Glitter bugs

Amid the chink of glasses and the sparkle of the party scene, the Swarovski Crystal Palace is one of the most dazzling stars on this week’s Milan exhibition circuit, says Fiona Sibley

Using millions of crystals, usually seen gracing fashion and jewellery, the Crystal Palace is Swarovski’s annual foray into product design. This has been executed with trademark luxury, featuring the work of a handful of leading designers and artists who have been asked to reinvent the chandelier. Now in its sixth year, with an impressive alumni that includes Gio Ponti and Ron Arad, the results are always decadent.

This year’s collection of 19 chandeliers is flamboyant and inventive in equal measure. London-based design group Fredrikson Stallard’s Pandora design is a motorised version in which 1990 crystals swarm into a chandelier shape, and are then disassembled into a formless mass. This movement allows light to pervade the material. ‘It’s a wonderful brief as it allows you to reinterpret a classic design,’ says Ian Stallard. ‘It’s challenging to begin with a material rather than a concept, but crystal is a beautiful material and really works when you get it right.’

Set in a blacked-out, cavernous space in Milan’s Via Savona, the chandeliers hang like sea creatures lurking in an abyss. New York architect Diller Scofido & Renfro has suspended a mass of crystals in a net sock, conveying the material’s natural, bulky form. Artist Natasha Zupan’s design mimics the shape of a sea urchin using coloured crystals, while Spanish designer Jaime Hayón goes for a simpler take on a lightshade.

These creations are the beluga caviar of the design world – nice to look at, and far too expensive to entertain as everyday items. But that shouldn’t stop you enjoying them for a moment.

Swarovski Crystal Palace is at Via Savona 56, Milan, until 23 April

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