Drama and Poetry in Installations at Milano Design Week

By Katie Bone

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With Milano Design Week just over a week behind us, we’ve had some time to reflect on the installations that continued to resonate long after leaving the cinemas, palazzi or tunnels in which we found them. There were a number of striking exhibits and installations across Fuorisalone this year, but these are the ones that have stayed strong in our minds as we’ve settled back into daily life after a whirlwind week in Milan.

Nendo: Invisible Outlines

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Japanese brand Nendo transformed the Jil Sander showroom in the Brera district of Milan into a captivating ethereal landscape defined by outlines and contours. A series of conceptual installations led visitors throughout the space in an exploration of what the eye perceives, based on elegantly minimalist designs that often seemed more a suggestion of an object than an object in itself.

One of these installations (above) was titled “80 Sheets of Mountains.” Upon descending the steps into the largest open space of the Jil Sander showroom, visitors entered a glowing white room filled with the contours of mountain-like shapes. Comprised of thin polystryrene sheets, laser cut and stretched into hills and valleys, the installation created pathways, inviting visitors to wander through the landscape.

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The “jellyfish vase” was another captivating installation from Nendo. 30 vases made of ultra-thin transparent silicon were submerged in an aquarium filled with water. The water pulsated with a current just strong enough to cause the delicate vases within to dance and wobble like jellyfish. Created to redefine the traditional roles of flowers and water, the water in this installation is pervasive and therefore almost inconspicuous. The vase does not contain the water, but the water contains the vase. The subtle gradations of color among the vases and the slight movements of the forms in the water currents made this a uniquely enticing and enjoyable installation to witness.

(Photos above by Takumi Ota.)

 

LG and Tokujin Yoshioka: S.F_Senses of the Future

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Winner of the highest prize at the Milano Design Award, the installation from LG and designer Tokujin Yoshioka created an immersive landscape defined by light in an installation comprised of two fundamental parts: The S.F Chair and the Wall of the Sun.

The S.F chair was created as a poetic imagining of a child’s perception of the future. The chair, a form that has been redesigned countless times throughout history, lent itself in this instance to a futuristic image designed to capture the human senses. Each comprised of bifacial OLED signage, a field of S.F chairs throughout the space created a canvas for an undulating light show of glowing forms and colors.

The Wall of the Sun created a backdrop to the scene; a luminous plane that drew visitors further into the exhibit. Inspired by solar flares and with an aim to capture a mystical sense of our planet’s future, a mural of 30,000 OLED lights emitted random pulses and flashes of light. As visitors made their way toward the wall through the field of S.F chairs, the flashes which at first seemed random, became part of a network of more clearly defined OLED light fittings.

The jury for the Milano Design Award remarked on the installation’s “ability to synthesize the conceptual, technological, narrative and emotional aspects in one single project,” – a synthesis made even more powerful through it’s simplicity, using only OLED lights in two distinct forms.

 

Maarten Baas: May I Have Your Attention Please?

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In one of the raw, unfinished vaults of Ventura Centrale, located at the Central Station’s Magazzini Raccordati, the Maarten Baas installation “May I Have Your Attention Please?” invited visitors into a mysterious and playful world of chairs and bullhorns, the latter whispering barely audible secrets. The secrets “are clips taken from all sorts of sources,” says Baas, “and for me they represent the energy of people. I feel like we live in a world where attention is almost as much a currency as money is or power.”

The installation was created to showcase Baas’ new chair for Lensvelt. Due to a slight tweaking of the production process, each chair in the Maarten Baas 101 line is unique. They are each made from the same materials and yet slight variations in color and shape prevent any two from being identical. The cacophony of secrets in the bullhorns represent what Baas was aiming to achieve with this line.  “We are also made up from the same parts,” he says, “but yet again we aren’t identical. These chairs are unique, even in large numbers.”

The whimsy of the installation, from the color palette to the unique, almost childlike forms of the chairs, along with the whispering bullhorns, appealed to all of the senses and left a lasting impression.

 

COS x Studio Swine: New Spring

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In Milan’s historic Cinema Arti, Studio Swine and COS presented an enchanting interactive installation that put smiles on the faces of everyone who entered the space. A “New Spring” was envisioned by the designers as a single large tree-like structure in a dark space, which dropped white “blossoms” on visitors in the form of vapor-filled bubbles. Says London-based design duo Studio Swine, “Inspired by the famous cherry blossom festival in Japan, the installation is designed to create a special moment that brings people together. A fleeting shared experience that evokes the changing seasons.”

Visitors were given a pair of gloves before entering the space. The gloves were in themselves a clear invitation to play with the installation. We positioned ourselves under a branch, as did the other visitors around us, to wait for bubble blossoms to fall from above, catching them in our gloves and blowing them into the proverbial breeze. Upon leaving we looked at the faces around us, overcome with play and wonder, had the sense that the need for therapy in the modern world could be drastically reduced if everyone had access to a mist-filled bubble-blossom tree.

(Image above from COS Stores.)

 

Lee Broom: The Time Machine

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A glowing white carousel showcased ten years of work from British furniture and lighting designer Lee Broom in an unfinished vault of the Milano Centrale train station at Ventura Centrale. Broom’s most iconic pieces including the Carpetry Console and the Drunken Side Table were all reimagined for the installation in a uniform white color palette, lending a sense of brightness and purity to the otherwise dark space. The slowly rotating carousel and the timelessness of the all-white collection hinted at the passage of time and, in a landscape that obscured any reference to the present day, offered the suggestion of time travel.

(Image above by Luke Hayes.)

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