6 May 2011
by Liz Farrelly
There’s much to see at Milan’s annual furniture fair, not only at the official Fiera but in neighbours and galleries around the city. In the Zona Tortona, Tom Dixon’s Multiplex was a "fully immersive" environment dedicated to his shimmering collection of lighting and furniture in etched brass, coloured enamels and spun copper. Round the corner, a bunch of British design companies, included Modus, Race Furniture and the Welsh weavers, Melin Tregwynt, showed their wares at Design Junction, in the Zegna showroom.
It was Melin Tregwynt’s first outing in Milan, but they got a double bite of the cherry, as their woolly products (combining contemporary patterns and palettes with traditional techniques) also featured at the Spazio Botta in the Porta Romana area. A collaboration with SCP and Donna Wilson produced cushions, throws, pouffes and upholstery for Munro, a buttoned Chesterfield sofa. Softening up a British design classic, Donna brought some cosy eclecticism to SCP’s pared aesthetic. Also at Porta Romana, Ercol and Case were doing good with wood. Matthew Hilton featured with both companies; his Treviso desk in American Oak for Ercol is spare but crafted, while his Theo sofa for Case is generous and streamlined.
Another design hub, Ventura Lambrate, featured the RCA’s Intent show, housed in a massive warehouse alongside colleges from Europe and beyond. Current students from the Design Products course were curated by Onka Kular. The Design Products Collection was also on show; this joint initiative by Gareth Williams and Professor Tord Boontje brings to market limited-editions by RCA staff and alumni.
Over on via della Spiga (in the part of town where every other shop is Prada) two designers with links to the RCA, Bethan Laura Wood (graduated 2009) and her ex-tutor, Martino Gamper, featured at the exclusive Nilufar Gallery in a group show, Atomi. Martino combined found objects, laminates, exotic woods and anodised aluminium to create various hybrids of storage and desk, some sprouting lamps as parasitic outgrowths. Bethan showed a group of marquetry Moon Rock tables, patterned like agates, re-interpreted in hand-assembled, laser-cut laminates. Above hung her Totem lamps, assembled from hand-blown, Pyrex glass forms inspired by both lab and tea table. Another Nilufar show, Ricognizioni, housed in the Baroque splendour of the Palazzo Durini, featured Michael Anastassiades’ Lit Lines, a series of lamps so minimal that the light seemed to simply float; up close the combination of luminescence, metal and detailing was jewel-like.
By contrast, architect David Chipperfield’s Piana is Alessi’s first chair (produced in collaboration with Lamm), and it’s decidedly down to earth. Made of fibreglass reinforced polypropylene, tough enough for indoors and out, it folds to a width of seven centimetres, is stackable, rackable, and available in six colours. With refreshingly simple geometry, it’s set to become a ubiquitous classic.
One of the hottest tickets of the week, guaranteeing a high profile for a slew of British designers, was Wallpaper* magazine’s Handmade exhibition, spreading over four floors of master tailors Brioni’s HQ. The idea was to team designers and manufacturers with watchful Wallpaper* editors acting as client; Bethan Laura Wood celebrated her collaboration with Abet Laminati with a candy-coloured, fan-shaped table, while Tom Dixon pimped-out Aston Martin’s bespoke Cygnet city car. This was, undoubtedly, the best-curated independent show (outside the Salone and the Triennale). With Wallpaper* setting a new standard, next year’s week in Milan should be something to see.