Since its inception in 1961, Milan’s Salone del Mobile (or Milan Design Week as it is now known) has gone from a showcase of Italian furniture makers to a global barometer of style. Literally, hundreds of thousands of people descend on the world’s design capital for one week to show and experience where creativity is headed, though each year a new series of design classics is released.
This year Italian manufacturer Cassina marked the 50th anniversary of its Milanese showroom – originally designed by Mario Bellini in 1968 – with a renovation by Spanish architect and designer Patricia Urquiola. It also marks 100 years since Urquiola’s mentor, Achille Castiglioni, was born – a character who was at the heart of the Italian industrial design revolution and gave the same store a fresh look in 1987.
The new Cassina showroom in Milan redesigned by Patricia Urquiola.
A lecturer at Milan Polytechnic, Castiglioni taught Urquiola among many others and it is a university steeped in design history. With alumni that includes names like Renzo Piano, Gio Ponti, Piero Lissoni and Rodolfo Dordoni, it is well known for producing designers who know how to work with industry in a timeless and cutting-edge manner.
Like Urquiola, Dordoni is prolific and not limited to working with one manufacturer though his relationship with Minotti, who are themselves celebrating 70 years, is one that has endured with their first release in 1997. One of their earlier collaborations – the Moore collection – comprised sofas, armchairs and beds, though sadly the sleek lines and soft touches of this range are no longer in production.
A little like a rare or extinct animal, timeless design is not forgotten and Dordoni’s 2018 collection with Minotti is more organic than minimal though parts of the less sculptural Moore collection can still be found, pre-loved and on-line. Extinction, or perhaps timelessness, is clearly a topic this year with Marcel Wanders' brand Moooi showcasing their new releases among The Museum of Extinct Animals.
Historical and hand-crafted drawings of endangered creatures, or those no longer found, might seem a little out of place at the world’s most contemporary design exhibition but they are a metaphor for how great design can live on. Wanders, like those names mentioned, follows the tradition of being a brand’s creative director while holding court and working with brands not of his own.
The Mad Queen Armchair by Marcel Wanders for Poliform (2014).
His Mad Queen Armchair (2014), an extension of the Mad Chair concept launched the previous year with Poliform is just one example, though the idea of extending on a range is not just limited to Wanders. In 2012 French brothers, Ronan and Erwan Bourellec, launched the Osso chair for Mattiazzi and the following year launched an entire collection including tables and stools in the same language.
The Osso stools by Ronan and Erwan Bouroullec for Mattiazzi (2012).
Part of the family, the Osso stools appear like a butterfly in solid timber and their effect has been wide-spread. Again, the word collaboration flutters into our minds as this duo continually create work which inspires young designers globally at the same time as pushing the boundaries of materiality with leading international brands – together.
This year the brothers Bourellec worked with Wonderglass, Cassina and also Flos on new collections and continue the tradition, not so much of brotherhood but of collaboration, which is at the core of the salone. It is true – Minotti is run by brothers and some of the most famous Flos pieces were designed by Achille and and his sibling, Pier Giacomo Castiglioni, but Urquiola’s collaborations with the likes of Moroso are also timeless and, some would say, more progressive.
Tom Dixon's Plane Chandelier (2014).
In saying that, there is one man than stands apart – being Tom Dixon. A former bass-player, Dixon is not afraid to buck the trends and after 15 years of his eponymous brand showing in Milan he has decided to pack the road-case and take Milan to the world instead. Including a new showroom in Sydney, Dixon is presenting new products on our home turf – where much of his work is sold as replicas – instead of among the crowds and corridors of Milan.
Having launched classics like the Plane Chandelier (2014) and many other lights over the years, it will be interesting to see if his thinking pays off. But still, there is one thing we can count on – great pieces of design, no matter when conceived, are things to clelebrate and will never become relics.
Pre-loved originals by Marcel Wanders, Patricia Urquiola, Ronan and Erwan Bourellec, and Tom Dixon are available through DesignConsigned
WRITTEN BY HouseLab