Milan Furniture Fair 14.07.10

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A volcanic ash cloud stole the show in Milan. But then again it wasn't difficult for a natural phenomenon to step into the limelight at the Milan furniture fair as it was a year dominated by safe launches. The daring and inventiveness we predicted that the recession would bring didn't come to fruition this year either.

Instead, the Italian maestri were rolled out to give a solid and reliable feel to the event. Vitra launched a flexible and cosy sofa system by Antonio Citterio, Artek put Enzo Mari's Sedia 1 chair from the 1974 Autoprogettazione series into production, Castiglione's lovely church models were on display at De Padvoa and Alessandro Mendini curated a show at the Triennale containing 700 seemingly random objects answering the question, "What is Italian design?"

Elsewhere manufacturers invested in expanding on series of already successful products. The Bouroullecs added a stool to their Steelwood collection for Magis, and Stefan Diez presented a whole seating collection based on last year's success story: the Houdini chair for E15. This massive expansion doesn't include a kitchen sink, but it does have everything else. Maarten Baas didn't launch anything new – instead he opted for making a 99 cent iPhone app of his Analog Digital Clock from last year. Although it makes sense to build on an existing concept after much research and experimentation has gone into creating the original product, it was still symptomatic of a year of launches that seemed to value safety over daring.

The surprise element of Milan this year was Wallpaper*'s Handmade exhibition in the Brioni mansion. Expecting self-indulgence and backslapping, we walked away impressed by the range and quality of the products presented. Wallpaper* teamed up designers with manufacturers, resulting in successful collaborations such as Gitta Gschwendtner and kitchen manufacturer Schiffini on a kitchen island. What happens next remains a mystery though.

The emergence of Lambrate as a new design district was the metaphorical silver lining to a week dominated by a looming cloud. Here was the energy and atmosphere of Zona Tortona of old, before it went corporate. The work on show was of a consistently high standard. We can see this area flourishing next year but hopefully it will stay young and independent. Because this is what the Milan furniture fair needs more of right now – the young and the daring.

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Words

Johanna Agerman and Anna Bates

quotes story

The Italian maestri were rolled out to give a solid and reliable feel to the event

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