Milan Fairgrounds, Milan, Italy
Date: 17 April 2012
Milan Furniture Fair
9.30am - 6.30pm
The Milan Furniture Fair, now in its 51st year, opens tomorrow with its customary overwhelming array of events and shows that make it quite simply the most important outing on the international design calendar. To give you some idea of scale, the Salone del Mobile, which takes place in Milan’s impressive Massimiliano Fuksas-designed halls a 20-minute metro ride from the city centre, accommodates 13,000 exhibitors. The number of fringe events in central Milan hovers around 300. It’s perhaps no surprise then that the main topic of conversation among the 300,000 or so visitors is the impossibility of finding a taxi, and the second is the impossibility of finding a hotel room unless you book a year in advance.
But regardless of inconvenience, the event is unmissable, rounding up, as it does, new design from all over the world. Italy, for years the absolute leader of revolutionary trends and techniques in furniture, is these days more of a paternalistic host. This year, for example, Pirwi, a young Mexican company with a genuine emphasis on sustainability, is presenting a delightful new desk called Bloom at La Rinascente. At the Fiera, Studio Ju Ju – a Singaporean couple still in their twenties, whose work brings a delicately Asian aesthetic to Western design forms – will show their new Rabbit and Tortoise tables produced by Italian company Living Divani. “Their organic, flowing shapes are inspired by the movement of water,” Ju Ju’s Priscilla Liu tells Phaidon. Meanwhile Michael Young, a British-born and trained designer who has settled in Hong Kong (“Whatever you want to try out and prototype, there’s still a little factory down the road that will knock it up for you,” he says) has teamed up with Italian fashion house Trussardi to replicate its traditional and exacting production values in a series of walnut, leather and upholstery tables and chairs.
Of course, there’ll be plenty of design razzmatazz too, not least the showboating partnership of Philippe Starck and Lenny Kravitz at Kartell. (Kravitz has done a rock 'n' roll restyling of Starck’s now classic Mademoiselle acrylic chair adding snakeskin and fur to a design whose USP is its lightness and transparency.)
Phaidon, of course, will be looking out for more carefully considered pleasures. Among those will be the clever Corniches shelving by the Bouroullec Brothers for Vitra. The brothers say the shelves are an illustration of the idea that an impromptu or spontaneous storage area can always be created.The glossy pedestals are made of ABS and come in three sizes and a number of colours. Ronan & Erwan will also be showing their Folio shelves with Established & Sons - a system of colour-stained oak and aluminium shelves conceled behind a Jacquard tapestry curtain that, when drawn, will function much as a piece of art.
Over at Japan Creative meanwhile, there’s an altogether different pairing of Britain’s most assured designer Jasper Morrison, working in cast iron - “a very nice material to work with,” according to the designer - with Japanese company Oigen. Meanwhile, Nilufar, Milan’s standout design gallery, will be presenting new work from the the extremely talented English designer Bethan Laura Wood and 3D lacquered paper by the Japanese collective Nendo. And then there's Wallpaper Handmade. Now in its third year, this show matches a varied roll call of design names – from young British architect David Kohn to veteran fashion meister Karl Lagerfeld – with some intriguing manufacturers to create one-off pieces, some with production possibilities. Look out for Paul Cocksedge's marble bookmark! More details at the Salone del Mobile site.