The Milan Connection

“We are publishing at a time when there is an increasing general awareness of the environments in which we live. In the Western world, there is also a growing aesthetic appreciation of visual things…”

So writes the editor of a brand-new Canadian design magazine. Brand-new 46 years ago, that is: though those words could describe the state of design today, the excerpt is taken from the first column by the first editor of Canadian Interiors (April 1964). The editor in question, David Piper, recently donated 14 years of issues to us, and we’re delighted to have them.

Perhaps the most notable Canadian project to appear in the pages of CI during its first year was the Canadian exhibit at the 13th annual Triennale di Milano, the design exposition founded in 1923 and held every three years (August 1964). It was a quintessentially Canuck cottage designed by Ottawa-based architecture firm Schoeler and Barkham, with interiors by Jacques St. Cyr. In her report on the Triennale, CI assistant editor Madge Phillips predicted it would win the expos’s Gold Medal. It eventually did. To be so honoured in Milan — then and now the mecca of design — was an extraordinary feat.

By the ’80s, the Triennale had morphed into Milan’s design museum (though, curiously, its name stayed the same). Taking its place as the city’s signature design event was an annual, week-long exhibition of furniture, founded in 1961. The first coverage I noted in the pages of Canadian Interiors was in the June 1971 issue. In a review of the expo, held the previous September, Iris Nowell reported that 1,552 exhibitors had taken part and visitors had totaled 49,403.

Cut to this issue. In her review of what is now known as I Saloni, held this past April, Shauna Levy reports that over 3,500 exhibitors took part and visitors topped 329,000 (“Milan or bust,” page 16). “In the last 10 years, I’ve missed only three shows,” says Levy, cofounder of the Interior Design Show and vice-president of MMPI Canada. “On each visit, I’m greeted by an explosion of creativity and innovation. I leave inspired, rejuvenated and filled with renewed passion for the design industry.”

You know, I’ve never been to Milan, but maybe 2011 — when I Saloni turns 50 — will be this Canadian’s year. CI

Michael Totzke [email protected]