects like psychology or anthropology called the School of Form. Read more →
While everyone goes to Milan for the Salone del Mobile, it has become apparent in recent years that the best design, the cutting-edge work, the really innovative stuff, is not happening at the fairgrounds, but in town, at precincts like Brera, Zona Tortona and Ventura Lambrate.
Although Ventura Lambrate is the furthest away, and can often be hit and miss, there is a huge amount of design talent shown each year. This year more than 900 designers from around the world showed their work. Check out this great video summary of the event by the organisers.
This year, the Design Writer’s Milan coverage comes with a distinctly luminous quality – that’s because lighting designers Ruth McDermott and Ben Baxter of McDermott Baxter have written up an exclusive review of the fair for us, with an eye on the best of lighting design during the Salone del Mobile, Euroluce and surrounding design events. Ruth and Ben were in Milan to show their Nimbus light, an innovative LED work inspired by Sydney’s dramatic storm clouds (sounds very familiar at the moment, doesn’t it Sydney-siders!).
Ruth and Ben write: The main thing that struck us looking at the variety of light fittings in both Euroluce (the main fair attached to Salone del Mobile) and other locations such as Ventura Lambrate and Zona Tortona was the use of warmer toned and natural materials in lighting. The following is a small selection of lighting pieces that caught our eye. Read more →
Argentinian-born, Brisbane-based designer Alexander Lotersztain of Derlot is exhibiting the QTZ chair at Ventura Lambrate as part of the Milan Furniture Fair this week. With a focus on product design, as well as branding, interior design and art direction, Lotersztain is perhaps best known for high profile projects such as the Limes Hotel in Brisbane, creating work that is personal, branded and translates well internationally, following in the footsteps of designers such as Marc Newson. The QTZ chair is a limited edition collection inspired by the form and materiality of quartz.
“This limited edition collection of seating elements reflects the prismatic beauty and semi-precious qualities of what is amongst the Earth’s most abundant minerals,” says Lotersztain. Each QTZ element is available in a range of finishes and is manufactured in stainless steel. Read more →
It’s that time of the year again, when all the major designers and design brands turn their attention to Milan for the annual Furniture Fair, happening in the second week of April. While I won’t be heading there myself this year, Ben Baxter of McDermott Baxter will be writing up some of the innovative lighting designs he sees there, while showing the Nimbus light.
Ruth McDermott and Ben Baxter will be showing Nimbus as part of Ventura Lambrate Station, one of four Australian studios showing work in this new part of the exhibition for emerging designers. Nimbus is a continuation of McDermott Baxter’s experiments into lighting, using new technology and a low energy philosophy to create innovation artworks and design pieces. Read more →
Dominic Wilcox’s stained-glass car and Lucy McRae’s human vacuum-packing experiment are just two of the concepts of the future shared in this video of the Dezeen and MINI Frontiers collaboration during the London Design Festival last September.
BMW and MINI have enlisted Alfredo Häberli and Jaime Hayón to create mobility-themed installations for Milan design week next month – BMW will work with Swiss-Argentinian designer Alfredo Häberli to create an abstract artwork, while MINI – part of the BMW family – has asked Spanish designer Jaime Hayón to come up with his vision for the future of urban mobility.
Design and the sea are two topics that are not often connected. However, they do overlap. Design has allowed us to explore the sea, through the development of scuba among other inventions. And thanks to some recent designs, it is possible to design while on the sea, as well as for design to evoke the sea. I don’t want to be morbid, but the history of scuba has more than a couple of corpses. People have been swimming in oceans, lakes and rivers to find food and bathe for thousands of years, but it wasn’t until the 20th century that French Naval Officer Jacques Cousteau patented the Aqua Lung, allowing divers to breathe under water.
Cousteau’s influence on our knowledge of the sea cannot be underestimated. As well as developing the first Aqua Lung, he was responsible for marketing this device and bringing the sport of underwater diving to thousands. His books and films also brought the underwater world into the homes of people who had never seen anything like it before. While underwater photography had existed for nearly thirty years (National Geographic was the first to publish an underwater colour photograph – an image of a hogfish off the Florida Keys in 1928), Cousteau’s 1953 book, The Silent World: A Story of Undersea Discovery and Adventure, and documentary film of the same name were hugely successful – the film won the Palme D’Or as well as the highest prize at the Cannes Film Festival.
Cousteau was the inspiration for the film The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou in which, like all Wes Anderson films, each visual element is carefully designed. In this case, the ship itself is a major character in the film, especially during a scene which pans across a cut section of the ship displaying each room. This was achieved by purchasing two ships, World War II minesweepers repainted in bright colours, and actually cutting one of them lengthways down the middle. Likewise, the costumes, suits, breathing apparatus, helicopter and submarine all undergo Wes Anderson-ification resulting in beautiful redesigns. A particular personal favourite is the yellow submarine and matching helicopter.
One of the most exciting sea-related designs is not for breathing or floating on the sea, it is a system that allows anyone with a boat to create furniture using plastics found in the ocean. Japanese Architect Azusa Murakami and British Artist Alexander Groves of London-based Studio Swine are behind the Open Source Sea Chair project. The chair is created by firstly collecting plastic found in the sea (there’s plenty of it), grouping these pieces by colour, then heating them up and using special moulds and tools to create a stool seat and three legs. These are bolted together to create the stool (all of which can be done on the boat), creating a second income for those who fish for a living as well as reducing plastic pollution. You can watch the process in action in a beautiful film they made here.
The quality of water is often an inspiration for designers and two particular products capture this extremely well, both shown at Spazio Rossana Orlandi during Milan Design Week 2014. The first is Bricola, created by Venice-based Andrea Forti and Eleonora Dal Farra of design studio Alcorol. This collection features repurposed timber from Venice’s canals, complete with holes from molluscs, that have been combined with a clear vegetable resin (clear like water) to make tables and a stool. The combination creates a sense that a sub-section of Venice’s canals, complete with historical poles and water – is made solid.
The other outstanding piece related to water is Ripple by London-based duo Hanhsi Chen and Shikai Tseng of Poetic Lab. This floor lamp is made of mouth blown glass which slowly rotates, casting shadows on the walls made by the imperfections in the glass, like ripples on water.
Here it is not the object itself which is innovative, but the effect it creates, an effect which is as ephemeral and yet constant as the sea itself.
There is a certain circularity to the relationship between design and the sea. Design (of breathing equipment, submarines and so on) allows us to see under the sea in a way we never would have before. And this knowledge and understanding in turn inspires design. A nice loop.
At the Magis showroom in Milan, I met Dutch designer Rogier Martens who posed with his chair for children, called Trotter, at the Fair the next morning. The chair can be used by small people for sitting, or can be lifted and wheeled around like a wheelbarrow.
In designing it, Martens thought about what he would have liked as a child, and the result is a simple idea, well executed. This chair is part of a series of Magis products for children called Me Too, which also includes iconic design Puppy by Eero Aarnio and Bunky bunk beds by Marc Newson.