Design with a capital D

The last edition of Salone del Mobile.Milano 2016 was a great success, and although every major city in the world is creating a design week, it remains the must-see design event of the year. The fair had an unprecedented number of more than 370,000 attendees, 67 per cent from abroad, and this edition has again confirmed the strong international vocation of Salone.

The impressive number of off-sites circuits, design districts, events and temporary exhibitions, in almost all of the most iconic buildings of the city, are always part of the great success of the whole event as a design week. Milan in fact, is not only furniture, it is about the widest significance of design, and the events in the city represent the best nurturing opportunity for a creative mind.

One of the main themes of this year was the relationship between design and nature. Design expressions were often in relation with an aspect of the nature: colours, materials, shapes. The most magnificent booths in the show were full of plants, used as a stage for the new furniture lines. Either the colours of the new collections are inspired by the earth and its patterns, or the shapes or the materials used for the products are natural.

A second important thread of Salone 2016 is the dichotomy between technology and tradition, main topic of the good exhibition at Palazzo Litta, “A Matter of Perception.” Designers have incredible opportunities in creating new products with the contemporary technologies, and the challenge of showing their creative efforts to a public not always ready for the most advanced solutions. Italy is also one of the most innovative countries in the world of design, having one of the most important heritage patrimonies: the experience of seeing futuristic products in 500 years old historic buildings is magic and inspiring.

Brera Design District, the most high-end district, was the ground to present the newest products by some of the most important Italian brands like Moroso, Foscarini, Boffi and many others for a total number of 138 installations and show-room events. This year, for the first time, FederlegnoArredo the Salone del Mobile show organizer, participated with an off-site event in the Brera Design District: Space & Interiors. It has been created to give space to the manufacturers related to materials for interiors, like doors, floorings and wall-coverings, which are not admitted at the Salone show, as it is only for furniture and complements.

The Tortona Design Week has been as always a melting pot of creativity with an international flavour, where design, fashion and culture converge in the very first off-site created on design. This year, together with the permanent institutions like MUDEC- Musem of Cultures and Armani/Silos, the district featured designers like Maarten Baas, with the exhibition ‘NEW!NOW!HERE’ an innovative artistic project where the confines of design were pushed to the extremes, and Marcel Wanders, with MOOOI. The Superdesign Show by Superstudio Group, reached this year a record of 130,000 visitors, a much bigger number than many important fairs in the world. Part of the success, together with the incredibly inspiring installations of Barovier & Toso, Citizen and Asus, was the Materials Village in collaboration with Material Connexion Italia.

Over 100,000 people visited the 7th edition of Ventura Lambrate this year, the district that shows the most innovative design prototypes and concepts. The organizer, Ventura Projects, curates exhibition areas that present the latest developments at the forefront of contemporary design. Ventura Lambrate also celebrates the winning of Milano design awards by two of the exhibitors: Lensvelt in the ‘Best Concept’ category for their Boring Collection and Jelle Mastenbroek in the ‘Best Technology’ category for his presentation Data Orchestra.

An (almost) new district had a great success this year: the 5vie art+design, initiative that involves the resources of another historic neighbourhood. The events here were some of the most impressive, with temporary design exhibitions in unbelievable historical Milanese Palaces. The exhibition “A Matter of Perception” by Mosca&partners, at Palazzo Litta explored the theme of tradition & technology.

50 Manga Chairs by Nendo for Friedaman Benda (Brera Design Week)

This installation was the result of adapting the strong symbolic nature of manga comics to furniture design. 50 standard chairs were lined up in a grid, each with a design element from manga, for example “speech bubble” or “effect line” added to visualize sound or action. With the abstraction of manga comics in mind, physical aspects such as colour and texture were intentionally avoided as much as possible. /

Photo by Takumi Ota
Photo by Takumi Ota

Rational by FLOO (Salone del Mobile – EuroCucina)

A simple, minimalistic, geometrical kitchen design by Karim Rashid, the concept features a continuous radius detail that also functions as a handle. The round shapes are supported by strong, mono-block storage elements with a clean and seamless look, seemingly continuing from counter to floor. Materials for the door fronts can be either DuPont Corian or Rational’s soft lacquered range in a multitude of available colors.

Dolce Stil Novo by Smeg (Salone del Mobile – EuroCucina)

In the new line of Smeg home appliances the gas burners produce a single vertical blade of fire, which guarantees maximum yield as all the heat is transferred perpendicularly to the pan. The stainless steel grates are covered with a titanium treatment which increases their resistance. Available in 4/5/6 burner versions, the hob grates come with creative design cues taken from nature, such as birds, butterflies, leaves and fruit.

Nami by kreoo (Salone del Mobile – Salone Internazionale del Bagno)

Nami, which means “wave” in Japanese, is an oval washbasin whose sinuosity is reminiscent of a cloth’s drapery. Manipulated with sculptural skill, the marble creates soft waves on the outer edge, referencing the monumental drapery of the Virgin’s dress in Michelangelo’s Pietà, where in the game of lights and shadows marble is presented as a light, sophisticated and precious material.

Astep by Candela (5vie art+design)

Designed by Francisco Gomez Paz for Astep, Candela represents both the oldest and the newest forms of illumination in a single product. A flame fueled by bioethanol generates its own electricity (a full tank lasts six hours), powering not just LED lights, but enabling you to charge a mobile device. Good for both indoors and outdoors, an internal battery that recharges whenever there is a flame means Candela can give life to your device even when powered-off.

Charleston Sofa for MOOOI (Tortona Design Week)

The Charleston is a classic, elegant and comfortable sofa symbol…upturned entirely on its head in an almost vertical position. This design, by Marcel Wanders, turns an existing classic into a modern, disruptive concept. Mounted on a rotating metal pedestal it is a perfect lounge chair that creates a jaw-dropping space (beware: very high ceilings are needed!)

Perch Light for MOOOI (Tortona Design Week)

Is there anything more captivating than a bird perched on a branch singing, flirting and celebrating life? No, but there is something almost as elegant: this light turns a beautiful stereotype into a family of lights including table, floor, wall and suspended models. Designed by Umut Yamac, the folded paper and brass birds are free to swing when softly touched.

Girgenti & Craklé by Baxter (Salone del Mobile)

Girgenti and Craklé are Baxter’s first complete outdoor lines of furniture, both designed by Antonino Sciortino with clear nods to a 1970s aesthetic. The chairs, armchairs and accessories are made of tubular copper matched with hydro-repellent saddle leather.

Sciara by Paola Lenti

Designed by Marella Ferrera, the Sciara side table base is made of stainless steel finished with a special galvanic treatment made by De Castelli exclusively for Paola Lenti, and the top consists of lava stone and glass tiles.

Photo by Sergio Chimenti
Photo by Sergio Chimenti

Eydo by LEMA (Salone del Mobile)

A bold asymmetric fluidity defines the Eydo dormouse, designed by Francesco Rota. Inviting users to relax, it consists of a suspended structure in painted bronze and a seat and backrest volume that, recalling the lightness of a wing, envelopes and welcomes the

MyEquilibria by Metalco Active (Brera Design District)

The Brera Botanical Gardens displayed a high-tech, futuristically-designed tree entirely dedicated to fitness. The Leopard Tree, designed by Vito di Bari, is a soaring seven metre central trunk with up to nine work out islands spread over 300-square metres at its base, where 30 people can train simultaneously. Its leaf designs are inspired by Voronoi diagrams, elegant arithmetic patterns based on nature.