Thursday, 15 April 2010

Milan Salone 2010

72 hours in Milan 

First of all, whoa. I’ve just come back from three incredibly jam-packed days in Milan attending the world’s largest design fair, the Salone Internazionale del Mobile. Actually, right this minute, I’m sitting in Malpensa airport waiting for my delayed flight back to London trying not to fall asleep into my macbook.  Though I’d rather be napping, I want to write down what I’ve seen while it’s all still fresh in my mind. One of the problems with the Salone is that there’s such an enormous concentration of design in one place, after even only a few days, chairs and installations and people start blending together in one large stockpot of design. Thankfully, I think I managed my three days pretty well and saw an awful lot of mediocre nonsense, quite a few incredible installations, and one or two things that absolutely blew my mind.

Because the magazine I work for has limited space, there’s plenty of overflow to talk about here, and while I would have preferred to split Milan up into a number of more easily digestible posts, I’m off to New York on Thursday and I want to post a round up before I leave.

So without further ado, here’s a rough top ten of my Milan Salone 2010:

1) Yii at Trienalle: To be painfully honest, for some reason I still have this impression of East Asian design as sub-standard. Even though I love, in particular, Japanese fashion designers and architects, I think the ‘made in Taiwan’ and ‘made in China’ labels on cheap clothes and furniture have somehow sunk into my subconscious. So when I saw the Yii Taiwan design pavilion in the Trienalle (Milan’s design museum) on my second day in town, I realised I needed to seriously adjust my thinking. The pavilion was beautifully constructed and all objects within the pavilion beautifully presented. Plus they had tea. I love tea. 

Some of the best pieces I saw at the festival were on this pavilion, in particular the brick plan vase by Rock Wang and the Tertial by Pili Wu at Yii:


2) The Lambretto Art Project was one of the best things I saw during my time in Milan. You go to the Salone expecting to see a bunch of chairs and you fall in love with a random building in the middle of god-knows-where on the outskirts of the city. Maybe it was the incongruity of seeing this surprisingly modern tower in the middle of an industrial wasteland, I'm not sure, but I love it and there's nothing anyone can say to change my mind. There's something about the shape that reminds me of the Baltic in Newcastle, but the materials are considerably more modern. 

(left) interior of LAP                                  (right) Hotel RCA
It was built last year by Mariano Pichler on the site of the old Lambretta factory. Two of the factory's old buildings still survive next door - one of which was the old paint studio, you can still see splashes of paint all over the walls, also the venue for the RCA's group show, RCA Hotel. The LAP is in the Salone's newest design district, Venutra Lambrate, primarily focused on Dutch design groups, but with a far more relaxed atmosphere than the more corporate Tortona zone and plenty of interesting work to occupy the prowling design junkie.


3) Best canape: despite the fact that I forgot to eat anything between the hours of 10am and 8pm two bloody days in a row, there's an awful lot of canapes and booze going around during the Salone. The nicest thing I ate for free was in the Ventura Lambrate, a delicious apple pie, hand crafted and cooked on site, by the wonderful public pie. They peeled, cored, and chopped the apples; made, rolled out, and baked the pastry from scratch; covered with a honey glaze and topped with fresh whipped cream. As tasty as it is gorgeous.

4) Think Tank: Run by Italian design magazine, Interni, this massive exhibition (held within the stunning grounds of the University of Milan), was billed as a small-scale preview of what Milan might get up to during the Expo in 2015. I wasn’t impressed by everything, but Paolo Caputo's prefab house was interesting, Jean Michel Wilmotte's 'hedgehog' structure just bizarre (though it looked great from the inside), and Pawson’s stone house were especially interesting. I even snuck up on the balcony to get a closer look at Liebskind’s sculptural, future architectural archetypes (your guess is as good as mine). I got yelled at, of course. Despite the many questionable installations, after a day of walking around looking at an endless sea of products, it’s rather nice to see the larger architectural installations, breaks up the monotony.


5) Established & Sons bag: This is very, very silly, but I got one of the E&S screen printed number 5 bags during the London Design Festival last year. I was wandering through Tortona on Tuesday and saw a girl carrying a number 6 bag and got ridiculously excited (especially as I was carrying my 5 at the time). I didn't think I was going to have the time to stop by E&S as there was just so much to do, but I managed to swing by a quick trip to pick one up. Strange how such a silly, little thing can make a person's day (though the canella gelato I had about ten minutes later helped too).

6) Tutti a Tavola at Villa Reale: Apart from the Lambretto, this was my favourite experience at the Salone. We went to the opening and there was actual food and an awful lot of it. After plenty of schmoozing were about to leave for the Deezen party at Bar Basso when we ran into David Kohn, the London-based architect responsible for the massive dining table in the courtyard, as well as the other major installation within the exhibition. David insisted on taking us round the museum on our very own personal guided tour - I can tell you it makes a difference when you have someone who knows what they're talking about take you around. Inspired by food and the art of dining and integrated within the museum's permanent collection, the whole thing was splendid, interesting, and exciting. 


7) Three chairs:

Jehs+Laub 'Cloth' chair for Cassina

Martino Gamper’s ‘Sessel’ chair for Established & Sons

'Wanders' Tulip Chair' by Marcel Wanders for Cappellini

8) Wooden church in Tarnow, Poland by Beton at Young Creative Poland in the Triennale:

9) Hot Water Bottle by Wendy Legro at Design Academy Eindhoven in Ventura Lambrata: I know it's a hot water bottle, but I thought it was a classic example of making a worn-out, but still very useful object, a thing of extraordinary beauty. Even though I wasn't taken with everything at this show, it was one of the few places where I actually saw designers asking critical questions about the role of design in society and then trying to actually answer these questions through their products. It didn't always work, but at least they took the time to ask.


10) Everything else: a visual diary of other things I liked

1 comment:

ivansellers said...

Just got back today. Was my first Salone. Loved reading and discovering vicariously what you saw. Would be lovely to have 100 people all contribute a collage of things as it is truly impossible for anyone to see everything and it is fund to see what different people came up with. Ivan