Wellington industrial designer Emma Fox Derwin takes on HOME correspondent duties at Milan Design Week to look at future furniture directions for our special Forecast section in the magazine. Here are her 10 favourite finds at the furniture fair.
The real excitement and spirit of Milan Design Week was in the design districts of Brera and Lambrate, where inspiring non-product spatial installations, food events, new furniture propositions and experimental brands were abundant. There was a significant shift from the week being a purely furniture-focused event to one articulating the spirit and process of design, and revelling in the day-to-day work of the designer. The highlights this year were at opposite extremes of a spectrum with the mass-produced at one end and the hand-made at the other. Here are some of my favourites:
1. Hay Collection 2016 (above)
Danish powerhouse Hay produced the most sensational and large-scale exhibition: a maze of rooms at La Pelota to launch their 20-plus new products from a dream list of designers including Ronan & Erwan Bouroullec, Stefan Diez, Scholten & Baijings, Doshi Levien, Iskos-Berlin and Shane Schneck.
2. ‘Forest comes home’ installation by Akira Minagawa for Kvadrat (above)
In celebration of his new textile collection, Akira Minagawa presented a series of captivating, whimsical spatial interventions reminiscent of lava-lamp globules, upholstered in his new fabrics and Kvadrat’s established range.
3. ‘All plastic chair’ by Jasper Morrison for Vitra (above)
This chair appears to be a quintessential timber café chair you’d see anywhere in Europe, until a second look reveals the clever subtleties of the construction detailing and that the design is plastic.
4. ‘Herringbone’ vase (above) by Phil Cuttance for the Makers and Bakers exhibition curated by Ambra Medda and Katie Lockhart
Phil Cuttance presented his new ‘Herringbone’ vase as part of the Makers and Bakers exhibition at Ristorante Marta in Spazio Rossana Orlandi, curated by Ambra Medda and Katie Lockhart and sponsored by Airbnb. It’s a visually engaging cast-concrete object that extends Cuttance’s exploration of producing quality objects using low-tech techniques.
5. ‘Touch Base’ exhibition (above) by Design Academy Eindhoven / ‘S-Pot’ by Maddalena Selvini
The Design Academy of Eindhoven transformed a disused mechanics yard into a restaurant, amphitheatre and petting zoo, inviting visitors to engage with their sense of touch as a reaction to the digital saturation of everyday life. This included a number of domesticated farm animals, hand-washing and a number of other projects designed to challenge our perception of materials and tactile engagement.
6. ‘Space Frames’ by Studio Mieke Miejer (above)
Space Frames explores architectural elements like trusses, arcs, columns and plates veiled in a fine textile cover, which is backlit by a hidden light source. These objects are somehow both foreign and familiar and are used to redefine and manipulate our perceptions of different spaces.
7. ‘Phenomenon Organic’ (above) by Pieke Bergmans
‘Phenomenon Organic’ is an artistic investigation into neon lighting where the designer has embraced the natural character a material has when exposed to a production process, in this instance glass. The result is a visually engaging object that expresses the natural whims of a production process and reveals new material quality with every glance.
8. ‘Envisions – Products in Process’ exhibition (above) curated by Simone Post, Sanne Schuurman, and Iwan Pol
‘Envisions’ exemplified a celebration of the process of designing by presenting a series of ‘objects’ by a number of designers, as well as experiments that could be described as the products of conception for design. These works sat between the initial idea and the final object and were usually hidden away in storage lockers and studios. There was a real richness and insight offered here into the design process and inquiry designers undertake to develop a product.
9. ‘Indefinite’ vase (above) and ‘Infinite’ stool (below) by Erik Olovsson for Studio EO
The ‘Indefinite’ vases are a series of experiments in marble and glass exploring the relationship between opaque geometric and organic transparent forms, using gravity and heat to displace the fragile with the solid. They were exhibited with the ‘Infinite’ stools (below), which has a Rietveld-esque quality and hand-painted finishes, the result of a daily intuitive exercise undertaken by the designer to refine techniques through repetition, using only a limited palette of pine and screen print dye and other leftover materials.
See much more from Milan and New York Design Weeks in our special Forecast 2016 section in our new issue, on newsstands now.