A congregation of colour, light and enterprise
Milan Design Week is the single biggest annual design event in the world and this year it was back with a bang. Returning in full force to its Spring dates for the first time since the pandemic, Milan welcomed designers from across the globe to celebrate design in all its forms.
From 17th-23rd April countless exhibitions, installations, panel discussions, product launches, ground-breaking collaborations, and celebrations of all kinds were the toast of Milan. Hosted in the main design districts of Brera, Isola, Tortona, Alcova, Corso Venezia and 5VIE, the show was a sprawling congregation of colour, light and enterprise.
The 61st edition of Salone del Mobile in Rho Fiera brought over 2,000 exhibiting brands from 37 different countries, including 550 young designers. In terms of visitor turnout, in six days there were 307,418 registered visitors, from 181 countries. Safe to say that 2023 was one for the record books.
Below are just a few of my favourite installations from the week.
This popular installation was constructed as a lattice of hand-blown crystal tube lights that were synchronised with music to create an illusion of “seeing sound”. As I walked through the maze of tubes, the light danced rhythmically responding to the beat and tempo of the music playing at that time. It was an amazing illusion, I really felt as if I were looking at sound, watching the light pulse was completely immersive and an experience I won’t forget.
“Momentum” aimed to capture the moment of artistic production, presented in the form of a cube. The installation was constructed from a plastic polymer set on an iron frame. In daylight, the surface of the cube reflected the courtyard surroundings, constantly changing in appearance as a result. When night fell, the shape was illuminated causing it to appear translucent, acting as a beacon in the urban landscape.
The courtyard was a hub, a hive of activity, providing a meeting point for attendees. It was the perfect Instagrammable moment pulled together by the ethereal illuminated cube that acted as the beating heart of the space.
Comprised of over 16,000 uniquely shaped sheets of anodised aluminium, the pavilion took the form of metallic coral. Interesting patterns were created throughout to generate fluid, amorphous forms that we were invited to walk through and explore. The perforated sheets produced intricate patterns as the daylight flooded through and cast shadows on the floor. It was beautiful, it felt as if I were in another world.
Saint-Louis, the renowned European glass maker hosted Lumières (an exhibition in the cloister of Santa Maria del Carmine church) in collaboration with light and sound studio Nonotak. The intent was to shine a light on the relationship between crystal glass and sounds.
There were five fantastic installations: Pulsations, Rotations, Vibrations, Projections and Diffractions. Each design employed a range of lamps, displayed in varying crystal, each pulsating to evoke unique atmospheres that guide visitors throughout the entire exhibition.
Moving through the first space felt immersive as the wall lights followed me through the room, with each sensor creating a different composition. Hanging bevel-cut crystal lamps suspended from different heights also produced a unique and engaging effect that was hypnotising.
Overall, Milan Design Week 2023 was a resounding success. There was so much to see and never a dull moment. I would have liked to see more in terms of lighting specific installations – I felt as if the lighting industry was under-represented and to be honest, what I did see was underwhelming.
I obviously didn’t have a chance to get to everything, but in terms of design, what I did see was inspiring and thought-provoking. The week provided a lot of food for thought and it was truly great to be back amongst so much talent, both established and emerging. I look forward to next year and to hopefully seeing the sphere of lighting back on form and fighting its corner in the world of design.