Office Insight – Milan Review
What a week. Milan Design Week 2023, the global heart of design brought back a joyful sense of normal- ity, booming with creativity, ideas, and trajectories – it certainly did not disap- point! Returning to its original April slot after four years, visitor numbers were up 15 percent from 2022 to 307,418 people from 181 countries. Salone del Mobile brings the design community a place to connect with thousands of brands showcasing their latest collections; what better place to map out the road ahead for the future of design? Grant Gibson, writer and founder of Material Matters said, ‘It goes without saying that it has been a difficult few years for live events across the globe. However, now returned to its traditional April slot, it felt like the Milan Design Week was back to something ap- proaching its pre-pandemic self. The event is now so large, encompassing huge swathes of the city, that it’s really only possible for anyone to scratch its surface. This also means you can pretty much project whatever trend you fancy onto it.’
First stop, interiors. This year the world of interiors at Salone was met with soft, playful shapes, outlininga sense of embrace and comfort. Designs uncovered a feeling of child- hood nostalgia, whilst exploring visually simple silhouettes, merging form and function. Fresh palettes brought back block colors, with boucle clearly the fabric of today.
Sancal and Raw Colour, a creative duo has rethought the way we sit based on the sinuous volumes of a chain, exploring how scale can turn an everyday object into a sculpture. ‘Why can’t a seat be a piece of art when it is not in use?’ Sancal certainly aren’t shy, the fun, sculptural Link poufs break down all formal borders, as well as be- ing visually satisfying, their approach is undoubtedly freeing.
Designed by Ichiro Iwasaki, 2023, Arper introduced Ralik, an effortless pouf seat. The fully modular system can be used in conjunction or apart to form casual, fluid shapes, with each module characterized by a distinctive base made using recycled polypropylene.BLÅ showcased Max the dressed-up version of Maximus, Johan Ansander’s playful and iconic easy chair presented in 2021, and offers soft comfort fully clothed with a springy lushness. The craftsmanship expressed in the pre- cise seams endows Max with a distinct character and a mimetic attitude that will let any space look alive.
Next stop, modular furniture. Timeless and high quality modular furniture designer USM teamed up with social entrepreneur THE SKATEROOM to create change, at this year’s Milan Design Week. They invited renowned Swiss artist Claudia Comte to design a limited collection of USM modular furniture and skateboard art editions featuring her intriguing artwork. The bespoke collection will fund a sub- stantial amount for a social project in Jordan. The collection offers an opportunity to build upon already existing configu- rations, with a unique, lasting design to refresh any space.
Patricia Urquiola designed Kettal’s stand with an architec- tural approach, based on volumes and spaces that create a dialogue between the brand’s philosophy and the products that are part of their collection. Once through the entrance, a dialogue between finishes and products took place: the colors of the booth are in complete harmony with the prod- ucts. An architectural envelope in which the neutral term becomes functional to the exhibition.Kirbe’s Dominic Coleman said, ‘Kibre visited the show with high hopes of innovative sustainable solutions, new designers and progressive thought. The Show, as always, was teeming with the best and brightest designers. For me, Kettal are at the forefront of innovation and thinking outside of the box for working spaces, garden and interior. They are definitely one to watch.’Euroluce 2023 featured a radical rethink of its pavilions, exploring how lighting connects with technology, focusing on how human behaviour influences spaces.
Impressive as ever, Flos launched ‘Black Flag’ by Konstantin Grcic, a minimal, elegant and exquisitely engineered wall light that unfolds to project out by up to 3.5 meters. Preciosa had an immersive installation, which features a crystal labyrinth that gives the impression of “seeing sound and hearing light”. Called Crystal Beat, the installation comprises a lattice of hand-blown crystal tube lights that were synchronized with music to create the illusion of “seeing sound”.‘Milan is back and vital as ever!’ The future of design starts again following our hiatus, proving to ourselves that our work remains relevant and essential in this dynamic world. It was a joy to see my amazing friends, colleagues, and the great producers that returned to this global forum. The great Italian brands Cassina, Cappellini, Flos, B&B Italia and Poltrona Frau returned with a spirit of renewed vigor and a commitment to bringing superb design to the world. Tom Dixon was a strong presence as both designer and brand. Cassina’s new lighting works program is a bold step away from its modernist legacy.’ Said Yorgo Lykouria, founder and creative principal of Rainlight studio.
It was apparent that sustainable design and practice was a funda- mental thread running throughout the show. Many brands explored new materials and methods of production. Grant Gibson said, ‘I was delighted to see installations from the likes of Jack Brandsma, whose Material Magic Milano installation contained furniture using hemp and potato starch. I also thought it was telling that Alcova, a huge showcase for emerging design, should open with a materials library from Habitare. This makes perfect sense because how the worlds of design and manufacture use materials is vital to all our futures.