An exhibition that has traditionally been about the practical business of producing chairs is hoping to reposition itself as a marketplace for the exchange of ideas. The challenge is that Promosedia, the International Chair Exhibition, in Udine, Italy, operates both literally and figuratively in the shadow of Milan’s prestigious Salone Internazionale del Mobile.
The 31st annual Promosedia took place in early September in the northeastern Friuli region, formerly called the chair triangle because of its many chair manufacturers, and now identified as the industrial district of chairs. The setting for the exhibition was pastoral, a former mill site; the pace during the four-day show was relaxed.
If the very urban and notoriously frenetic Salone in Milan traditionally raises the bar with edgy designs, Promosedia is defining its own role as a trade show marketing quality chairs and tables, but also as a meeting place where architects and designers can discuss design.
In the past, explained incoming Promosedia president Pierpaolo Costantini, big importers used to come here to buy huge quantities of furniture: “Globalization took these customers into other areas and so we have had to adapt. Five years ago, sales from Promosedia were 70 per cent residential and 30 per cent contract. Now they are more than 50 per cent contract, partly because of the slowdown in the residential market and partly to adapt to changing market demands.”
At one point Promosedia considered limiting its exhibitors to Italian manufacturers. But 40 per cent of the exhibitors at the September show were from other countries, including Belgium, Germany, Poland, Portugal, Slovakia and Slovenia, as well as from other regions in Italy. Costantini said Promosedia would invite international participation, but at a quality level. Low-cost product would not be welcome.
Traditionally, chairs from the Friuli region have been made of wood. Costantini said that while local manufacturers are prepared to change and use new materials, wood still identifies area product and designers must be encouraged to rethink and keep wood chairs alive and modern.
In line with this philosophy, Promosedia promotes young designers through an open international design competition for architects, designers and students under 40. Another initiative is the show’s By Invitation Section, where for 2007, established designers Ronan and Erwan Bouroullec, Fabio Novembre and Marco Romanelli invited six talented young designers to create their own versions of a wooden chair. The results of the competition “widen our imaginative horizons,” explained competition curator Romanelli.
Costantini said Promosedia wants to encourage young designers by giving them space to create as well as an insight into the furniture industry, which needs product that can be standardized. “Although it’s good to experiment, eventually they have to remember that industrialization means some kind of standardization. This competition can become an open door for young designers,” he said.
The 32nd annual Promosedia will be held Sept. 13 to 16 in Udine. cI
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