Breaking Boundaries in Milan

The spirit of iSaloni will not be contained

06/01/2015 By Kenn Busch

The Milan Furniture Fair (iSaloni, or “the salons”) is a pretty big thing. For many in the design world it’s the only thing, despite the other furniture-related design fairs that have taken place already this year—Heimtextil in Frankfurt, IMM (the international furniture fair in Cologne), and the Stockholm Furniture and Light Fair.

It doesn’t hurt that Milan is, well, Milano, but other factors play a role in the industry’s fascination, namely ancillary happenings like Ventura Lambrate.

Ventura Lambrate is what you might call a pop-up design exhibition, held this year for the sixth time in a hip area east of central Milan near the Lambrate train station. Storefronts, workshops, and industrial buildings throughout the area become showrooms and experiential displays that focus as much on materials as furnishings.

humanitype screens
Designer Mitchell Mauk has nearly four decades experience collaborating with companies like Herman Miller, Levis, Pixar, Volkswagen, and McDonald’s. He even had a hand in developing the brand image of the early Apple computers with Steve Jobs.

Mauk introduced three new screen designs at Venturi Lambrate—Neuron, Synapse and Aural—all fabricated from polypropylene. They create a porous visual barrier, as well as a network of fascinating shadows.

“Materials are where you start, and you can go two directions—use what everyone else has and try to make something spectacular, or find something no one else has bothered with and create new stuff. Each has its own challenges,” said Mauk. “Polyethylene is a normal, ordinary material. It’s a known quantity so people will feel comfortable using it. And we’re combining the Aural screens with acoustic absorbing Kirei EchoPanels, made from recycled PET plastic bottles.”

we make carpets: kneeling
Ventura Lambrate is also a venue for experimentation. The Dutch design collective We Make Carpets creates floor designs that aren’t really carpets; they aren’t even meant to be tread upon. Their pasta, sponge, party-hat, and other designs were nominated this year for a Milan Design Award.

euroluce— lighting concepts
Every other year iSaloni hosts Euroluce, Europe’s design lighting exhibition. Not surprisingly, LEDs have liberated designers from ancient constraints, making for some exciting concepts—some of them even useful!

saloneufficio— workplace 3.0
Also every other year, office concepts are a large part of iSaloni. This year “The Walk,” a concept from architect Michele De Lucchi, anchored one of the main exhibition halls, playing with the idea that moving about nurtures creativity. An infinite walking path meanders through several different workspace options.

Aggressive geometry and dimensionality abound, with Tabu-brand engineered veneers from Italy’s Brianza Design, and oak with lacquered MDF from Greece’s de-code.

Office furniture manufacture Fantoni is completely vertically integrated, from managed forests to furniture to climate control systems. Highlights this year include worktops made with a down-scaled OSB-style panel, the “Hub” system for collaborative working, strategically placed acoustic panels, and the space-saving Climacustic wall and ceiling panels that control sound and climate.

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