December 27 2017

Salone del Mobile, Milan 2017

by Elia Nedkov

For me, Salone del Mobile Milan is like a barometer. The trained eye can both spot current trends and also anticipate larger-scale changes in both design and life. I was struck by a shift of focus from form and object to approach as a holistic phenomenon. Such an approach is enabling; it is, in a way, like a season, bearing certain characteristics and opportunities. Form takes on a secondary role, while the main part is given to atmosphere, matter and space.  

My favourites of Salone 2017: 

1. Installation Hermès, designed by Studio Hermès, Guillaume Delvigne and Damian O’Sullivan

It takes the viewer to an island in sunny Greece. This is a world built of bricks that rise up to form a wall, lie down to become a floor, and then crumble to recreate soil. The stand was architecturally pleasing, and the lights, textures and objects were matched nicely, creating a serene and aesthetic environment.  

2. Paola Lenti’s Accordi, shown in a new location, Via Orobia 15 – an old industrial hall from the beginning of last century with harsh walls and bare beams, taken over by lush vegetation

The objects exhibit a synthesis of form and function, as well as a tendency to create a common horizon, doing away with any boundary: indoors/outdoors and open/closed. The plain design, the colours, the plants all turn into narration material and metaphor. The high door-less spaces and wooden pathways guide the visitor into a framework of storylines and variations of an ongoing pursuit of beauty. This maze-like structure gives one the sensation of having stumbled upon a world that is both archaic and at the same time distinctly urban, as testified by its contemporaneity and sophistication. The air is rich in oxygen and there is silent classical music playing in the background.

3. Danese: Fragmens of Life

This year’s appointment of Ron Gilad as creative director of the famous Italian accessories brand brought in a fresh drift, stripped of conventionalities and slightly ironic, but also smart and related to the study and creation of an innovative language of functional objects having become symbols in the course of time.   

Gilad began his tenure by humanising the Danese logo, adding two dots to symbolise eyes open to the future of design. The installation was shown in an old bourgeois villa on Via Canova, near Arco della Pace. 

Fragments of Life combines past and future, an experimentation incubator, and a manifesto of simplicity, aesthetic rigour and irony. 

Not just design, but photography, crafts, graphics and animation also become subject of analysis. The pieces are not utilitarian in a domestic sense, and are not consumer- and approach-oriented. But, for me, that is precisely what makes them valuable and inspiring. 

4. Wonder Glass’s installation Between Light and Time in Instituto dei Ciechi 

instituto’s building, which creates a strict and theatrical setting, hosts lighting designs inspired by fluidity, lightness and reflections of light in water. 

Nao Tamura’s Fluid: The designer took inspiration in the moment when the sun hits the surface of a lagoon and creates a lens resemblance. This effect captures a spark. The project is delicate and plain, hinting at an impressionistic painting. 

Hideki Yoshimoto’s Rise and Drift focuses on the organic shapes of water bubbles and the refraction of light. Supported by WonderLab, the laboratory of innovation and technology at WonderGlass, Yoshimoto challenged the complex way light transmits and reflects inside different materials, resulting in a mesmerising visual effect.