To coincide with the Salone del Mobile, the University of Milan was the setting for Mutant Architecture, an exhibition pairing nine designers and architects with leading Italian manufacturers. While the other installations, including works by Richard Meier and Snøhetta, were displayed together in the Cortile d’Onoro, Zaha Hadid’s Twirl was the sole occupant of the Cortile del 700. The project architect, Johannes Schafelner, says: “We were asking for our own courtyard. It was completely empty; it was really clean for doing our own stuff.” Using Lea Ceramiche’s new Slimtech tile, a 3mm-thick porcelain tile that is 1m wide and 3m high, Hadid’s office set out to create something new in the context of “this really strong historical background”.
Schafelner says that they arrived at the design for the installation “after making a lot of relief models and relating them to Hadid’s early oil paintings – not directly, but it’s very much related to her early work”. The tiles were placed back to back in pairs and stood upright in a spiral, with arms that rose to 2m before falling away. The installation, which used 1,098 upright tiles cut to different heights and 295 laid flat, was put up in just three weeks – “it was like a workshop on site”. A series of Artemide’s fluorescent Algoritmo lights designed by Carlotta de Bevilacqua was placed “flush in the ground” between the arms of the spiral to lead to the courtyard’s edges and hit some of the columns “as a means of connecting the horizontal to the vertical”.
Elsewhere at the fair, Hadid showed a modular wall system for Magis and a stainless steel chair for Sawaya & Moroni. Although the Twirl may not have been the most functional example of Hadid’s work at Milan, it was perhaps the most striking.