Milan’s annual furniture fair is not just about furniture. Increasingly, exhibits outside the fairgrounds deal with design in a broader sense. And each year, architects play an important role.

New York-based firm Diller Scofidio + Renfro put together a striking exhibit inside the courtyard of the Palazzo Litta in the city center. Called “Off the Cuff,” the installation is composed of 300 pairs of stuffed Trussardi jeans, linked waist-to-waist and cuff-to-cuff to create a tensile catenary diagrid that acts as a roof canopy over the courtyard.

Another New York firm, SO-IL, teamed up with MINI to create “Breathe.” The installation proposes a resource-conscious approach to shared city living within a compact footprint. A flexible metal frame spanning three levels supports a light-permeable outer skin that has a special coating that filters and neutralizes the air. A roof garden uses vigorous oxygen-producing plants to further improve air quality and the urban microclimate. “Breathe brings its residents into direct contact with their environment. By making living an active experience, the installation encourages visitors to confront our tendency to take resources for granted,” says Ilias Papageorgiou, principal at SO-IL.

RESET is a new stress reduction installation for the workplace. Conceived by Ben van Berkel, founder and principal of Amsterdam-based UNStudio, and Jeff Povlo, founder of social design company SCAPE, together with a multi-disciplinary team of experts that includes neuroscientists, the RESET pod is designed to empower people to deal with stress more effectively. It was exhibited as part of the ‘Joyful Sense at Work’ exhibition within the fairgrounds. UNStudio’s Knowledge Platforms and Product Department are actively engaged in investigations into new ways of working and the role that architecture and design can play in the creation of physically, socially, and psychologically healthy spaces.

Japanese architect Sou Fujimoto created a very architectural piece of furniture for the Italian line Alias, drawing inspiration from the relationship between architectural space and the human body. Called Bookchair, the compact shelving unit incorporates a chair that can be extracted. An object within an object, Bookchair underscores the relationship between humans and books: after choosing a book, the reader can take the chair and sit down to read it.

Swiss architects Herzog & de Meuron recently completed the Feltrinelli Foundation building in the Porta Volta neighborhood of Milan. It served as an exhibition space for Cassina. The iconic Italian brand celebrates its 90th anniversary with a comprehensive display on the second level of the long, narrow building, and its furnishings were spread out across the impressive triangular shaped reading room on the top floor.