Wednesday. 8/6/2022

The Monocle Minute
On Design

Image: Andrea Pugiotto

Seat at the table

Salone del Mobile is in full swing and Monocle has dispatched its editors and correspondents to deliver the best design projects and furniture directly to your inbox. Journey across the halls of the Fiera with us to inspect new chairs from Japan, before stepping into the future of the office with Unifor. We begin at popular design exhibition Alcova.

The project / Alcova

All eyes on Alcova

The hit of Salone del Mobile’s scaled-down September edition last year was Alcova, a massive showcase of young and niche design talent, which took place in an old military facility on the outskirts of the city. For co-curators Joseph Grima and Valentina Ciuffi, the pressure has been on to reproduce the success of last year’s event at a full-scale edition of the 2022 Milan Design Week. They’ve done it with style, increasing the footprint of the showcase by opening up another grand old 1920s building within the facility, adding another unique space for exhibitors to interpret with their displays.

Must-sees for 2022 include “Monumental Wonders” from Dutch stone supplier Solid Nature. The showcase sees beautiful and monolithic designs from fellow Netherlanders Sabine Marcelis and architecture firm OMA at Alcova’s Lavanderia building. The work shows how stone can be used in the home. Marcelis, for example, has created a pink onyx bathroom (pictured, top) challenging the idea that furniture for this environment needs to be attached to walls for plumbing. The all-in-one design, combining a bath and sink, would sit splendidly at the centre of a grand washroom.

Image: Andrea Pugiotto
Image: Andrea Pugiotto
Image: Andrea Pugiotto

For respite, visitors should take a seat at the Offcut bar (pictured, second from top) for a drink or look to Otherside Objects in Alcova’s leafy outdoor areas. The moniker used by Los Angeles-based designer Sam Klemick (pictured, bottom, on right) combines new materials with discarded furniture and deadstock fabrics to reimagine traditional forms. “The Garden”, Klemick’s outdoor installation at Alcova, uses draped fabrics and duvet-style cushions to create a relaxed but educational experience.

Design News / Unifor x oma

Work in progress

Image: Andrea Pugiotto
Image: Andrea Pugiotto

Rotterdam-based architecture firm OMA and Italian furniture manufacturer Unifor have launched Principles, a standalone collection, at the latter’s new showroom in the Feltrinelli building at Salone del Mobile. The range draws on the success of a recent collaboration between the two brands on Axel Springer’s new headquarters in Berlin and aims to provide the furniture designed for that project to workplaces around the globe. Visitors are invited to interact with the sofas, side tables and desks outside the showroom, where they are arranged in a way that emphasises the importance of communication in the office – but in a sunny, Milanese style. “What sets these items apart is their openness,” says designer and OMA collaborator Antonio Barone. “They can be used in various different environments. The table, for instance, is not a lunch table, nor an office table, nor a dinner table – it can be all of those things.”

Words With… / Marie Mayoly

State of a nation

The House of Switzerland, held in the Brera Design District at Salone del Mobile as part of an initiative from Swiss foundation Pro Helvetia, provides a compelling snapshot of where the Alpine nation’s creative industries are heading. While parts of the space are dedicated to work from Switzerland’s design universities, the bottom floor of the sprawling site is given over to the exhibition Design Switzerland’s Living Spaces, which is overseen by Pro Helvetia’s talented curator Marie Mayoly. She discusses the showcase and what Swiss design means in 2022.

Image: Andrea Pugiotto
Image: Andrea Pugiotto
Image: Andrea Pugiotto

How have you selected the talent for your exhibition?
One year ago we did an open call asking a new generation of Swiss designers to answer the question, how will our living spaces evolve alongside a changing society? Nine entrants made the cut and they all answered the question with a great emphasis on sustainability and fairness. They are all innovative in their own ways; they’re just great projects.

Monocle is particularly fond of the work of Geneva’s Shizuoka Saito. She has designed an eye-catching but practical stained-timber, accordion-like piece of furniture…
The idea with her project, Mingle, is that it is designed to adapt to our society and provide a solution around the fact that we continue to live in smaller spaces. She created a stool that the user can stretch and expand to turn into a bench, making it adaptable if, say, you have friends over for dinner.

What does Swiss design mean in 2022?
Swiss design is good design. If you were to characterise the Swiss design that we are showing here, it is actually the diversity that defines it and makes it interesting. What brings the talent together here is the exhibition design by Lausanne-based studio Iiode. They’ve thought about how to make the space work in a very clever way. Milan Design Week is busy but here you feel like you’re able to take a break – there are benches to enjoy, for both guests and designers. This means that people easily get into relaxed conversations about Swiss design.

Design news / Maruni

In the round

Hiroshima-based Maruni is back at the Rho Fiera Milano fairgrounds with a new talent. The leading Japanese furniture-maker has appointed Danish designer Cecilie Manz to create a series called En. Meaning “one” in Danish and “circle” in Japanese, En consists of wooden tables and chairs.

Image: Andrea Pugiotto
Image: Andrea Pugiotto

“A table is such a vital piece of furniture; many situations in our everyday life unfold around a table,” says Manz. She chose maple to make the accompanying chair for its light tone and structure, a look reflected in Maruni’s display at the fair. The chair, which can be finished with a range of textiles from Kvadrat or tanned leather for the seat, is gently lit and takes pride of place in the centre of the brand’s area, which also features work by Naoto Fukasawa and Jasper Morrison. And given the crowds passing through the hall in Milan, we expect it to take pride of place in the homes of plenty of design-minded people too.

Design news / Acerbis

Colour scheme

Deploying colour in any environment requires a deft touch. For an example of how to do it well, look to Acerbis’s display in Milan, where the Italian brand has unveiled two newly reimagined pieces from its archives. The first is the Med chair by Lodovico Acerbis and Giotto Stoppino from 1983. The 2022 version (pictured) is available in a variety of colours including walnut and black ash, and embellished with upholstery ranging in hue from burnt-orange to crisp white.

Image: Andrea Pugiotto

Complementing this is the Life System wall by Roberto Monsani: a backlit cubic shelf system from 1975, which has been modernised with a selection of vibrant door colours inspired by the hues of vintage Italian cars and redesigned to accommodate lights that allow the system to sit flush against any wall. Both pieces are a reminder that, when it comes to colour, timelessness and not trends should define your selection. That’s why Acerbis turned to the past for its most recent pieces.

Design news / Rossana Orlandi x Citröen

Four-wheeled friends

Salone del Mobile has become much more than a furniture fair over the years; it is now a mega marketing event. Yet brands not in the business of making our homes more handsome often miss the memo that showcases here need to impress a design-savvy set of visitors. It’s refreshing, therefore, to roll up to Rossana Orlandi, a popular design gallery during the design week, to see these beautifully decorated models of Citröen’s mini electric two-seater, the Ami.

Image: Andrea Pugiotto

The cute collection features five different exteriors created by a cast of international designers: Daniela Gerini, Yukiko Nagai, Paola Navone, Draga Obradovic and Ludovica Serafini. The result is a clever sell to the Milanese, who are scooping up these vehicles rapidly due to the fact that they fit into scooter parking bays, and international crowds not so well versed in the wonderful design of this pint-sized car.

Design News / Ton

Ahead of the curve

A good display in Fiera’s trade hall should capture the essence of a brand in a small area. This year furniture-maker Ton has done just that. “We want our section to reflect our passion for seating, nature and bentwood furniture,” says Alexander Gufler, Ton’s art director. Designed by German studio Kaschkasch, the space is carved up with gently curving walls, reflecting the Czech brand’s bentwood and plywood furniture.

Image: Andrea Pugiotto

“We want it to show our evolution,” adds Gufler. “Our display is about how we transition from the past to the future.” Indeed it is, with Ton’s three most recent collections – 822 by studio Claesson Koivisto Rune, POV by Kaschkasch and Again by Gufler – on show alongside a selection of its classic pieces. Each range is given a dedicated nook enclosed by a curved wall, allowing visitors to experience the brand’s “evolution” niche by niche.


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