Icon 167: Ikea, Tom Dixon, Lee Broom, Nika Zupanc, Färg & Blanche and Herzog & de Meuron in Milan 27.03.17

In our latest issue, we preview next month’s Milan Furniture Fair and examine Japan's forgotten postmodernist era

Ikea never fails to rile up the design crowd. Every time the company announces a new product or collaboration, the cognoscenti do one of two things: foam at the mouth about how the flat-pack colossus is creating more landfill or take a self-consciously contrarian stance to prove they are in touch with the company’s millions of punters. It is like Brexit all over again. Recently, Ikea has generated column inches in the design press and beyond through its collaborations with high-profile designers, humanitarian projects and sudden interest in sustainability. Further challenging the perception of Ikea is an increasing willingness to work with erstwhile rivals as well.

In Milan this year Ikea is planning its most ambitious move yet, staging its own design festival in an expansive industrial space in Ventura Lambrate. It is something of a gamble. The district is traditionally home to what passes for design’s avant garde. How will they react to such an emphatic statement by a controversial corporate giant? Even more intriguing will be how the big Italian brands react. Studied indifference, perhaps? After all, they are not chasing the same markets. What is undeniable is that much of the design industry is slave to an antiquated business model, which few have the appetite to challenge. The content of the festival as described by Ikea’s design director Marcus Engman, promises to explore some of the most radical ideas concerning the future of furniture making: from open source and automation to crowd-sourcing ideas and multi-purpose furniture.

Without explicitly saying so, and in a spirit of celebration, Ikea is throwing down the gauntlet to Italy’s design establishment. Are we likely to see the challenge met by one of the big Italian brands showing at the fairgrounds? I somehow doubt it. And yet, there is the distinct possibility that Ikea’s bid for centre stage could yet go horribly wrong. Get your popcorn.



James McLachlan


On the cover

Duomo di Matite IKEA. Concept by Carlo Apostoli. Photography by Felicity McCabe



quotes story

Ikea is throwing down the gauntlet to Italy’s design establishment

Feltrinelli building Milan by Herzog & De Meuron



Scene Who, what, why, where, when and with whom in architecture and design

New products More Stockholm goodies and a mini interview with Daniel Rybakken

Diary Clerkenwell Design Week and more: what to see this coming May

Surfaces Top designers turn their attention to carpets and tiles

Crimes against design How Volvo lost its understated charm

Opinion Style is an essential component of architecture, argues Tim Abrahams


Milan: Tom Dixon The designer returns to his experimental roots

Milan: Lee Broom Celebrating 10 years with classics and new launches

Milan: Matthew McCormick Canadian to light up Spazio Rossana Orlandi

Milan: Ikea The flatpack giant poised to go big in Italy’s design capital

Milan: Best of the rest Fritz Hansen, Bisazza and Wonderglass show off the goods

Färg & Blanche Sweden’s most experimental design duo takes off

Emerging studio London-based Blond refines the everyday

Icon of the month The Lambretta

Q&A: Nika Zupanc The Slovenian designer on drama in design

Mocape, Shenzhen, China, by Coop Himmelb(l)au


Ghosts of a future past Japan’s forgotten, maximalist bubble-era architecture

Rock the boat Mole Architects designs a subtly nautical holiday home

Literary leanings Herzog & de Meuron tilt the line in Feltrinelli foundation

Unfulfilled potential Coop Himmelb(l)au’s glam art museum in central Shenzhen (above)

Shear art A gallery-cum-hair salon in south London by Sam Jacob

Icon of the month Edwin Heathcote reveals Europe’s finest skyscraper

Q&A: Matthias Hollwich Serious architecture meets pop sensibilities


Review: Circling the Square Why do we care about Mies vs Stirling, asks John Jervis

Review: Sussex Modernism The cosmopolitan modernism of the seaside county

Review: Ephemeral Architecture V&A examines the lineage of pop-ups beyond Archigram

Rethink: Planet Mars Red Planet’s much-needed rebrand from Kitto Katsu

Obsession: Scarves A simple length of fabric with infinite possibilities


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