In mid-April, the city of Milan transforms itself into the world’s capital of design and the cradle of trends, which win the attention of the press, design magazines and festivals to come. Out of hundreds of events and exhibitions, the most enchanting ones are those with something “more” to them: be it a well thought-out arrangement, brilliant idea, freshness of form.
1. Gems from a storage room
NILUFAR DEPOT www.nilufar.com
Nina Yashar, a famous Italian collector of art and design and the founder of highly-respected Nilufar gallery won Milan over with her rich exhibition presented in a showroom – Nilufar Depot. In an enormous storage room – over 1500 square meters – Yashar showcased a beautifully stylized exposition consisting of vintage gems and modern examples of design she had been collecting for years. Eclecticism plays a major role in this collection, hence, among iconic works of Albini, Perriand or Parisi, room was given for limited series of objects created by modern designers such as rising star Martino Gamper, British designer Bethany Laura Wood or Belgian artist Maarten de Ceulaer.
2. Keep your back straight!
MAX LAMB „Exercises In seating”
Max Lamb focuses on a primordial human need to…seat. A garage in San Remo, located amidst winding, Milanese streets, became an exhibition area for the collection of 42 chairs. The collection reflects the designer’s passion for seeking new materials, textures and experimenting with structures and techniques. From early works such as 2006 Pewter stool, through a pine DIY chair to the newest designs made of limestone, copper, brass or ebony. Each work presents a different technique of rendering and production – from those hand-made, “hewn” from wood, to the computer-controlled ones, made with the use of innovative production techniques.
3. To breathe. To feel.
FABRICA “FUHA” www.fuha.info
An Italian agency and research center Fabrica in collaboration with Daikin, a Japanese air conditioner manufacturing company, and designs from FormaFantasma studio organized an exhibition being an unusually poetic portrayal of the basic life process. The title FU HA comes from two traditional Japanese onomatopoeic words reminiscent of the sound of human breath. The exhibition presents works in which the air – exhaled, vibrating in space, or “flowing” through created forms – becomes the designer and maker of objects.
4. Carpets looking for…admiration.
WE MAKE CARPETS www.wemakecarpets.nl
We Make Carpets don’t do carpets. At least not in a literal sense – their carpets are to be admired, not walked on or touched. Beautiful and crafty pieces stand as time- and patience-consuming pictures presenting how to make something unique out of something ordinary. Designers take interest in forms, shapes, colors and textures, giving a new voice, meaning and quality to everyday, worn-out objects. The We Make Carpets’ Milanese exhibition under the title “Kneeling” – pertaining to the working method (or position) – was nominated for Milan Design Award, the award that goes to the most promising designers.
5. Norwegian presence
Deep blue seas, emerald hills and enormous, sandy stretches of land. Austerity of Scandinavian landscape became an inspiration for an unusual design exhibition showcasing quintessentially Norwegian characteristics: natural materials, rawness, simplicity of forms, craftsmanship and the outstanding quality of work. Three organizations: Klubben (The Norwegian Designers’ Union), Norwegian Crafts and Norwegian Icons joined forces to show the iconic works of Norwegian design to the Milanese audience. The exhibition they created was truly marvelous both in form and color (thanks to partners: Jotun – the paint company, and Kråkvik & D’Orazio – the duo of stylists). What it did was feed the eye and encourage the audience to take a look at reality from a more aesthetic perspective.
POP-UP SHOW Tomas Bata University in Zlín www.popupshow.cz
How should students’ design be displayed? Brave and often experimental projects become even more captivating when displayed in a fresh and cohesive way. Holistically designed exhibitions successfully enter into the dialogue with an audience, they are not just collections of well-designed (or not-so-well-designed) objects. Those responsible for school exhibitions in Milan are perfectly aware of it – displays of academic works enchant with their humor, concepts and the quality of execution. Milan was the place where we encountered the PopUpShow from Tomas Bata University in Zlín for the first time, or should I say we smelled it? Our senses were dominated by the smell of fresh popcorn that pervaded the air while we were wandering through Ventura Lambrate, the space filled with artistic design. Students from Zlín, inspired by the Golden Age of Hollywood, designed a set of objects showing their experiments with wood. Stools, flower pots, jewelry and even coffins became products unrestricted by limits. Perfect for the visual contemplation and consumption. Joyful and delicious.
7. Hidden Heroes
VITRA DESIGN MUSEUM “Hidden Heroes. The Genius of Everyday Things”
"What makes an everyday object a Hidden Hero? It must be based on an ingenious yet easily comprehensible idea. It has been produced a billion times over and constitutes an indispensable fixture of daily life. It has proven itself time and time again and remained essentially unaltered for decades. In other words, an everyday classic" - says curator of an exhibition, Jochen Eisenbrand. A one-of-a-kind exhibition arranged by Vitra Design Museum presents the genius of creativity and embodies modernist ideals – it pays homage to practical, long-lasting, useful objects. Objects which change and shape our lives. Objects which make our everyday existence much easier. By using films, photos and rich exhibits, curators present the origins of 36 classical products: fascinating histories of their invention full of unexpected twists, diversity and complexity of technologies and production processes. You can see this travelling exhibition online and live. http://www.hidden-heroes.net/
8. To understand is to observe
A modest exhibition of a simple yet grand idea: "Natural environment has to be protected. We protect things we value. We value them as soon as we truly understand their importance. The first thing to help us truly understand is observation". Thus, students of design from Ukraine, under the supervision of Malafor design studio, were observing and designing usable products dedicated to places in which they were created – places far from the city, close to nature, on the boundary of two regions: Kociewie and Kaszuby. A set of touching and attention-grabbing objects came to life – an ear to help you immerse yourself in the sounds of nature, a tool to measure water depth in rivers or an object for picking and drying wild plants and herbs. A simple, wooden exhibition stands as a cohesive whole – Observatory encourages one to observe and search for solutions that are simple, durable and fascinating.
9. In a net of connections
CENTRUM DESIGNU GDYNIA "Nets"
An exhibition displayed in Lodz, but created by Gdynia Design Center. That’s what we call a net of connections! Without competition and divisions – made to serve the audience. The main exhibition of last year’s edition of Gdynia Design Days sees the theme “NETS” as representing the ambiguity, diversity and dynamics of urban life. Projects created for the purpose of the exhibition show the willingness to build and improve the structures of the city. The city is perceived as a complex organism that can be healed. What’s necessary for the healing to be successful is a holistic diagnosis and extensive treatment. We fell under spell of cutlery for eating smoked fish – it’s so simple one starts wondering “how come no one came up with this idea earlier?” Wooden chopsticks have great potential to transform the way local street food is consumed. Let’s hope they will find their way to the market pretty soon!
10. Embassy of the future
MANON VAN HOECKEL "In Limbo Embassy"
The aesthetics or forms of objects are not the only things that preoccupy designers. In their projects, they go much further, and often set to work on political and social subjects. By providing potential solutions, they provoke changes – both material (when an object or service starts being produced) and intangible, which spark discussions and public debates that often lead to the creation of other effective solutions. To make this happen, a problem that is being dealt with has to be thoroughly examined while proposed projects need to be smart and empathetic. One of such projects have been created by Manon van Hoeckel, Design Academy Eindhoven graduate, in her In Limbo Embassy project. It is a mobile, universal space, where all that counts is a human being and his story rather than his documents and nationality. The embassy reminds of multi-faith prayer rooms at airports, but the help it gives is more tangible: it provides individuals with the sense of security and intimacy, as well as real solutions to real problems.
"What if everyone had a chance to meet a migrant in person in this kind of a mobile center? Perhaps we would succeed in doing away with all xenophobic fears and seeing refugees as common neighbors?" – asks Zuzanna. We see the aptness of these questions and wholeheartedly concur that the concept of the free embassy deserves to crown our list! In this upcoming year, may both design and our everyday reality be aesthetic, joyful and free! We wish you the happiest and freest Year 2016!
Photos: press materials, PURO Magazine editorial team