Saturday, April 30, 2011

Report Milano 7 - Rising Stars

In addition to the well established superstars, the rising young talents have brought in quite some fresh air into the Salone scene. The Bouroullec brothers, for example, are everywhere with brands like Vitra, Mattiazzi, Magis, Flos, and Alessi. I find the balance between delicacy and expressiveness in their work very attractive. Like the Osso chair, the simple assembly of four CNC-milled pieces makes an elegant and modestly expressive object.

Osso chairs by Ronan & Erwan Bouroullec for Mattiazzi
Ovale by Ronan & Erwan Bouroullec for Alessi

Designs by both former PLOT partners can be seen in Milan. Julien de Smedt is featured in the "Belgium is Design" show at the Pinacoteca di Brera, presenting his New Nordic shelves and Crushed Bowl for Muuto, a plywood stair prototype, and the Bone chair.

New Nordic shelves and Crushed bowls by JDS for Muuto

Bjarke Ingels shows up as part of KiBiSi, a joint venture of Kilo Design, BIG, and Skibsted Ideation. Two lamps are feature at the Danish Design Center show in Zona Tortona, alongside with Danish design legends like Kaare Klint, Verner Panton, and Poul Christiansen. Compared to JDS's operations somehow within architectural languages, KiBiSi's lamps seem to be just intending to shock...

Bunch of Bulbs by KiBiSi
Knot by KiBiSi

There is no national pavilion of Japan, but the force of Japanese design is quite strong. At the Salone, Arketipo features a line designed by Nendo, including Cube magazine storage, Link and Moya coffee tables, Eda coat stand, Hide cabinet, and Target shelves.

Link tables (front) and Eda coat stand (back) by Nendo for Arketipo
Hide cabinet by Nendo for Arketipo
Target bookshelves by Nendo for Arketipo

In their own showroom at the Galleria Jannone, Nendo presents more recent works under the title "Textured Transparencies." Here, we see a cast clear acrylic table top with a strong wood texture, a pendant lamp with a ring of protective film which changes transparency when seen from different angles, a chair of elastic polyurethane film mounted on only a backrest and armrests, and artificial ulexite frames that make the images behind them floating. The general message is that transparency is not about disappearing, but rather the existence in gradations and nuance.

Transparent Table, Transparent Lamp, and Transparent Chair by Nendo
Transparent Chair
Transparent Frame by Nendo

At the Triennale Museum, Nendo designs the exhibition setting for the Taiwanese design brand Yii. A forest of inflatable transparent vinyl tubes are hung from the ceiling. They blur the objects and force you to meander between them to get through. This "non-direct" approach is in a way very Asian.

In the Boffi showroom in Brera, Living Divani puts up a show to present their Junya Ishigami line. Family Chair is a collection of 5 lovely shaped steel wire chairs. Each of them has a slightly different personality (wide, tall, short, normal, and a stool), but they "live" in harmony together like a family. Drop Table is basically a lens on legs, creating intriguing optical effects. And there are also Garden Plates. Well, these things are just adorable!

Family Chairs by Junya Ishigami
Drop Table by Junya Ishigami
Garden Plate by Junya Ishigami

In Zona Tortona, Ishigami appears again with Sou Fujimoto and Akihisa Hirata at Spazio FMG's "Architecture as a Piece of Nature" exhibition. It's almost like a statement that a new generation of Japanese architects has matured and left the shadows of Toyo Ito, Kazuyo Sejima, and Shigaru Ban.

Although neither of the two principals of SO-IL is Japanese, their design for the Arper stand at the Salone clearly reflects the influence of Japanese sensibility they got from their SANAA years. The translucent fabric skin of the cubes produces overlapping and blurred visual effects.


Friday, April 29, 2011

Report Milano 6 - Teaming Up

It's a tradition that furniture brands would team up with architects to develop product or showroom design. At the Salone del Mobile this year, Olivari reviews its 100 years of collaboration with architects and designers, from Gio Ponti, BBPR to more contemporary big names like Toyo Ito and Steven Holl.

Horm once again manufactures a Steven Holl design. It's a system of hexagonal modulars that can be flanked into various configurations. It can function as a stool or a side table, available in Lecce stone and okoume wood. Jean Nouvel's "Vienna" for Wittmann is also a modular system. It can be arranged into a chaise lounge or sofas of different length.

In its showroom on via Manzoni, Alessi launches the Piana chair by David Chipperfield. Near Porta Volta, Lumina shows the FLO reading lamp by Foster+Partners. I really appreciate the simplicity and elegance of these British designs.

On the other side of the spectrum, Zaha Hadid designs the flamboyant Z-Chair for Sawaya & Moroni. It's probably the only chair in the city that doesn't allow visitors to sit on. I guess it won't look as "attractive" if it has fingerprints all over the polished stainless steel surface after use. In the basement of the S&M showroom, there's also the Daniel Libeskind designed tea set. OK, speechless.

Hermès has hired Shigaru Ban (with his Pompidou-Metz partner Jean de Gastines) to design a temporary pavilion at La Pelota for its new interior collections. It's the first time I've got to see Shigaru Ban's signature cardboard tube structure. Woven with paper and joined by cardboard planes, the tubes form the envelope of a sequence of intimate and calm spaces.

Similarly intimate but with a more substantial material - stone, "Nucleus" by Manuel Aires Mateus for Pibamarmi's bathroom line is featured in a group exhibition of stone design at the Triennale Museum. It seems to be a reduced version of "A Temple for Stone Gods" shown last year.

Bisazza is going artsy this year, with an exhibition at Triennale of Alessandro Mendini's sculptures using Bisazza mosaics.

Corian is famous for teaming up with architects and designers to demonstrate the potentials of this high-tech (and expensive) material in the occasions of the Salone. We've seen Marc Newson's Diode lamps (2003), Ron Arad's Oh-Void chair (2004), Zaha Hadid's Z-Island kitchen (2006), and Jean Nouvel's Lumières back-lit cabinets (2007). This year, Corian has a surprise: a TRON-inspired show with Disney in Zona Tortona. The first room is Flynn's Arcade with brightly lit walls and digital display on the table. The next is dark with the fancy Light Cycle in the spotlight. The highlight of the show is Kevin Flynn's safe house. I don't necessarily like the extravagant design. But no doubt it shows a fascinating life-style. And of course, the Daft Punk soundtracks in the background add a lot to the theatrical effects.