Kitchens, kids and kaleidoscopes at Milan 2016

Between the sea of countless chairs that typically characterise a visit to the world’s largest design festival, Milan Design Week, three trends spoke to VISI’s passions.

VISI.co.za: April 20, 2016

Smart Stone Kitchens

Kitchens were king in Milan this year, not least because of the biennial EuroCucina exhibition at the Salone del Mobile, where the undeniable star of the show was a sink that disappears when not in use. The sink was part of the Tuler responsive kitchen by Offmat, an experimental kitchen project of Italian design studio Marmo Arredo, which also featured concealed stovetops. Indeed, more than just finishes or lifestyles, the new kitchen was barely visible – what Miele’s conceptual installation named the Invisible Kitchen.

Powered by digital technologies, projection mapping and gestural controls, the result is sculptural forms free from messy details and buttons. Rebooting the kitchen with the aid of Caesarstone, Tom Dixon said that he wanted to get away from a “series of equipment” arranged to “hug the walls”. The result is four kitchens based on sculptural forms and the elements – water, air, earth and fire. Using cutting-edge equipment from Electrolux, he also introduced newfangled means of cooking: blasting, vacuuming and large-scale steaming.

Italian food designers Arabeschi di Latte interpreted these modes into black pancakes, freshly dehydrated fruit and roots and aromatic stock with frozen leaves. Similarly peculiar food was served at Lexus’s Anticipation installation. Chef Yoji Tokuyoshi served an aperitif of fish broth, agar agar and mandarin, as well as a nasturtium leaf with a spot of prune, shiso leaves and blueberry relish. Miele too served sweet potato ice cream – the recipe for which can be found here.

Going just beyond the kitchen, the Sapienstone Smart Slab Table by Reed Kram and Clemens Weisshaar for Iris Ceramica includes facilities to heat and cool food.

Kids Design Is Growing

From Kartell to Marcel Wanders for Cybex, design for kids and babes made a big splash, not to mention at least three rocking horses – by Front for Gebrüder Thonet Vienna, Nendo for Kartell and Alvin Tjitrowirjo from Indonesia.

“What a challenge to design a collection for babies, so we thought maybe we should design it for parents,” said Wanders about the Cybex range of embroidered rockers, high chairs, bouncers and toys inspired by his iconic Monster chair. “Going from a couple to a family is already quite a lifestyle change, so maybe you don’t have to change your whole apartment.”

Kartell’s easy-to-wipe plastic is a natural fit for children’s furniture, and it has explored this territory tentatively before. This year however it launched a complete kids collection, including a building block table and series of racing cars (which we featured as a recent Pick of the Week).

Kaleidoscopic Colours

The hue of this year was undoubtedly every shade of pastel pink – pretty on the money for Pantone’s Rose Quartz Colour of the Year. Vitra’s Soft Modular Sofa showed how to snuggle into the colour, while Formafantasma showed that it works just as well in hard-edged minimalism at the Lexus Anticipation exhibition.

What the show-wide palettes of dirty pastels really achieved however was to make the unapologetically rich velvety reds and kaleidoscopic geometric patterns pop out even more. On the red front, Fabio Novembre showed a round leather-clad interior in the Rooms: Novel Living Concepts exhibition at the Triennale Museum, while the Mindcraft exhibition of Danish design spun in a crimson set of turning decks.

A celebration of Ron Arad by Moroso and Javier Mariscal, Spring to Mind included an installation of red chairs in a mirror room. Mirrors, red and geometrics also featured in the Scarlet Splendour collection at Rossana Orlandi, with its striking vanity table. Also at Orlandi, KIGI from Japan showed its Mirror Cup and Saucer.

Patricia Urquiola teamed the salmon and red in her exquisite stained glass collaboration with Federico Pepe for Spazio Pontaccio – Credenza. In her debut as creative director for Cassina, Urquiola further showed her finesse for colours and patterns.

The result of 10 years of research by Hella Jongerius, the Vitra Colour and Material Library drew the crowds. Besides the swatches, an installation of furniture turned into wheels, dropped jaws.

To find out more about this year’s Milan Design Week, visit salonemilano.it. Browse the gallery above to view some of our favourites.

DDW: Topical concerns

Metropolis, December 2015

One of the ambassadors at Manon van Hoeckel’s “In Limbo Embassy”

Every year, the students of the Design Academy Eindhoven in the Netherlands take on thorny social, political, and cultural issues with their graduation projects. Here are three of this year’s standouts, exhibited in conjunction with Dutch Design Week 2015.

In Limbo Embassy

Even before Angela Merkel’s 180-degree turn on the Syrian refugee crisis, the issue of undocumented migrants had become a pressing concern in Europe. For refugees whose application for asylum status had been rejected, Manon van Hoeckel created a mobile pop-up safe space for dialogue and interaction. Formerly in-limbo immigrants are enlisted as volunteer ambassadors to explore legal loopholes. For instance, while they can’t legally work, refugees have rights to freedom of expression and the press, allowing them to participate in the embassy’s activities as a performance and sell a range of portraits (top) called “Printed Matters.” The project was a finalist in the Dutch Design Awards, and its online platform is now used to promote a variety of ways that people can help refugees.

Fish on Dry Land

Going against the grain of her generation’s cityward migration pattern, Marta Sif Ólafsdóttir moved out of Reykjavik to the small fishing town of Ísafjörður in Iceland when she turned 20. While she discovered a satisfyingly full life—contrary to her family and friends’ expectations—she noted the lack of economic opportunities as a reason for the brain and youth drain from provincial towns. Drawing on the visual language of local fishing equipment, she developed a product range comprising a coat stand, table, stool, and lamp that add a nautical twist to the otherwise utilitarian Nordic design language. By producing the range in Ísafjörður, she hopes to inspire locals to look at their surroundings differently.

Man’s Best Friend

Other than slobbery friendship, the function of the world’s millions of dogs has slipped since our hunter-gatherer days. Our canine companions need a new purpose—a 2009 study by New Zealand’s Victoria University of Wellington revealed that the environmental impact of pooches is worse than that of SUVs. With this and an underserved elderly population in mind, Archibald Godts from Belgium has explored pup-enabled frail-care solutions. The four products he has designed are a pillbox that helps seniors schedule their meds, a pouch around the dog’s neck to protect an owner’s valuables or help them carry medications, saddlebags for weighty groceries, and a cart that can be hitched to dogs as a way to assist mobility-impaired owners.

Canine companions do more for their elderly owners in Archibald Godts’s project.

Four fishing-inspired products designed by Marta Sif Ólafsdóttir.

Dutch Design Week 2015: 7 home trends

VISI.co.za, 30 October 2015

Design is one of the national pastimes of the Netherlands. Some 275 000 people descended on a town of 216 000 during the nine-day Dutch Design Week that ended on Sunday 25 October 2015 in Eindhoven.

Here are seven ways that the humour, romance, innovation, and sometimes just plain weirdness, of what was on show will soon be coming into your home.

1. Furniture gets a life

Embedding a touch of personality into furniture makes it come alive. Yksi showed how cabinets can become urban elements, or at least fantasize about a higher calling. Lucas Munoz turned the speaker into a fluffy creature. What artist Margriet Craens and designer Lucas Maassen did to normal domestic chairs will not soon be unseen: The Chair Affair book asks just how intimate our furniture likes to get.

2. Contemporary romantic

Also practically breathing were Studio Drift’s diaphanous Shylights, shortlisted for a Dutch Design Award. These utterly exquisite dandelion-like flowers open and close as they plunge down. Similarly harking back to old-fashioned whimsy was the bent-veneer and ceramic Viola coat hanger by Roos Sanders and Tijn van Orsouw intentionally made to be too beautiful to hide in the closet. Reviving the classic art of hand-caned chairs with exciting new patterns was Jonghlabel.

3. Candles in the wind

Romance without candles is nothing – clearly Europeans don’t need load shedding as an excuse. A plethora of all manner of holders and candles were on show everywhere, including the royal blue porcelain Bubble Collection by Jorine Oosterhoff and strikingly utilitarian Elbow by HeetmanPatijn. By Thomas van Rongen for Puik Art, the Candela brings a new shape to wax. Yet, why are we using wax, asked Tijn van Orsouw with his Vet Pot that burns on used cooking oil.

4. Textured textiles

Beyond simply fancy prints, intricate weaving and production methods are making textiles three-dimensional. Sanne Muiser needle-punched latex with wool and sisal to create a second, fur-like skin. Combining organic and synthetic materials, hand craft and machine techniques, Roos Soetekouw’s fabrics are each multi-dimensional masterpieces. Machine-knitted fashion, blankets and throws were seen throughout, best exemplified by the Plaids by Hella Jongerius, Simone Post and Studio Truly Truly for the Textiel Museum.

5. Food food food

Designed food experiences and concept pop-ups included Aart van Asseldonk’s indulgent banquet in a church, The Allegory of the South, and sustainable food practices from around the world at Age of Wonderland. Product-wise, Michal Avraham showed how to use chocolate to make design rocks that look almost too good to eat, and Mickey Philips’ tessellated plates insist on an intimately communal mealtime.

 

6. Tricks of the eye

Besides introducing an element of seeming magic into homes, optical illusions can also beneficially change the space. At the Design Academy Eindhoven graduation show, Ward Wijnant showed the Spacelamp that with its curved mirror surface reflects light and enlarges a room during the day. At night, when the light is switched on, the mirror is turned translucent and the room becomes small and cosy again. Also playing on the changing light were the ethereal clocks by Daan Spanjers that use evolving colour combinations to show the time, like the sky.

7. Weird and wonderful

From chairs grown from mycelium fungi by Eric Klarenbeek to fashion made from human hair by Anouk van Klaveren, design materials are simply not what they used to be. Winner of the Young Designer title at the Dutch Design Awards was Teresa van Dongen with her bacteria-powered light installation showing that we’re already living in science fiction. The brand new future we live in also has 3D-printing producing personalised bras by Mesh Lingerie, woven vases and lamps by Atelier Robotique, and intricately detailed ceramics with fabric-like textures created by musical vibrations by Olivier van Herpt and Ricky van Broekhoven.

 

Find out more about Dutch Design Week at ddw.nl/en.

Highlights from Dutch Design Week 2015

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Aart van Asseldonk’s the Allegory of the South

A young Eindhoven-based designer, Aart van Asseldonk’s epic wood, metal, fur and flower installation in the celestial surrounds of St Augustine church evoked complete aesthetic awe in every visitor, both in execution and in the sheer scale of his vision. Pieces from his range launched at Plusdesign Gallery in Milan earlier this year showed how he is contemporising the Dutch Golden Age of the 17th century.

Screenshot 2015-10-27 13.46.05
Conversation piece

Ten years after the original London Calling exhibition, Maarten Baas, Joost van Bleiswijk, Kiki van Eijk, Graham Hollick, Kranen/Gille, Tomáš Libertíny, Lucas & Lucas en Marc Mulders reprised their punk design philosophy to a present a new exhibition of design objects that engage with the changing times. Drawing on inspiration from The Clash and the Memphis design group, Van Ejik’s Conversation Piece demands that we just stop, think, talk and ask why again in design.

 

Big Chair Affair

The new book Big Chair Affair by Margriet Creens and Lucas Maassen was launched in conjunction with publisher and gallery Onamatopee’s new, more expansive space. Showing the suggestive coupling of furniture in a humorous way, the book talks to the intimate lives of our material possessions. It also represents the meeting point of art (Creens) and design (Maassen) methodologies.

 

That the bacteria-powered light installation wonTheresa van Dongen the Young Designer title at the Dutch Design Awards points to the groundswell of biological design applications – in particular mycelium (mushrooms) and bacteria – at DDW. The installation uses her Ambio light that works by supplying the bioluminescent micro-organisms that make waves glow at night with oxygen.

 

Days of Need and Greed
Days of Need and Greed

How can we live better with less? This is the essence of post-recession design, the counterpoint to Van Asseldonk’s opulence. Kristina Schultz explored this by empty her Stockholm apartment of all possessions – including her partner and child’s – and starting again, making one essential new thing every day. Roughly hewn, with austere ingenuity and personal preciousness, the results are delightfully surprising. The theme was also pervasive in the Age of Wonderland food projects from around the world.

 

Screenshot 2015-10-27 13.41.19
Thing Nothing

Also raising questions about value, substance and materiality was the group exhibition at the Van Abbe Museum, running until 15 November, curated by Thomas Widdershoven. Ordinary household objects lent to the museum by the general public were juxtaposed against design by the likes of Ai Weiwei, MVRDV, Dunne&Raby, Studio Drift and more. It is the final exhibition in a trilogy with Self Unself (2013) and Sense Nonsense (2014).

 

Limbo embassy

When design is no longer about fetishised things, its utility is increasingly interrogated. By Manon van Hoeckel, the Limbo Embassy is a mobile safe-space for refugees who seek asylum in the Netherlands. It as a finalist at the Dutch Design Awards and showed on the Design Academy Eindhoven graduation show, among other projects that engaged with issues such as dyslexia, khaki ethics, public space engagement and loneliness among pensioners.