Young designers explore the unexpected in Milan

Ecological packaging material made from seaweed, an instinctive children’s toy-set to promote the imagination, modular clothing that shifts according to shape and desire, and a clock that visualises the present by marking the passing of time, these were just some of the intriguing ideas presented by a team of young creatives in Milan.

This is the annual Lexus Design Awards, an ambitious project for the Milan Salone del Mobile created as a way of nourishing emerging international talent with typically thousands of entries from all over the world. This year the Japanese carmaker took over a former metal factory in the Tortona design district to exhibit projects by the 12 finalists.

The winning project, Agar Plasticity by AMAM, explores sustainable packaging using a gelatinous material made from red marine algae. The young Japanese studio worked with British designer Max Lamb to explore the material. Its flexibility means that it can be used for both cushioning and packaging; it can be ecologically disposed of and won’t harm marine line if it should drift into the sea.

Elsewhere, Myungsik Jan was inspired by the Korean ceremony doljabi when on a child’s first birthday a range of objects are placed in front of the toddler. What they choose is said to reveal their career. DADA is a modern interpretation utilising a range of natural blocks, cylinders and fabrics to also entice the child’s curiosity and imagine their future path.

Shape Shifters by Angelëne offers a new form of textile cutting for adaptable clothing to promote personalisation and reduce consumption and waste. With a masters in material futures from Central Saint Martins, studio founder Angelene Laura Fenuta looks at how modular principles can help create dynamic garments with embedded silhouette versatility.

We were also intrigued by Trace, a project by RCA graduate twins Ayaskan. This is essentially a clock that visualises the present by marking the passing of time through a liquid that changes colour under ultra-violet rays. Conceptualised by the London-based Turkish studio, here a UV light beam rotates around the face of the clock to mark every second, minute and hour, leaving a trace of colour as time sweeps by, then fading back to transparency.

Finally, Plants-Skin by Hiroto Yoshizoe is a moderately permeable ‘intelligent’ flowerpot that is made from coloured mortar coated with hydro-chromic ink. When the surface absorbs water the white ink becomes transparent and colour appears, the gradation revealing the level of moisture, so as to indicate when the plant requires feeding.

Nargess Banks

Read the full Milan 2016 report here

Find out more about the Salone Internazionale del Mobile for 2017 here

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Real and conceptual design from Salone del Mobile Milan

Milan once again transformed into a city-wide celebration of visual culture for the Salone Internazionale del Mobile (12 to 17 April). In its 55th year, some 300,000 people arrived here last week with a shared passion for visual culture and ready to soak in the creative spirit. The main buzz is increasingly outside the main exhibition hall at Fuorisalone, which sees boutiques, smaller galleries, crumbling old palazzos around pockets of this vibrant city exhibit work with a more conceptual focus and by less established designers.

We love the extra layer Milan’s dynamic architectural backdrop offers too. Few urban settings have such a collage of architecture – decorative courtyards, charming palazzos, confident narcissistic fascists architecture, gritty post war brutalism, and contemporary builds all seem to co-habit peacefully.

There is a lot to take in, yet certain themes stood out. For instance, many designers used the occasion of Milan to respond to our ever decreasing living spaces in the urban sprawl. There were ideas presented on modular furniture, flexible spaces work/living environments, and ways of connecting for new communities to evolve.

Vitra and Italian architect Carlo Ratti collaborated on Lift-Bit, an adaptable sofa made of a series of stools that can be changed into an armchair, a bed, a sitting room or auditorium via a simple app.

Elsewhere, Mini explored current and future urban life, with some simple yet intriguing ideas on affordable and attractive compact housing that offers a balanced private/communal living arrangement. The carmaker worked with Yokohama architect ON Design, experts in micro-housing and collaborative living, and engineering firm Arup to create the Mini Living – Do Disturb installation in the Tortona design district.

The four 30-square-metre apartments are housed on single a floor of a residential building to form a micro-neighbourhood of likeminded residents. The living spaces are kept private whilst basic assets – kitchen, laundry room, utilities – are shared through a clever wall mechanism of rotating shelves that push out into a communal space.

Other overriding themes included exploring other realities and the unexpected. We came across an intriguing exhibition in the Brera district by students at the Swiss school ECAL. When Objects Dream challenges our common perceptions of everyday objects so a book, a toaster, even a simple broom offer another virtual world through headsets that transport us to a completely unexpected place for perhaps a way of understanding other perspectives, other views.

Lexus also addressed notions of anticipation in Milan. The Japanese car marque commissioned Amsterdam design studio Formafantasma for an inspiring trio of installations in a converted Tortona metal factory. The Lexus LF-FC fuel-cell car was the muse here, as the designer worked with Michelin star chef Yoji Tokuyoshi to explore the fusion of machine, craft and tradition in the context of this sustainable hydrogen powered fuel-cell car.

One installation sees a large metal frame hold 7,200 delicate flowing transparent threads, referencing early Japanese mechanised textile making. As the loom-like machine pulls and releases the threads, once stretched, they subtly reveal the three-dimensional outline of the LF-FC vehicle. It is meditative standing here observing the dance of machine, technology and craft.

In another room Formafantasma explores the scope of hydrogen technology to power a kinetic light installation. The four semi circular stainless steel sculptures, which resemble off-centre clocks, are mounted on a reflective pink platform that hides the power source. They too move mindfully to to a choreographed dance of sorts.

The sense of otherness is enhanced with an unexpected tasting menu offered by Yoji Tokuyoshi that is centred on clear water, a symbolic gesture to the only material emitted by hydrogen fuel cell technology.

The entries at the Lexus Design Awards also looked into the idea of the unexpected. The ambitious annual project supports emerging international talent and attracts young designers from all the around the world offering the chance for the winning designs to be made into prototypes.

Ideas offered by the finalists included packaging material made from seaweed, an instinctive children’s toy set, modular clothing that changes shape according to fashion, and a clock that visualises the present by marking the passing of time. We will be reporting more on these in detail later.

Other designers in Milan took on the challenge of working with natural forms as a reaction to digitalisation. Touch Base by Design Academy Eindhoven looked at tactile interactions working with a range of unusual natural materials like nettle textile, pine needles, and ceramics made from leftover dairy produce.

In Tortona, Toyota presented Setsuna, a functioning roadster made entirely of wood, conceptualised to explore our relationship with our cars, our memories, history, and the physical ageing process of the vehicle.

Made of 86 handmade wooden panels chosen for to their weight, durability and stiffness, Setsuna was assembled using the traditional okuriari Japanese wood joinery method. Japanese Cedar makes up the exterior for the refinement of its wood grain and its flexibility, whilst the chassis is made of Birch, strong Japanese Zelkova constitutes the floor, and the seats are made of smooth Castor Aralia.

There are ecological benefits here too since the modular panels can be exchanged when needed rather than having to replace the whole body. The idea is that the wood will evolve through history, change colour and texture with time, perhaps each generation will leave their mark by carving their signature in the wood. Time, therefore, adds value; makes the car into a living object.

Nargess Banks

Watch this gentle animation on the concept behind Sestuna here.

See highlights from the Salone in picture as published in Wallpaper* here.

Find out more about the Salone Internazionale del Mobile for 2017 here.

Read out previous Salone reports here.

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Cars and design unite at Salone del Mobile in Milan

Amongst the many, many creative festivals around the world, the Salone del Mobile has maintained its position as one of the most significant. When it comes to spotting the latest trends in design, in new materials, in concepts, in people, the Milan design week in April is the place to visit. Here, the city transforms into a gallery with neighbourhoods opening their doors to welcome this creative energy.

As Design Talks has reported in the past, some of the more enlightened car companies have clocked onto the importance of participating here. Last year, for instance, Lexus sponsored three designers and a group of emerging creatives for a very intriguing display.

This year, in the Area Sciesa Tre in Via Amatore Sciesa, BMW will be displaying its latest collaborative work with the award-winning designer Alfredo Häberli. Under the banner precision and poetry the duo have pooled their shared passion for technical innovation and contemporary materials to create a multi-layered, poetically inspired installation that unites the visions and values of tomorrow’s mobility with very personal perspectives.

Häberli’s own recollections and experience of cars have inspired this piece. Against the background of highly automated control, the designer imbues the driving experience with new meaning and renders it tangible within an impressive spatial dimension.

At the centre of his journey into the immediate future of mobility is a large-scale, deliberately abstract object – the form cites the lightness of forward motion and design addresses pivotal values of future automotive design. The idea is that if technically everything is feasible, the luxury of movement can focus on the core statement, and mobility becomes carefree and communicative.

‘Alfredo Häberli approaches our design philosophy with an ingenious passion and conceptual clout,’ says Adrian van Hooydonk, BMW Group design director. ‘I always enjoy philosophising with Alfredo on design and mobility, and I’m delighted to see these ideas now taking shape in an installation as well.’

Elsewhere, sister marque MINI has teamed up with Spanish artist and designer Jaime Hayon for a glimpse into urban mobility in the future. On the basis of the new MINI Citysurfer, a flexible, individual electric kick scooter concept, Hayon creates a fanciful experience world that showcases his personal take on future mobility, on exhibit at the Laboratorio Bergognone in Via Bergognone 26.

Finally, Japanese carmaker Lexus will be showing a Journey of the Senses at Carrozzeria Tonreria in the Zona Tortona. The installation sees French product and space designer Philippe Nigro creating a setting featuring food by the celebrated Japanese Michelin star chef Hajime Yoneda. The idea is to stimulate the senses, enabling people to experience unexpected new connections and insights. Sounds exciting…

Salone del Mobile is from 14 – 19 April in locations throughout Milan.

Read our previous reports from Salone del Mobile Milan

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Clerkenwell Design Week 2014

This week saw Clerkenwell Design Week gather international companies, individual designers, and emerging young artists in one of London’s oldest neighbourhoods creating a striking contrast between the local historic architecture and contemporary design. The three-day event, now in its fifth edition, sees some of Clerkenwell’s landmarks transforms into a large exhibition space.

You enter CDW through St John’s Gate, where this year the young design collaborative Russ + Henshaw worked with Turkishceramics to create Tile Mile, a site-specific installation that references Islamic art and architecture. The combination of the 7200 colourful ceramic tiles and mirrors, incorporated into the passageway beneath the 16th-century medieval arch, created quite a dazzling start to the show.

The fair’s hub was once again at the Farmiloe Building, which formed the backdrop to an installation by car marque and main sponsor Jaguar and light designer Foscarini. One of the fair’s highlights, the giant cascading structure features dozens of Foscarini’s Tuareg totemic LED lamps suspended from a crane attached to the dramatic atrium descending upon a Jaguar F-Type Coupé. The idea is to represent the sparks coming off from the back of this powerful sports car, and to express the lightness of the aluminium structure in both the car and the lights.

The imposing Victorian building also staged Design Factory showing work by international design studios including ArtemideAnglepoiseFolkformNote Design Studio and Stellar Works. Here too there was a celebration of light, with some similar themes running through such as hooded hanging lamps and hand blown glass lights that celebrated the process of making.

Particularly notable were the light designs by French designer Marine Breynaert. Inspired by the contents she found in her grandfather’s old car garage, the former fashion designer utilises industrial screws and bolts for her new collection that she says is a marriage of ‘industrial heritage and a sense of contemporary poetry’.

CDW also saw a focus on design for usage rather than pure aesthetic value with tables, chairs and sofas that transform into various shapes for different functions. Additionally, craft was celebrated throughout the exhibition space. On the top floor of the Farmiloe Building, following a talk on the value of making in the age of digital printing, carpenter Barn The Spoon carved his way through a piece of log transforming it into a wonderful organic stool.

Elsewhere in the neighbourhood, The Order of St John hosted an exhibition of decorative designs; the House of Detention showed craft, and Crypt on the Green was dedicated to lifestyle objects. CDW also sees local studios open their doors to the public. This year Tailor my Tom Vac at Vitra dedicated the entire exhibition to industrial designer Ron Arad‘s chair with 23 architects and designers asked to re-interpret his iconic piece.

With the art and design festival season in full swing, it is pretty much impossible to keep up with all of the activities around the world. Each fair brings something unique to the table, and they each have their own regional charm. What they mostly do, though, is allow for a shared sense of creativity – even if just for a few days. This was particularly noticeable at CDW this year where established design studios rubbed shoulders with up-and-coming young artists and local crafts people. During these festival communities are created based on a shared interest in making our world a richer space through creativity.

Nargess Shahmanesh Banks

Read our reviews of previous Clerkenwell Design Week here. Also read about the new Jaguar F-Type Coupe here.

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Lexus at Salone del Mobile Milan

Japanese carmaker Lexus sponsored three international designers to interpret the theme Amazing in Motion at Salone del Mobile (8-13 April) this year. The impressive exhibition took place in the bohemian Brera Quarter, home to the Accademia delle Belle Arti, and away from the main crowded Salone at Fiera Milano.

Here Nao Tamura’s Interconnection looks back at the 2011 Japanese tsunami. The designer relies on natural motion to study our relationship with nature. The floating purple petal-like discs hang from the ceiling on thin threads, individually swaying to the natural flow of air as visitors pass by. The impact has an almost ethereal quality.

Tangible Media Group’s Transform explores the link between design and technology. The US design team worked closely with professor Hiroshi Ishii from MIT Media Lab to interpret the car’s hybrid drive where kinetic energy from braking is captured to charge the battery. Here sensors capture the energy from our movement to shift a thousand pins up and down in an almost surreal wave-like motion. Professor Ishii added extra theatre on the opening day by playing conductor to this orchestra.

We Dance by Fabio Novembre employs ‘technology to express the movement of this dance,’ says the Italian designer. Here he presents a mirrored sphere – almost like a giant disco ball – that is surrounded by shards of pointed glass and is cocooning an entity that represents the beginning of life, and ‘draws a direct connection to the cosmic motion of planets and galaxies’ says Novembre.

The carmaker also featured work by the 12 winners of the Lexus Design Awards in Milan. The international competition, now in its second year, is aimed at emerging designers. Two contrasting visions were made into physical concepts for the show. Answering to the theme of curiosity, and inspired by childhood, Sebastian Scherer‘s hand blown glass bubbles Iris have a magical quality, whilst James Fox has taken a more practical and rustic view with his Macian concept.

Mentored by games creator Robin Hunicke, the German designer was after creating ‘lightness and play’ for Iris. The bubbles here are individually hand blown, mimicking the concept of children’s playing bubbles, so that each has a unique shape and an individual colour that transforms with changing light. The end result is a magical installation that really does ‘capture a moment in time, so fleeting, so unexpected’ as described by its creators.

Fox’s Macian concept works on the idea of foraging, in this case for materials. Working with mentor Arthur Huang, a sustainability expert and director of Miniwiz, the British 3D designer has literally created a den-building kit. The idea is ‘to encourage children to get in touch with nature, to encourage curiosity by engaging with the environment,’ he says. The Macian is a set of tools, neatly packed in a backpack that can ensemble a den in any wooded area. There is even a guide to help inspire a variety of designs. All you need are a few wooden rods and his tough plastic parts can create a durable skeleton to attach the rainproof canvas top.

Elsewhere runners up architect and designer Mami Kim from Mamikim & Co partnered with fine artist Joe Hardy to create Piximot, a digital construction that unveils the technology and science behind electronic gadgets – the idea is to engage future generation to connect with the object.

Nargess Shahmanesh Banks

Read about other car brands at Salone del Mobile.

Read our previous reports from Salone del Mobile Milan

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Design Talks is published by Spinach Design

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