Oct 16, 2014

From a Satellite to the center of the world

2.-foto-post-blogFor the second consecutive year, some of the young participants in the SaloneSatellite have found themselves catapulted into one of the most central showcases on the planet for the presentation, and sale, of design objects. We’re talking about the coveted Design Supermarket on level -1 of la Rinascente department store in Milan, a large space in constant evolution where the best products from 800 international brands are presented.

If we estimate, as the CEO of la Rinascente Alberto Baldan pointed out during a press conference on Thursday, 9 October, that 4,000,000 of la Rinascente’s nearly 10,000,000 annual visitors (yes, you’re reading it correctly… no extra zeros here!) made their way downstairs to the space dedicated to design, it becomes clear what an opportunity this is for the young designers from the SaloneSatellite.

1.-foto-post-blogThis year there are 7 lucky ones from different countries – France, Ukraine, Italy, Portugal, Japan and Spain. Their pieces represent the best of the latest cultural trend, which prioritizes the themes of self-production and the recovery of traditional artistic craftsmanship.

Hence, among the selected objects we find the works in marble by Uto Balmoral, ceramics by Bosso Fiorito, glass by Arturo Erbsman, porcelain by Mary Volokhova. And then there’s the young Portuguese designer Tania da Cruz, who recounted, with tears in her eyes, how some years ago, in order to pay for her design studies in Italy, she worked at the bar of la Rinascente, dreaming of one day having her own piece on display at the Design Supermarket, which is exactly where she is now!

So here is proof that even in these particularly difficult years for young designers
dreams still can come true.

SaloneSatellite at la Rinascente
October – 25 December 2014
Design Supermarket Milano

Oct 13, 2014

iSaloni WorldWide 2014, ready to celebrate its 10th anniversary

mosca-1The best of the Salone del Mobile di Milano 2014 is about to take the stage in Moscow for the 10th consecutive, from 15 to 18 October at Crocus Expo, occupying an area of 19,145 square meters, featuring 526 exhibitors, 44 young designers at the SaloneSatellite and, for the first time, MADE expo WorldWide, a fair organized by FederlegnoArredo dedicated to interior architecture and siding.

iSaloni WorldWide have become by now a reference point for the furnishing sector in Russia and the countries in its geopolitical orbit. Interest in Made in Italy continues to grow among journalists, professionals in the field and the general public.

This is confirmed both by the number of Russian visitors to Milan, and by the market share our country has reached: in 2013 Russia imported 25% of its furniture from Italy, taking us to the top spot, followed by China and Germany.

This year’s Master Classes, organized in collaboration with ICE, the agency for the promotion abroad and internationalization of Italian businesses, will host three architects moderated by journalist and design critic Olga Kosyreva: Riccardo Blumer, Mario Cucinella and Marco Romanelli.

Among the new features for the 2014 Moscow iSaloni are a website and app entirely in Russian to facilitate the visit to the fair for the local public.

iSaloni WorldWide
Crocus Expo – Moscow
Design and Modern: Pavilions 7 – 8
Classic: Pavilions 10 – 11.
From 15 to 18 October 2014

We look forward to seeing you there!

Live news feed from Moscow on Facebook and Twitter.

Oct 6, 2014

iSaloni Interviews. Sebastian Bergne

0.-bergne_blogSebastian Bergne is not only the tallest, at more than 2 meters, among the great English designers, but curiously the best at designing small everyday objects. After graduating in 1990 from the Royal College of Art, he opened his own studio that same year. He works in the areas of product and furniture design, in both large series and special editions. Among his collaborations: Authentics, DeBeers, Driade, ENO, Epson, Lexon, Moulinex, Muji, Swarovski, Tefal, Vitra and WMF.

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

For me, the most important aspect of the Salone is that it is a meeting point between people. Old friends and new, forgotten contacts and future clients all cross paths.

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

Ronan & Erwan Bouroullec, Officina collection for Magis

Konstantin Grcic, Rival office chair for Artek

Poetic Lab, at the SaloneSatellite, Bamboo Forest furniture collection

Gio Ponti, re-edition of the D.270.2 folding chair by Molteni

Sebastian Bergne, Flame lamp for Serralunga


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

Although I travel a great deal I now live full time back in London. Here are a few of my favourite places in the city:

London – The Victoria & Albert Museum. This is the best museum of applied arts I know. I have visited regularly since I was a child but still enjoy visiting old favorites and discovering new treasures. The museum manages to strike a balance between maintaining the importance of history and the relevance of contemporary creativity.

London – Sir John Soane’s Museum. I discovered this when I was a student, around the corner at the Central School of Art. Popping over regularly to dive into this amazing world with its incredible light. I was often the only visitor and could almost live the sequence of enchanting rooms.

London – The Chelsea Physic Garden. A secret oasis in the back streets of Chelsea. Step through the gates into a living museum of functional plants.

London – The City of London. The center is in constant flux. Old and new buildings fight for space and light. Enjoy this phenomenon by taking the underground to Monument station and then climb The Monument itself. From here you can enjoy a fabulous view of the architectural jungle that is the City.

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

Samuel Wilkinson.

Why: Although he is not a recent graduate and he even has a few years of work experience, I believe we are about to see a great deal more of Samuel Wilkinson at the Salone. His mature, practicle approach to design with concisely expressed ideas makes him one to watch


Three products: Grace collection for EMU; Babylon desk set for Lexon; Hatcham chair for Decode

Sep 23, 2014

iSaloni Milestones. 1965, Gio Ponti for Poltrona Frau

18. dezzaDezza. A chair that sums up Ponti’s principles. 

Dezza is paradigmatic. It is above all a project that hides a meta-project: conceived as a chair for collective spaces, Dezza was designed specifically for Poltrona Frau (it was Ponti himself who proposed it), combining simplified assembly, making it highly industrializable, with extreme attention to artisanal craftsmanship.

From the formal point of view, the distinctive tapered profile of the wooden legs echoes the famous triangle of the Superleggera.

The name Dezza derives from the house in Via Dezza 49, built by Ponti in 1957 (it would be his last house). When he designed the chair for Frau he was 74 years old, yet he demonstrates here an inexhaustible vitality.

Initially imagined in black or white leather, with matching or contrasting legs, it was recently revisited with the permission of Ponti’s heirs, introducing a blue and a green for the structure typical of Ponti’s work of the ’60s.

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 POLI.design; 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.



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