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All the fun of the Milan fair

INTERIORS

LWS - LAZY WORKING SOFA

DESIGN: PHILIPPE STARCK

FOR: CASSINA

Starck's 133cm sofa is suitable for resting as well as working. The tubular steel frame is upholstered in different densities of cfc-free polyurethane and polyester wadding. It can be fitted with side and rear-tops in natural maple or Wenge with grey-lacquered tubular steel supports, and can be fitted with electrical wiring for lamps and computers.

CHAIRS: MISS B

DESIGN: TITO AGNOLI

FOR: PIERANTONIO BONACINA

Chairs and armchairs come in fixed or revolving versions, with weaving in wicker, leather or Krilon, an exclusive material to P Bonacina. Suitable for both indoor and outdoor uses, as Krilon's uva filters prevent alteration of colours even when exposed to direct sunlight.

LIGHT TOWERS

DESIGN: PHILIPPE STARCK FOR ALESSI (below)

MASSIMO IOSA GHINI FOR MOROSO (bottom)

Two of the 7m-high information towers placed at strategic points in Milan. At night, they project images and messages on to the facades of the nearby buildings. Other towers were designed by Philippe Starck, Piero Lissoni, Achille Castiglioni, Alessandro Mendini, Antonio Citterio, and Toshijuki Kita.

The Milan International Furniture Show is the largest of its kind. The figures are staggering. Some 2000 exhibitors, around 160,000 visitors - of whom 65,000 are from abroad - visit Milan, which is the biggest furniture exporter in the world.

This year's special shows included an exhibition celebrating the centenary of Alvar Aalto organised by Enrico Baleri (owner and designer of Baleri Italia), a presentation in the Salone Satellite of the work of younger designers, and Euroluce, the biennial lighting exhibition.

While the Furniture Show takes place in the secluded grounds of the Milan Fair, the Fuori Salone spreads throughout Milan and is becoming the hot- spot of the Furniture Week. More than a hundred events take place in showrooms, galleries, shops and spaces such as abandoned factories, deconsecrated churches and empty garages. During the week, a voracious tribe moves between parties and music evenings scattered around the city, determined to enjoy urbane Milan, capital of design.

So much is the Fuori Salone growing in importance that this year the city of Milan sponsored extra media events to advertise the show and turn it into an event not only for specialists, but for the Milanese. Seven towers, signed by hot names in design and displaying information about the fair, were placed at strategic points in the city. A central meeting point for press and visitors was organised at Villa Comunale, former residence of Napoleon, and the whole event was plugged into the Internet. Fashion shops lent their spaces, with Fiorucci hosting a large video screen for real-time broadcasting of the events; Calvin Klein displayed a Landscape of Dwellings, projects by master's course students of the Domus Academy - not unlike the Concept House Competition recently held in London - and Spazio Krizia staged the much sought-after party and display case for Ron Arad and Ingo Maurer.

'Lofts out, tame flats in,' proclaimed an Italian newspaper. In fact, the prevailing taste seemed to indicate a renewed faith in formal rigour combined with rich materials and precise finishes, providing an overall naturalistic look. Enough of Studio Memphis and loud coloured surfaces. Predominant colours this year were those of sand, rock, steel and aluminium. Among the woods, the favourite is the dark Wenge. Those in search of something really new were disappointed. A revisitation of the neat lines of the 1950s and an attentive use of technical innovation was the order of the day.

The show also confirmed a tendency that has been there for some time: next to the established names of Italian design - Vico Magistretti, Antonio Citterio, Achille Castiglioni - there was a noticeable increase in foreign designers associated with Italian firms. Ron Arad for Marzorati Ronchetti, Oscar Tusquet for Driade, Tom Dixon for Moroso, Toshiyuki Kita for Adele C. And the Brits were everywhere. Partially sponsored by the British Council, now vessel of Cool Britannia, Blueprint organised Zuppa Inglese, a multimedia installation featuring the most important British designers. A double- decker red bus parked outside the British Council signposted the exhibition of young British designers inspired by Tom Dixon's lit plastic furniture. Cappellini showed works by Jasper Morrison, Marc Newson and Tom Dixon. But of all the foreigners, Philippe Starck was by far the greatest star, signing pieces for Cassina, Driade and Kartell, among others.

Among the novelties was the lws (Lazy Working Sofa), designed by Starck for Cassina. An unusually deep sofa, you can lie on it, shoes off, laptop plugged in, papers scattered around, a drink on the side table attached to the sofa (as is the soft light). This is a sofa for working, resting and much more - you don't need to stretch your imagination. As Starck puts it: 'Travailler c'est trop dur, ne rien faire c'est fatiguant . . . LWS vous permet de faire les deux'. It would suit me fine but a question remains: how would you seat those formal guests coming for a cup of tea and a conversation about the weather?

CHAIRS: AKI, BIKI, CANTA (ABOVE)

DESIGN: TOSHIYUKI KITA

FOR: ADELE C

Swivel armchairs which come with or without arms, or with an arm-cum- wing on fixed base or on castors. The steel frame is set in cold-foam polyurethane with padded polyester wadding.

LIGHT: UGOLINO

DESIGN: LOLLI & MEMMOLI

FOR: LOLLI & MEMMOLI

Traditional Bohemian glass is used to create a chandelier of coloured crystals lit by ten light bulbs. It is also available in amber, topaz and Madeira.

CHAIR: TAOTAI TAORA OFAI

DESIGN: HIVAOA

Supposedly inspired by a traditional Polynesian way of fishing, Taotai Taora Ofai is an armchair in stainless tubes and stainless-steel pierced plates. It is part of an eclectic collection designed by newly established design team hivaoa.

CHAIR: SUNSET

DESIGN: CRISTOPHE PILLET

FOR: CAPPELLINI

A comfortably large revolving chair - its metal structure is varnished in aluminium colour, the seat and back are in bent plywood, padded with polyurethane foam and covered with fabrics and leathers from Cappellini's Collection.

REVOLVING CABINET

DESIGN: SHIRO KURAMATA

FOR: CAPPELLINI

Kuramata's renewed version of his 1970 revolving cabinet design features 20 drawers in red polished acrylic, revolving around a vertical metal bar.

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