The most beautiful site-specific installations at Milan Design Week 2019

The most intense design week of the year is over. It took me quite a few weeks to digest all the information and the visual input, but in this post I would like to share my personal impressions instead of offering you a summary of trends and new products. The sheer number of events of the Fuorisalone happening around Milan at times felt overwhelming, but as you will see, I organised my itinerary mainly around exhibitions related to art and environmental topics. While it’s true that, unfortunately, some events open to the general public lacked the scale and innovation of previous editions, I still found those that were thought-provoking or simply appealed to my sensitivity.

For my recap, I’ve chosen design installations with a spatial dimension, set up in the historical environments of Milan. They transformed these locations with contemporary vibes and the end result, a poetic mix of the past and present, created a high visual impact. If you’re curious or missed any of them, I invite you to discover my picks. 

De/Coding. Alcantara in the Tapestry Rooms

Last year I stumbled upon Alcantara’s ephemeral ‘Nine Journeys Through Time’ project completely by chance, while heading to see another exhibition at Palazzo Reale, which hosts fine art, fashion and photography exhibitions in Milan. It made me want to return this year to see their latest installation called ‘De/Coding’, a reflection on complex meanings and visual codes present in the treasured tapestries inside the Tapestry Rooms. The project drew inspiration from Ovid’s Metamorphoses and the classical Greek myths depicted on the tapestries. My favourite installations were created by Sabine Marcelis (I wrote about her here), Constance Guisset and Space Popular with the use of the Alcantara material. Overall, this dreamy, conceptual exhibition crossed the boundaries between art and design, inviting visitors to rediscover and reinterpret the meaning of ancient tales. 

De/Coding. Alcantara in the Tapestry Rooms Milan Design Week 2019 Constance Guisset
Scylla, the mythological sea monster, reimagined by artist Constance Guisset for ‘De/Coding. Alcantara in the Tapestry Rooms’ Photo: dreamsanddesign
De/Coding Alcantara in the Tapestry Rooms Milan Design Week 2019 Sabine Marcelis
Dimensions of Medea by Sabine Marcelis, pixelated tapestries in the form of 3D cubes illustrating the myth of Medea and the power of illusion Photo:dreamsanddesign
De/Coding Alcantara in the Tapestry Rooms Milan Design Week 2019 Space Popular
The Wardian case by Space Popular, a symbolic representation of a container and an allusion to tapestries as visual containers of meaning and information Photo: dreamsanddesign

Interni Human Spaces

Every year the 15th century courtyards of University of Milan turn into an open-air design installation curated by Interni magazine, the most prominent of this kind during the design week. I’m always mesmerised by the way in which sculpture-like objects interact with the stately architecture of the historic seat, so I took advantage of a sunny day (unfortunately, the whole week was unusually cold and rainy) to view this year’s edition. Over thirty installations explored the theme of human spaces: architecture and design in relation to our wellbeing and natural resources, inspired by the words of the legendary Brazilian architect Oscar Niemeyer: ‘Life is more important than architecture.’ Below you can see the photos of my favourite ones.

Interni Human Spaces Sleeping Piles Studio Campana Milan Design Week 2019
Green fairytale vibes: Sleeping Piles by Estudio Campana in collaboration with Apex Brazil. Seven towers covered in grass mirroring the arches of the Cortile dalla Farmacia.
Photo: dreamsanddesign
Interni Human Spaces Krosno Glass Vivian Coser Milan Design Week 2019
Brazilian exotic stones and Polish glass: Brazilian Stone Scape by Vivian Coser, an installation made of plants and Botanique tables, in the background you can see columns clad in glass, part of the installation ‘Sacred Geometry’ by Krosno Glass, one of the oldest glassworks in Poland. Photo: dreamsanddesign
Giraffe in Love Marcantonio Qeeboo Milan Design Week 2019
Fun and frivolous: ‘Giraffe in Love’ by Marcantonio for Qeeboo. Photo: dreamsanddesign

Ventura Centrale

For its third edition, Ventura Centrale expanded from nine to seventeen installations staged in abandoned industrial warehouses under railway tracks of Milan Central Station. Those dark vaults enhanced the visual effects of site-specific installations. Indeed, the ones that I found the most memorable appealed to our senses by playing with colour, light and sound. Noroo Group, a Korean company specialising in colour trends, created an installation with fluid colours that change according to the rhythms of nature. Dai Nippon Printing (DNP), showed a traditional and innovative side of printing, while Aria, an Italian lighting brand bewitched with dream-like chromatic effects. 

Noroo Group Tides Ventura Centrale 2019 Milan Design Week
Fluid colours: ‘Tides-Maree’ installation by Noroo Group, in collaboration with Kwangho Lee and Danish studio Wang & Söderström. Photo: dreamsanddesign
NOROO Group Kwangho Lee TIDES Ventura Centrale 2019 Milan Design Week
An otherwordly landscape ruled by the Tides: installation by Noroo Group featuring 100 modular stools by Korean artist Kwangho Lee from the ‘Moment of Eclipse’ series.
Photo: Andrea Martiradonna
DNP Patterns of Time Ventura Centrale 2019 Milan Design Week
Patterns of time: DNP’s installation presented a modern side of Japanese printing inspired by traditional patterns of kimonos. Photo: dreamsanddesign
Come to light Aria Ventura Centrale 2019 Milan Design Week
Come to light: a coordinated light-sound installation by Aria, in collaboration with Luca Moreni and Roberto de Zorzi, featured a lighting sculpture with chromatic effects.
Photo: Claudio Grassi

Louis Vuitton Objets Nomades

Each year since 2012 the French luxury brand unveils its latest Objets Nomades collection in one of the historical palaces in Corso Venezia. This year it was Palazzo Serbelloni with its sumptuous interiors, which hosted a collection of artisanal objects created by top designers from around the world. It was one of the most popular exhibitions that attracted crowds of visitors who normally don’t follow design news. Some of them waited a couple of hours outside the palace in order to witness this visual feast and immerse themselves in the spectacle. Below are my favourite pieces from the collection.

Louis Vuitton Objets Nomades 2019 Milan Design Weel Palazzo Serbelloni
Cosy and eclectic: the leather Mandala screen by Zanelatto/Bortotto, in front of the Bomboca sofa by Campana brothers illuminated by a ceiling covered with Bell lamps by Barber & Osgerby. Photo: dreamsanddesign
Bulbo Chair Objets Nomades 2019 Palazzo Serbelloni
Inspired by petals: the Bulbo chair by Campana brothers. Photo: dreamsanddesign
Dolls chair Raw Edge Objets Nomades 2019
Tropical vibes: the Dolls chairs by a London-based studio Raw Edges.
Photo: dreamsanddesign

The Echo Pavilion by Pezo von Ellrichshausen

The interaction between historical architecture of Milan and contemporary design was not limited to interiors only. One of the most beautiful and poetic installations of the Milan Design Week 2019 was a mirage-like pavilion by an award-winning Chilean art and architecture studio Pezo von Ellrichshausen, founded in 2002 by Mauricio Pezo and Sofia von Ellrichshausen. The structure in the courtyard of Palazzo Litta resembled an open box reflecting the colonnades of the baroque palace. The Echo Pavilion was a prelude to the Litta Variations exhibition inside the palace that I will discuss in my next post.

The Echo Pavilion by Pezo von Ellrichshausen Milan Design Week 2019
The pavilion by Pezo von Ellrichshausen made of polished stainless steel ‘echoed’ its historical surroundings. Photo: dreamsanddesign
The Echo Pavilion by Pezo von Ellrichshausen Milan Design Week 2019
Looking up at the ever-changing sky: Inside the Echo Pavilion. Photo: dreamsanddesign
The Echo Pavilion by Pezo von Ellrichshausen Milan Design Week 2019
The upper part of the Echo Pavilion resembled an inverted pyramid. Photo: dreamsanddesign

Let me know what you think about my selection and stay tuned as more Dreams & Design insights from Milan Design Week 2019 will be published in the coming days. 

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