If you happen to be in Milan in mid-April next year, a feast of beauty in design presented in uniquely Italian exuberance awaits you. For this is when the Milan Design Week takes to the streets. Not just the streets, though, but also the stores, the design shops, and the fashion boutiques. Entire neighbourhoods throw open their doors, to reveal courtyards and stately homes, usually hidden from view, where you can see displayed all the latest in furniture, lighting, and product design ideas.
Buyers from all over the world mingle with design students, who often have shared in creating some aspect of the subtle beauty and form on display in the exhibits. Members of the general public are intrigued by what is on show: innovative ideas in captivating spaces that exist all year round but which often go unnoticed in their splendor or are off-limits to the public. All are welcome, while the Happy Few get to snag invites to the many parties that punctuate the evenings at this time of year.
An event that started as the Salone del Mobile, over 50 years ago has expanded over the years, thanks to enterprising designers and creatives who saw scope for integrating 2,000+ exhibitors and 270,000 trade visitors, with smaller, more intimate, cutting-edge exhibits in the downtown area. Aided and abetted by the people Interni magazine, a distinguished design magazine that has been publishing a map and guide to these “fuori Salone” (Beyond the Salone) events for many years.
In the Milan city center, you can check out the showrooms of the leading design names such as Alessi, Cassina, and Kartell. Milan Design Week also features new temporary occupants of well-known spaces, usually closed to the public. The elegant Palazzo Crespi in Corso Venezia housed a lovely Swarowski show this year and in 2015 provided a majestic backdrop for AirBnB’s exhibit.
Each year, designers get more ambitious in conceiving of new premises where events can be held, Tom Dixon being one of them. A couple of years go, this leading British designer organized a dazzling display in a disused cinema. This time around, he opted for another picture palace. He managed to rent the entire shopping arcade, just off the super-central Via Manzoni. Each of the arcade’s shops was given over to one design store and, in the movie theater, Tom held events with IKEA, the Swedish bye-word for innovative, budget furniture and furnishings.
To facilitate the flow and interchange of ideas and form, a shuttle linked this Tom Dixon space in the Galleria Manzoni with the Ventura design district, a place that only exists for six days a year.
Named for the main street in the Lambrate area of eastern Milan, the Ventura design district is a place of redundant warehouses and workshops, many of them refurbished. In its eighth iteration, Ventura boasted 128 exhibitors from all over the world. And visitors galore.
But nothing stands still for long at Milan Design Week. Ventura’s success in past years led the organizers to launch Ventura Centrale this year: four disused railway arches under the city’s main Central Station. The exhibits included Lee Broom’s slow-moving white merry-go-round bearing examples of his work over the last ten years, a mesmerizing spectacle rising out of the gloom of this long-neglected vaulted space.
Ready to make your reservations for 2019? Be sure to be in Milan, April 9 to 14, but you had better be quick, as hotels sell out months in advance. But it will be well worth it!
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