Sep 15, 2014

iSaloni Interviews. Philippe Bestenheider

600-313-philippe-bestenheiderPhilippe Bestenheider, born in 1971 in Sion, is certainly one of the most talented Swiss designers. His language represents a break at once refined and uninhibited from minimalism. After graduating in architecture from ETH Zurich, he took a master’s in industrial design at Milan’s Domus Academy in 2000. From 2001 to 2006 he was Senior Designer in Patricia Urquiola’s studio. In 2006 he participated in the Promosedia exhibition The future in the present curated by Marco Romanelli. In 2007 he opened his own studio, working between Switzerland and Milan. In 2010 he received the Swiss National Innovation Award with his ‘Nanook’ chair for Moroso. He is currently working with Moroso, de Sede, Pallucco, Fratelli Boffi, Varaschin, Frag, Area Declic and Galleria Nilufar.

What was your most memorable experience of the Saloni? An encounter, an event, or simply an impression.

Every year, like at Christmas time, I’m astonished: ‘Has a year really gone by?’. It’s a mix of strong and contradictory feelings. On the one hand, there’s the feverish anticipation to know how people will react to a year’s worth of work, the curiosity to discover new things and see how the manufacturers have reinvented themselves. On the other hand, the sheer number of projects always leaves me a bit perplexed. In the end, positive feelings prevail, conditioned also by the pleasure of seeing clients I’ve worked with, of creating new contacts, running into colleagues and friends I haven’t seen for a while. And then you take down the Christmas tree, so to speak, and start a new year of work.

The 5 most important pieces in the 2014 edition? You can include one of your own.

Ross Lovegrove, Diatom chair for Moroso. I like the use of technology and aluminum in this very clean and synthetic design.

Patricia Urquiola, the Salinas kitchen for Boffi. I appreciate the poetry of the materials and the practicality of every last detail.

Gio Ponti, re-edition of the D.270 chair and folding chair by Molteni. I have to admit that I was unfamiliar with these pieces, so for me they were absolutely new. I find the unusual ergonomics, comfort, practicality and beauty of the lines just brilliant. An idea I wish I’d had myself!

Giopato & Coombes, self-production of the I Flauti lamps. Admirable for the extremely elegant use of Murano blown glass in a truly magical pairing of colors and textures.

Philippe Bestenheider, I include my Elitre outdoor collection for Area Declic. I’m very satisfied with this project, in terms of both esthetics and comfort. The ergonomics of the backrest allow considerable freedom of movement.


Interesting places relative to design, architecture or interiors in your home city, or in other cities particularly dear to you?

Milan – Tra Noi e Voi in Via Marcona 8 (Repubblica quarter): a flea market where you can find gems of design, anonymous and otherwise. A true source of inspiration.

Sierre – Château de Villa in Switzerland, in Vallese: set in an old castle, it’s the only place where you can sample raclettes made with cheeses from 5 different pastures. Raclette is the typical dish of Vallese, basically melted cheese. The warmer for raclette is a functional design object that you won’t find anywhere else. In addition, the garden is enchanting and the wine cellar has the largest selection in the canton: Vallese is a land of excellent wines!

A young designer who you think might soon become a major figure at the Salone? Curriculum, a comment and 3 products.

Federica Capitani, Italian, with a studio in London

Curriculum: Federica Capitani graduated in industrial design from the architecture department at Genoa, and from 2002 to 2005 worked as a designer in Patricia Urquiola’s studio. In 2005 she moved to Amsterdam, where she worked for Marcel Wanders as head of the ‘Furniture and Products’ section until 2007. After an experience in Tokyo, where she worked with Claska developing a design project tied to Japanese culture, she relocated to London and 2009 opened her own studio. She currently collaborates with companies like Rosenthal Studio Line, Kenneth Cobonpue and Peroni. She combines her work as a designer with free-lance teaching at two London institutions, the Royal College of Art and the KLC School of Design.


Three chosen works: Cha, a tea service for Rosenthal (2014); Adesso, outdoor collection for Kenneth Cobonpue (2013); Piccola, project for Peroni (2014)

Sep 10, 2014

iSaloni Milestones. 1973, De Pas – D’Urbino – Lomazzi for Zanotta

17. sciangaiSciangai. Hang your coat on a masterpiece

Who as a kid didn’t play at least once with pick-up sticks, aka Shanghai, contemplating the best strategy for dropping them on the floor?

It would take a strange trio of young Milanese designers, all then sporting thick revolutionary beards, to come up with the idea that this same bundle of sticks, bound at the center and splayed at the ends, would make a perfect coat rack.

And so Sciangai was born – written with the Italian phonetic pronunciation – which is to say the most beautiful exemplar ever designed in this ambiguous product category, which by definition requires a strong base so it doesn’t topple over (check) and a capacity for a large number of coats for large gatherings of friends (check).

The more Sciangai is loaded, the more stable it becomes. Yet when not in use, or when the manufacturer needs to ship it, it can be closed thanks to a central hinge that transforms it into a simple pole.

Since 1973 many designers, Italian and not, have tried to design coat racks. But the Sciangai, winner of the Compasso d’Oro in 1979, remains on another plane entirely, that of the masterpiece, the icon.

Jul 28, 2014

iSaloni News. Five books for the summer

By Marco Romanelli

Four of them are thin, and therefore won’t weigh down your suitcase, yet they’re dense enough in content that you’ll appreciate every word. Not necessarily dedicated to designers, but definitely not for those who think summer reading means turning off one’s brain. The fifth is a novel.

1) Valerio Millefoglie, Mondo Piccolo: spedizione nei luoghi in cui appena entri sei già fuori

1.-valerio-millefoglieIf you’re tired of everything being too big and overwrought, read Valerio Millefoglie: ‘… the barman watches me take measurements. He asks me if i suffer from some syndrome that compels me to measure everything around me…’. Everything is lower case in this book – the wedding cathedral where only one person can enter at a time (‘whoever waits outside doesn’t know what the other will say’), the restaurant for only two people, the tobacco shop for four, the island of just 300 square meters… because sometimes ‘small places are a hideaway from problems’. The crowd is elsewhere, but the emotions of life, suspended between moments of joy and eternities of anxiety, are all here.

2) Tanizaki Jun’ichirō, Speaking of Art

1.-sulla-maestria‘Mastery’ is what leads us to do things well. Tanizaki, the unforgettable author of ‘In Praise of Shadows’, maintains (a totally European word, unsuited to the gentleness of a suggestion) that we should hold in higher regard the concepts of ‘mastery’ (gei) and ‘man of art’ (geinin) than those of ‘art’ (geijutsu) and ‘artist’ (geijutsuka), he writes. ‘I do not wish to say that the artists of the Western school are superficial, but it is true that they are not immune to fame and wealth, and cannot renounce these things in the quest for mastery like the geinin’

3) Ugo Mulas, Cirque Calder

cirque‘And then I really liked seeing him work… And seeing him live, as well as seeing him work’, says the great Ugo Mulas of the immense Alexander Calder.

The latter builds a circus with tin snips, a circus of wires and corks, of ant-like acrobats and clowns with anorexic legs, while the former photographs it. We refer to ‘Cirque Calder’, realized between 1926 and 1931, destined to be packed into several suitcases and to travel the world, like every good circus. Perhaps a bit sad, perhaps a metaphor of life – again, like every good circus.

4) Walter Benjamin, Che cosa regalare a uno snob

0.-cosa-regalare-a-uno-snobWalter Benjamin was of the opinion that giving gifts is a peaceful art, but when it comes to snobs, one must use the methods of war.
I am assailed by a doubt: isn’t giving such a book (actually, it’s only 5 pages long) in itself an act of snobbery? We may have a paradox here. So let’s do it this way: if your aesthetic perversion pays no heed to cost (25 euro for this diminutive volume), preferring to praise the paper (Zebkal-Bütten), the dust cover (Hahnemühle card stock) and the font (Garamond Monotype 11), then by all means, buy it!

5) Pierre Lemaitre, Au revoir là-haut

0.-pierre-lemaitre-au-revoir-la-haut-360508And finally, the novel. It’s enormous. Take all the pages from the other 4 books, add them together and multiply them by 10 and perhaps you’ll approach the sheer size of ‘Au revoir-là-haut’, highly deserving winner of the 2013 Goncourt prize. Why suggest it to design aficionados? Not because it deals with WWII more effectively than any recent celebration. Not because it’s like reading Victor Hugo grafted onto Charles Baudelaire. Not because you won’t be able to sleep until you’ve finished it. So why, then? Because this novel is in reality an extraordinary architectural construction, where every window, every step of every stairway, every stone and cornice is essential to the construction of the edifice as a whole. You’ll say that all novels are like this… but you haven’t read this one yet. Pity that Rem Koolhass hadn’t read it before diving into his 2014 Biennale, ‘Elements of Architecture’.

Mainly dedicated to our Italian followers.

Jul 24, 2014

iSaloni. Learning to study design

I often have flashbacks, and I will always remember an appearance by Bruno Zevi on the RAI Uno newscast. It was back in the early ‘80s, in September, just before fall registration. At lunchtime, various guests tried to provide an orientation for the students. In this case it was about architecture and the design disciplines more generally.

The interviewer asked Zevi about the job opportunities for a good designer: ‘Designing cities, houses and objects, but also successfully selling insurance policies’ was Zevi’s prompt reply. A cryptic message for me at the time, but nevertheless intriguing.

One of those statements that stay in your head, that you can never forget. It was only much later, once I was immersed in design, that I thoroughly understood its meaning: the study of design and the acquisition of its culture – a combination of humanism and technology – enables each of us to positively address and resolve problems. And by this Zevi meant problems of any kind. Or rather, as Nobel Prize-winning economist Simon writes, those entities that are bound to what is desirable, and that drive everyone to put strategies in place in order to achieve the goals they have set.

In short, studying design means learning to resolve – and also to seek out – problems. And such an ability is applicable to diverse design ‘objects’: from a spoon to a city to the sale of an insurance policy.

6. B Francesco zurlo-600-313

How does a design student learn?

I think mainly by absorbing the practice of curiosity, a strategy that must be applied, pursued and realized in every moment of one’s everyday life, in normal as well as extraordinary situations.

It is a practice that requires attitude and love for re-search (looking again, carefully), a systematic vision, the ability to integrate multiple aspects, and most of all the capacity to open oneself and see with new eyes the things around us, which are often invisible to common mortals.

How do you approach the teaching of design?

In a context where knowledge is fluid and tends to change with accelerated frequencies and sequences, learning strategies need to change as well. I think design should be taught like research is taught. This means providing maps for students to orient themselves and to ‘learn how to learn‘, constantly, at all times, understanding the education, pleasure and life are inextricably connected in the culture of design as well as in those who, like designers, are its standard bearers.

Francesco Zurlo is Associate Professor of Industrial Design at the Politecnico di Milano; Director of the Strategic Design Masters’ program and the Interior Design and Management Executive Masters’ program; Director of the courses in Design for Toys and Kids and Wine Design at; head of research in the joint committee of the Design Department at the Politecnico. He has authored numerous publications on strategic design, and has been consulting for Panasonic since 2006 on new product development, managing to bring together in an exceptional way a strong theoretical approach with hands-on work in the field.

READ ALSO: iSaloni. Design at the Politecnico di Milano

Jul 24, 2014

iSaloni. Design at the Politecnico di Milano

6. A Francesco Zurlo 600 313Design has an autonomous and recognized discipline in the Italian university system for a little more than 20 years. A significant legitimization that acknowledges the dedication of important masters who also worked as teachers since the ‘60s: from Zanuso to Mangiarotti, from Achille Castiglioni to Eduardo Vittoria, from Dalisi to Koenig. And the list goes on even longer.

This tardiness is quite odd for a place like Italy, universally recognized as the homeland of design, and yet quite logical because it is consistent with a design that was born and developed as a unique ‘force from below‘, with no need for ministry seals or strategic programs to support it, as it has been by now for years in the United Kingdom.

So while design got a late start compared to other countries, in recent years design training has undergone a constant growth in the university system, as well as in the academies and private schools. The Politecnico di Milano, with more than 4,200 students including many foreigners, is a central player in design education at the international level, and not only because it is among the world’s largest design schools in terms of the number of graduates.

Every year, the number of candidates who take the entrance exam is three times larger than the available posts, and for years this phenomenon has shown no sign of abating. A true ‘excess of success’, which nonetheless demands a careful and critical reflection on the part of all who work in this field, because it is obvious that the new designers will enter a complex and difficult job market that no longer offers the opportunities that only a couple of decades ago seemed limitless.

Large organizations like this currently face a delicate dilemma: maintain the existing numbers and structure, or downsize to meet the real needs of the market? I don’t think there are easy answers in the face of such a complex issue, which concerns not only design but other disciplines and professions.

Addressing the argument in the most neutral way possible, one can therefore ask:
Is it still worth studying design, and if so, to do what?’

Francesco Zurlo, Associate Professor of Industrial Design at the Politecnico di Milano.

READ ALSO: iSaloni. Learning to study design


Jul 4, 2014

iSaloni Milestones. 1972, Drocco and Mello for Gufram

16. A cactus-guframCactus. A clothes rack in theory, an icon in fact.

An intellectual object which seamlessly connects the refined surrealism of the Torinese radicals of the ’70s to that more widespread form of surrealism, American Pop.

A cactus without thorns, essentially. Artificial nature for planting in haute bourgeois homes.

Rarely used as a functional object, it has become so famous as to have obscured the names of its creators, Guido Drocco and Franco Mello, two very serious designers.

Produced in a limited edition, originally in emerald green, it has been continually updated in new and extremely expensive variations. And like all symbols, it is absolutely inimitable.

Jul 1, 2014

iSaloni Interviews. Johanna Grawunder

0.-Johanna-GrawunderJohanna Grawunder is inquestionably the most original American designer working on the international scene. Born in San Diego, California in 1961, she graduated in Architecture from Florence and joined the studio of Ettore Sottsass. This experience, from 1985-2001, would be long and fundamental for her. In 2001 she went back to the States, to San Francisco, where she continues to design for some of the top Italian manufacturers (e.g. Flos, Glas and Boffi) as well as for important galleries. She is also active in the fields of architecture, interior architecture and installations.

What was your most memorable experience of the Saloni? An encounter, an event, or simply an impression.

The week of the Salone is a time of pure optimism. Everyone showing the fruits of a year of work. Everyone discussing and thinking about the future of design. Sometimes in a positive light, other times negative. But apart from the design exhibitions and products presented, for me the Salone is a clarification of the state of the discipline: for a few days, there’s a freeze frame between the current state of design and what we want it to become.

The 5 most important pieces in the 2014 edition? You can include one of your own.

Patrizia Urquiola, Shimmer side table for Glas. Simple form, beautiful dichroic effect on the glass.

Philippe Starck, Masters chair for Kartell. Bling and glam.

Konstantin Grcic, the installation for FLOS in Corso Monforte at the Fuori Salone. Beautiful vision of a future where everything works, where everything is well designed. Suddenly our planet seems healthy and there’s no sign of the usual negative vision. If only it were so!

Just 3 pieces… but obviously I also liked my own Crack tables for Glas. The technological possibilities of this company are always magical.


Interesting places relative to design, architecture or interiors in your home city, or in other cities particularly dear to you?

San Francisco – Una pizza napoletana (11th Street): very theatrical, with a wood oven clad in gold mosaic in the middle of a big industrial loft. A spotlight hits the oven and that’s it, just simple tables around it. And the pizza is delicious.

San Francisco – The Dzine showroom (Utah Street): extremely well curated, always elegant, it features mostly Italian design, not just production pieces but also lots of one-offs.

San Francisco – The Blue Bottle Coffee (Broadway – Oakland, Bay Area): a large open space with the barista and the technology of the coffee machines in full view, situated in an old car showroom with a glass façade and really high ceilings. Very little separation from the customer. Seating around an immense round table or at a high bar. A very special place, an instant classic.

Jun 30, 2014

iSaloni Milestones. 1966, Richard Schultz for Knoll International

2.-knoll1966. The collection that marked the destiny of outdoor furniture.

In the world of furniture design it is usually difficult to trace exact paternities.

With outdoor, however, it’s different. This sector has undergone incredible evolutions in the past decade, and its father is certain – yet in the end not very well known. We’re talking about American designer Richard Schultz, born in 1926.

Richard started working for Knoll in 1951, collaborating with the famous Harry Bertoia, and in 1966 designed an outdoor collection that would change the destiny of this product category: ‘1966’, a series that takes its name from the year of its creation.

Metal profiles, rigorously white and skeletal, of seats in netting, and where necessary consummately elegant wheels combine to form a timeless icon, liberating outdoor furniture, with a single product, from the slavery of the Victorian bench, garden gnomes and wicker.

It’s impossible to imagine the recent outdoor projects of Jasper Morrison for Kettal, of Antonio Citterio for B&B Italia, of Van Duysen for Tribù without citing the work of Richard Schultz.

Jun 23, 2014

iSaloni News. Francesca Molteni and Davide Pizzigoni win the PIDA DESIGN PRIZE 2014

0.-vincitoriThe two curators of the multimedia exhibition ‘Where architects live‘ are the winners of the award given by the jury of PIDA (Ischia International Architecture Prize) for significant contributions to the world of design.

The installation was presented at the Salone del Mobile 2014: the private rooms of eight of the world’s most authoritative exponents of international architecture were opened to the public in an examination of the culture of habitation through videos, images, sounds, accounts and live reenactments.

Shigeru Ban, Mario Bellini, David Chipperfield, Massimiliano e Doriana Fuksas, Zaha Hadid, Marcio Kogan, Daniel Libeskind and Studio Mumbai/Bijoy Jain espoused their conceptions of domestic space, revealing their methods, obsessions and visions.


Good work should always be rewarded, so congratulations to all for a job well done!




Jun 19, 2014

iSaloni. Design meets football

On the occasion of the 2014 World Cup, 10 young Italian designers, led by Giulio Iacchetti and Francesca Molteni under the supervision of Raffaella Pollini/Diomedea, were asked to reinterpret the Super Santos, the ball that kids of every age have always imagined kicking in for the win.

Which is your favorite? Vote by ‘liking’ it in the album.



Choose your champion. May the best ball win!



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