Milan’s annual design fair attracted more than 434,500 attendees from 188 countries—a 26 percent increase compared with last year’s crowd of 343,602—and proof, according to Claudio Luti, president of the fair and of furniture giant Kartell, “that the Salone del Mobile is a global benchmark” for design. Buzz surrounding key architectural moments seemed to support that pronouncement.
Although in-town installations, away from the main fairground, are routine, an official written manifesto the Salone issued ahead of this year’s opening lent fresh purpose to citywide participation during Milan Design Week. In one instance, Massimiliano Locatelli and his firm CLS Architetti collaborated with Italcementi Heidelberg Cement Group, Arup, and CyBe Construction on 3D Housing 05, a 1,076-square-foot 3-D-printed concrete house in Piazza Cesare Beccaria. That demonstration featured the machine’s building the ruggedly elegant volume on-site in a week, which placed the project several steps ahead of many previous efforts in the category. Locatelli completed it with brass door and window casings, a brass kitchen, and furniture such as his aluminum dining chairs, finished in 24-carat gold.
A crumbling former police station, Palazzo dell’Ufficio Elettorale di Porta Romana, was the site for Altered States, a collaboration between New York firm Snarkitecture and quartz-surfaces manufacturer Caesarstone. It showcased a dramatic conceptual kitchen island/fountain ringed by amphitheater seating, casting the kitchen island as a star of performances and social interactions.
At Assab One, a nonprofit art space in a former printing plant, the Milan- and San Francisco–based architect Johanna Grawunder’s exhibition Alone Together featured two colorful light installations, including Mandala, which, when seen at a distance, is meant to celebrate the emptiness of its once-industrial location.
Design gallery Nilufar Depot presented Lina Bo Bardi Giancarlo Palanti: Studio d’Arte Palma 1948-1951, an exhibition (through December 29) of furniture by the late Italian Modernist architect known for her work in Brazil from the 1950s to the 1980s, and by her collaborator and fellow transplant Palanti.
Architect Steven Holl was the subject of One Two Five, a small but striking show of his drawings, watercolors, limited-edition furniture, and sculpture, curated by Marco Sammichele, at Galleria Jannone.
Meanwhile, David Rockwell designed the most popular attraction: The Diner, a pop-up restaurant that earned the Milan Design Award for Best Engagement. It was his collaboration with graphic design firm 2x4 and Surface magazine. It featured a hybrid of regional American diner motifs, using products by a host of manufacturers including Design Within Reach, Shaw Contract Carpets, Cosentino, Maharam, and Kohler, among others.
All of the installations served as reminders of the Salone’s manifesto both to “underscore its connection to the city” and to support experiences that unify a global professional community, for the ultimate design week.