Milan's Salone attracted a record 1,400 exhibitors this year at the main fair. A further 250 independent events took place in every available space - church, gallery or even roadside. Britain was represented by Designer's Block, Hidden Art, Arper, Great Brits and SCP, which launched new furniture by Terence Woodgate, Michael Sodeau and Matthew Hilton, while the big-name Italian companies such as B&B Italia, Magis, Cappellini and the French-based company Kartell presented eye-catching products which pushed the dictum of form for form's sake to the extreme. Cappellini showed a seating block by Fabio Novembre with dynamic shapes reminiscent of a Zaha Hadid painting, with seating cavities carved out of foam and lined with quilted gold fabric. The result, which appeared more theatrical than conceptual or functional, looked like a prop for Star Trek's leisure lounge Zanotta, the Italian company that has a history of commissioning work from Italy's grand masters of design, marked the 30th anniversary of Carlo Mollino's death by reediting his elegant writing desk. The Cavour desk was designed in 1949 as the result of a private commission for a residence in Turin. The British designer Ross Lovegrove, who provided seating for last year's Serpentine Pavilion, anticipated this year's choice of a Niemeyer-designed pavilion with a polyurethane lounge chair, titled Brasilia, also for Zanotta.
Magis, which specialises in moulded plastics, presented the finished version of Konstantin Grcic's Chair One public seating system. This seat, targeted at the contract seating market, is in die-cast aluminium with a hollow concrete base. The prototype was shown last year;
Magis takes anything from one to three years to perfect a product from prototype to final production.
A break from the commercial vibe of the Salone was provided by the exhibition 'Great Brits', a collaboration between the British Council and the Design Museum. It presented work by Mathias Bengtsson, Tord Boontje, Daniel Brown and Sam Buxton, who explore creative and technological boundaries across different disciplines.
Buxton, an RCA graduate, continued his experimentation with materials and technologies, presenting a table where placemat layouts are rendered in electroluminescent stencils.
Droog Design, founded in 1993 by Gijs Bakker and Renny Ramakers, describes its experimental projects as 'presenting a mentality', and has contributed invaluably to the debate about design, function and authorship. This year Droog turned its attention to choice and the consumer. Titled 'Your Choice', a borrowing from a chapter heading in Naomi Klein's bestseller No Logo, the exhibition invited viewers to make purchases while questioning what influences the consumer.
The installation, designed by Concrete Architectural Associates, was filled with Droog designer water bottles that were for sale. Onkar Singh Kular presented a wall installation of 128 Pantone mugs which gradually change from beige to brown, allowing the consumer to select a mug to match the strength of their preferred cup of tea or coffee. The aim, apparently, is to highlight our perception of individual preferences.