From a technology collaboration between Philippe Starck, Kartell and software company Autodesk that resulted in the A.I. chair that Starck says is “the first chair designed outside of our brain, outside of our habits of thought”, to installations and new products made of bioplastic, this year at Milan Design Week furniture collections were peppered with new thinking and manufacturing processes to the tune of changing technologies and environmental responsibility.
It was also another year of looking back at the design archives for historical cues: from 19th century Art Nouveau influences seen in the curved detailing, layered veneers and glass patterning at Glas Italia, Maxalto, Porro and Roll & Hill, to Cassina's use of opulent colours: deep reds, greens and blues – with the leading colours for the year indigo blue and sage green, joined by the natural finish of nubuk leather.
Craftsmanship was in full focus too. Working under the art direction of Patricia Urquiola, Cassina introduced the Elling Buffet designed by Gerrit T. Rietveld, and the Chandigarh collection, designed by Pierre Jeanneret, that rounded out a collection that was historically rich and yet contemporary as ever. While at B&B Italia Antonio Citterio guided a collection that has reintroduced the iconic Diesis sofa designed by Vico Magistretti in the 1970s, and celebrated the 50th birthday of the UP Series by Gaetano Pesce.
And the busiest designers this year… well Piero Lissoni, Patricia Urquiola, Michael Anastassiades were standouts from B&B Italia to Cassina, Living Divani, Glas Italia, Porro and Kartell. While Australian designers shone at Local Design and SP01 where amongst other highlights, Tom Fereday launched a new outdoor collection for the Australian design brand.
With all the insights from the Space team on the ground, more space takes a look at the highlights, design directions and best new releases from the design world’s biggest event of the year – Milan Design Week 2019!
The Elling Buffet designed by Gerrit T. Rietveld and the Chandigarh collection by Pierre Jeanneret for Cassina
Celebrating the Bauhaus school and its 100th anniversary this year. Cassina has further highlighted the historical importance of Modernism within the collection by introducing the Elling Buffet sideboard designed by Gerrit T. Rietveld in 1923 – the piece described by Patricia Urquiola as “the jewel” in the collection. The sideboard will now be produced by Cassina at its historical carpentry workshop in Meda in collaboration with the Rietveld heirs.
While four pieces by Pierre Jeanneret – a chair, an armchair, a chair with armrests, and a table – have been produced by Cassina to celebrate the designer’s work in Chandigarh, India, during the 1950s. It is a project that carries on Cassina’s dedication to reinstating significant projects. Working in collaboration with the Fondation Le Corbusier the company is demonstrating its dedication to research and provenance, and its ability to carefully translate that knowledge into contemporary products that carry on the legacy.
This year Kartell’s interactions with technology have in their words, "stepped up a notch". Launching the A.I. chair described as the first design object conceived by artificial intelligence, the design was created in response to a brief from designer Philippe Starck and Kartell: a comfortable chair with the structural strength and solidity requirements to ensure certification and respect aesthetic standards of simplicity and clean lines, and developed using an algorithm within Autodesk's 3D software. Described as the fruit of collaboration between artificial intelligence and human intelligence in what Starck calls “Natural Intelligence”, it will be interesting to watch where this software heads next.
Celebrating its 70th anniversary during Milan Design Week with the exhibition “The Art Side of Kartell”, curators Ferruccio Laviani and Rita Selvaggio unveiled the show inside the famous Appartamento dei Principi in Milan’s Palazzo Reale. The dialogue between art and design is a theme Kartell has nurtured over seven decades and this became the narrative for the show. Eleven rooms ‘dressed’ with past and present designs came to life across large film projections and within semantic stories, with research, innovation, and revolutionary processes of technology charting Kartell’s domestic objects from the early days of post-WWII design, through to contemporary pieces using innovative materials including bioplastic.
The launch of one of Kartell’s most famous designs in bioplastic highlights the importance of this research for the brand. The Componibili has been part of the Kartell catalogue for 50 years and is now made with a plant-based ‘plastic’ developed by the Kartell research department in collaboration with Bio-on. It’s a move that continues this line of research undertaken in collaboration with Antonio Citterio and the launch of the Bio chair in 2017.
Another highlight from the collection is the Be bop chair designed by Ludovica and Roberto Palomba, Be bop was named after the jazz movement with a form developed from the lines of a traditional carved African stool merged with the softly curved plywood shapes of the mid-20th century.
From a collection of “lights that change everything”, colour was in full flight at Foscarini with Ferruccio Laviani’s Uptown, a self-described Art Deco meets Memphis extravaganza featuring semi-transparent knock-out pinks and oranges made in fluorescent plexiglass sheets. The lamp is a combination of three plate glass volumes screen printed in coloured tones and overlaid to produce depth. While Nuée by Marc Sadler looks like a cumulous cloud, with its light emitting from the overlapping three-dimensional technical fabric in a soft almost powdery glow.
A series of refined storage units designed by Antonio Citterio. The shape underlines the high quality of the craftsmanship, starting with the curved wooden doors that open to reveal slightly protruding shelves, and a continuous profile that follows the volume. The base is a die-cast aluminium, the element above is black marquina, white Calacatta or Emperador marble. The interiors are made of refined frisé maple with craftsmanship expressed in the luxurious parchment or wood finishes. While the veneered oak or Chilean tineo wood exterior is made with a staggered checker motif with crossed grains.
N.200 chair designed by Michael Anastassiades for GTV
At Gebrüder Thonet Vienna classical materials and forms from the group's Austrian heritage were underpinned by new creative interpretations embracing the brand's artisanal workmanship and industrial production. The new N.200 chair designed by Michael Anastassiades is a highlight from the collection and celebrates the 200th anniversary of the their first joinery workshop opened in Vienna in 1819.
The new door system designed by Piero Lissoni for Glas Italia is a welcome addition to the lighting collection and takes a side step, further developing the innovations the group has made with glass. Like the lighting collection, the doors focus on a wide range of finishes and colours, from neutral to reflecting glass, glossy or lacquered, acid-etched patterned glass, extralight glass with meshes, or pattern decorated glass. With Glas Italia it is always about pushing the limits and this collection was a highlight of the brand’s new releases this year.
Designed by Marcel Wanders, the BFF Sofa is loosely based on the classic chesterfield with its characteristic deep buttoned upholstery. Here, Wanders takes a more modern modular approach: the BFF Sofa is flexible with 17 different modules, it has a footstool and a wide range of fabric options beyond the traditional. And in true Moooi flair, you can design your own BFF Sofa online first with Moooi’s configurator tool that provides all the seating options..
Tom Fereday has developed a family of pieces that explore a new narrative for the Jeanette collection. Combining precision metal work and traditional hand finishing, the new Jeannette lounge chair is sculpted from wire with a high sculpted back contrasted by soft and elegant cushions.
The Jeanette coffee table range explores natural materials with clever machined grooves to create both an elegant feature to highlight the beauty of the natural stone and cleverly solves the issue of water drainage when used outdoors.
Revisiting the Diesis has given B&B Italia the chance to review and tweak the 1970s classic, The iconic backrest retains its technical integrity based around the structural steel core of metal springs that give strength and flexibility. The leather-covered base and backrest now have a distinctive Saffiano texture. While lovers of design details will appreciate the die-cast lenticular elements of the polished brushed aluminium structure, and the seat structure which is further reduced by using two leather-covered coupled sheets.
The year the UP Series celebrated 50 years with installations around the city and at B&B Italia. The super-sized UP 5 armchair took shape in Piazza Duomo where the eight metre-high sculpture covered in pink fibreglass sparked debate, making it one of the most popular talking points of the week. First launched at the Milan Furniture Fair in 1969, the armchair was initially made from air sensitive expandable foam and when removed from its flat-pack box wowed the crowd as it slowly inflated. Today, the UP 5 armchair is one of the world’s most recognisable chairs.
B&B Italia at Salone Internazionale del Mobile
And finally during the Salone Internazionale del Mobile, B&B Italia announced a new joint participation with two other important brands – Flos and Louis Poulsen – under the new banner, Design Holding, it was the first time B&B Italia has shown at the fairgrounds and their collection unfolded within an expansive 4,000 square metre installation designed by Calvi Brambilla, with an interactive wall designed by Studio Dotdotdot, The stand was so big it looked like a permanent fixture complete with a grove of trees and private zones for VIPs. Here the iconic UP Series by Gaetano Pesce was joined the Catilina chair designed by Luigi Caccia Dominioni for Azucena, and new pieces by architects and designers including the Parallel Structure table by Michael Anastassiades, the Ribes outdoor seating system by Antonio Citterio, the Dock sofa by Piero Lissoni and the Pablo chair by Vincent Van Duysen.