Thursday, May 19, 2011

Milan Designweek 2011

Gone is the opulence and decadence that characterized the Milan Designweek a couple of years ago. On is open and democratic design, magic machines, the craftsman, chunky textiles and gardens to decompress and tickle the senses. The crisis has been a wake-up call for design to reinvent itself and become more engaged, considerate and moderate. Symbolic of this change was Moooi’s small modest showroom in Tortona, some years ago Moooi (Marcel Wanders) seemed to occupy half of the real-estate space. Gone were the bigger-than-life-sized bedside lamps and chandeliers, replaced with a energy-aware LED lamp inspired by the shape of a heracleum plant with white leaves designed by Bertjan Pot.
Bert-Jan Pot for Moooi

The more casual mood of relaxation and retreat was set by numerous gardens; In the middle of Tortona Dedon had an instant vertical garden with a suspended pod, and the ultimate oasis of peace and slow in a dense week full of high design was a city farm-house Cascina Cuccagna, converted into a design showroom curated by Casa Fascile, with plenty of space for (yes again) garden furniture, local designers and craftsmen.
Inner courtyard of the Exhibition Farm by Cuscina Cuccagna
Inner courtyard of the Exhibition Farm by Cuscina Cuccagna

The craftsman is experiencing a renaissance; it seems that the maker is becoming as important as the designer. Most noteworthy at Wallpapers Handmade exhibition, but also given much attention at Nouvelle Vague a French platform of cooperation between French designers and craftsmen as well as at the Austrian design exhibit. The latter was also one of the many the-best-off [insert country] exhibitions that was seen everywhere. Smart country branding? Or just a way of warming up the heritage in times where there is little money for creativity and innovation? Probably both.

What stuck on my retina and senses was also Moroso’s Twilight installation by Tokujin Yoshioka serenely white and slightly disturbing, intensely introvert and quiet. And Toshibas LED rainshower exhibition was a memorable highlight. A stark white tunnel led us into a serene inner courtyard hiding the entrance into a opaque black space where raindrops lightened up by (LED) light created an intense and strong feeling of suspended magic, humbleness and reflection. I have never looked at rain this way before.

The real future of design lies in the open and democratic design. Ever since 2004 when .MGX launched their first collection we have seen 3D printing expand. This year Droog launched their new Make-it concept, and invite everyone to play around with their designs online before placing their order at a MakersLab. Besides from this new model to monetize (semi) open-source design there were more 3D printed objects than ever as well as live demonstrations by the FabLab Milan/Berlin of the RepRap (a 3D printer that you can build yourself)

There was also space for the wondrous machines; Dirk van Kooy was demonstrating his magic chair printing robot and Eske Rex had her drawingmachine turn out one gyroscopic drawing per day in Lambrate. One of the most magic machines was a lamp installation driven by the kinetic power of the internet created in collaboration between Lustlab and Pieke Bergmans.
Dirk van Kooy - Endless
Dirk van Kooy - Endless
Pieke Bergmans / Lustlab

In a year of crisis-recovery the new had to be sought in the details, it was modest but it was definitely there.

Published in edited form in Philips Design New Value news May 2011
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