Get your bucket hats ready and put on your stylishly long coats. It is Design Week! The first, ehm sorry, second most trendy week of Milano. This weekend, Brera’s Design District will showcase the best designers from all over the world which will make you question the fine line between art and business, private and public spaces, queue and torture.
Afraid of sore feet and uncomfortable design chairs? Do not worry. Here are the TOP THREE PLACES that you have to see.
1. Pinacoteca di Brera: Grohe’s “Health Through Water”
Yes, you have already seen it on your artsy friend’s instagram story. However, the opening act of Milano’s Design Week deserves to be truly appreciated in person for its elegant monumentality and unintentional humorous flair. It is the project of Grohe, one of the leading companies in bathroom furnishings. It is comprised of a shallow black pool of water, which surrounds the hunky statue of Apollo-Napoleon at the centre of the Brera’s Palace complex. At the rims of the pool, there are mirror-coated showrooms, where faucets and shower phones hang as unused and awkwardly put coat hangers.
The beauty of the installation resides in the reflective games which displace and distort the rigorous architecture and illustriously unknown statues of the location. But, the genius of it all can truly be appreciated by walking up the second court of the building and admire the show from above. From such a height, a realisation. The imperial courtyard of Brera’s Palace is but a sink. And Napoleon’s statue is but a sink stopper, which yourself, or some celestial deity, could remove at anytime to flood the palace, the design district and the whole city. Key takeaway: après moi le deluge.
2. Via Solferino 9: Missoni’s “Living Inside-out”
You may be are as clueless as the author of this article was on the topic of “Milano”, “design” or “weeks”. Where to be? Where to go? This author’s tip is to scan the crowd, look for the oddly dressed, the punch-in-the-face multicolour coats and follow them as spies. Mine lead me to Missoni’s showroom.
The installation curated by Alberto Caliri, the artistic director of Missoni Home Collection, is bound to put a smile on your face. The ground floor space showcases the new pouffe chairs in geometric and colourful fabrics which are scattered as inviting doughnuts around the room. Bouncing and even bumping into complete strangers on one of them brings back lost memories of child play. This idea is reinforced by the stuffed, equally colourful bunnies who slouch quite nostalgically on the walls of the showroom.
The second floor is much more contained, mature and business-like. “Go down and play, child, the grown-ups are speaking”. Yet if you decide to stay and overhear the conversations in that small faux living room, the things you can pick up are entertaining in their own grey, adult way. , “4000?!”, “can i spill coffee on it?”, “This would go really nicely with the dog we have at home” etc. For the childish wanderer is time to go. Key takeaway: the lower the design furniture the design-er it is.
3. Via Marco Formentini 10: Brunner Group x Atelier Oì
Very easy to miss. Just turn left (or right) and at the end of a narrow, old medieval street you will find the showroom of an obscure German, family-run furniture maker in collaboration with an equally obscure Swiss architecture atelier. This showroom is the most humble among the bunch and probably because of it, the most poetic.
The room is dimly light, divided into two spaces. After having touched the finely made, cherrywood desk and said to yourself: “mmm smooth”; you turn to the real gem of the showroom. It is, for lack of better, snobbier words, a tableau artificiel. Three panels, teal white and brown, perform for the spectator a silent play of movement. These panels, these separés, used daily to divide airy open spaces, curl, expand and slowly slide on a stage as calmly as waves upon a beach. They are everyday objects which in the mind of the viewer can reveal prehistoric stories of tides and receding earth strips. Looking up, a metal sun expanding and contracting peacefully, inevitably.
Leaving the space, one might ask for the concept behind such a meditative piece to a fair haired assistant. “It helps to show the flexibility of the product”, they say moving their hands as if playing an invisible accordion.
Elementary realisation: design at its truest form is a silent human story of life, resourcefulness and art told through the often out-of-touch and industrial ways to reach everyone, on the streets, in one’s home.
By Federico Erminio Spadaro
All photos were taken by the writer of this article
The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views or positions of any entities they represent.