One of the interesting aspects of the Milan furniture fair in the last couple of years is the way in which a particular group of journalists and critics has set the agenda before the fair has even begun. In 2011, there was a concerted move to raise awareness of the way designers are not always fairly treated by the design industry (this is a system that routinely compensates designers with the promise of raising their profile rather than with actual payment). In 2012, that same group was at pains to draw attention to young designers exploring new means of production (often open-source and collective), and shift some attention away from the big brands and the usual suspects. While no unifying theme or agenda has yet floated to the surface at the show this year so far, there was one early talking point: OMA’s new furniture collection for Knoll.
When images of OMA’s Tools for Life collection first started circulating, the Twittersphere was quick to heap mockery on it. A photograph of Rem Koolhaas perched on his 04 Counter, a rotating partition-cum-seating area, trying to look poised with both feet dangling in the air, didn’t help. Here at last, one observer noted, was something Rem wasn’t good at.