Milan is a fascinating city. The strong urban character of the streets, the traces of the industrial background and the deep roots in its Italian tradition combine to create a very distinctive atmosphere of individuality and sophistication.
A trip to Milan must always include a walk around Duomo, a call at Castello Sforzesco to see Michelangelo’s Pietà Rondanini, an afternoon stroll through the glamorous via Montenapoleone and an aperitivo on a terrace. However, if the visitor should happen to be travelling to the city during a specific date in April, those priorities should also inevitably change: as he or she will encounter a Milan completely changed and breathing design through every pore.
Milan Design Week is an overwhelming event. This last April, I had the opportunity to travel there during the seven days in which the city buzzes with creativity, inspiration and fresh ideas. My first stop —after the mandatory breakfast consisting of cappuccino e brioche— was Il Salone del Mobile, the annual international furniture exhibition.
The show brings together all the important names in furnishing design and it is the main reason for this yearly bustle in Milan. On this occasion, brands such as Vitra, Knoll, Kartell, Cassina, Foscarini and Moroso, to mention a few, stood out amongst the myriad of exhibitors with their clean and thoughtful approach to design. However, walking from one stand to the next I discovered some invaluable design gems: the cosy bar hidden behind the glamorous tables and chandeliers of Boca do Lobo; the wackiness and audacity of Altreforme, with its decorative pieces created out of Ferrari’s technology to build cars; the elegant reinterpretation of Austrian heritage by Gebrüder Thonet Vienna (GTV); or the beautiful, versatile and extremely comfortable sofas of the Italian brand Saba.
Yet, Milan Design Week is more than just an exhibition. During these days, the streets are transformed into an open show, il Fuorisalone, where brands, designers and artists gather together and present their ideas to the creative world and to an endless flow of visitors.
As this was my first experience in this Milan taken over by design, I decided to explore the central neighbourhoods without much previous planning. I wanted to be surprised by the city and I found myself captivated by the vibrancy of the many installations, showrooms and pop up stores that I encountered along the journey. One of those was the wooden oasis that Asif Khan designed for the Baroque Palazzo Litta, covering the courtyard with wood red columns and providing a placid and harmonious stop for the public. Similarly, Panasonic Design developed an ethereal installation for the courtyard of Palazzo di Brera, which explored an atmosphere created through drops of water.
One could not wish for a greater scenery in a design show. Milan is, indeed, a fascinating city.