“Designing for our future selves”: Milan Design Week to return with sustainability focus

The 60th edition of the Salone del Mobile design festival will go back to an in-person format and put environmental awareness at its centre.

After Covid-related disruption forced the Salone to cancel its 2020 edition and run a digital-and-physical mix – Supersalone – in September last year, this year will see the trade fair return to a fully-in-person event, to be held in June instead of its traditional April dates.

The big focus this year will be the intersection of design and sustainability. The aim, the fair says, is to “demonstrate that it is both possible and crucial to start holding great international events live again, embedding sustainability and environmental awareness into furniture production” and reflecting “the ongoing ecological transition of the furnishing system.”

The organisers themselves will be leading the way: the show will use reusable or upcycled, low-environmental-impact, and FSC- or PEFC-certified materials for communal spaces. And they are encouraging exhibitors to do the same.

“We cannot stand still, in fact we have a duty to move even faster in the direction of design, production and distribution solutions that are as sustainabe as possible – what we need today is an ethical approach to design,” says President Maria Porro.

Cities mined from the ground they stand on

A render of Design with Nature.

The crown jewel this year is architect Mario Cucinella’s large installation Design with Nature, which explores the themes of circular economy, reuse and participatory architecture. The installation, made with materials derived from natural supply chains and from upcycled and recycled waste products, will span a 1,400 sq m space filled with corners for participants to interact with each other or be alone among various elements of greenery.

The project is an optimistic representation of a possible future: a virtuous ecosystem where cities could be possible “reserves” of the future, or mines where most of the raw materials used in construction could be sourced, whereas homes could be understood as cells that make up the more complex organism of the city. Porro said this the Salone’s investment in this installation reflects the fair’s belief “in the need for a real and immediate ecological transformation, which is why it has decided to be an accelerator of ethical and virtuous behaviours.”

After the show, the materials will be reused in new public spaces and in such projects as “a small library for a school, a classroom, a table for a laboratory.”

Young designers have “grown up in a crisis”

More than 2,000 exhibitors will gather at the show, of which more than 600 will be under 35. The young designers were chosen by an international jury for the 23rd edition of event-within-the-event SaloneSatellite, which hasn’t been held in three years. The umbrella theme is “Designing for our future selves,” which they have been given total creative freedom to interpret. The fair is giving a big push to these future generations who “have grown up in a crisis,” showcasing them prominently at the show’s entrance.

To celebrate the 60th anniversary, the immersive show La Scatola Magica (The Magic Box) – , where a leading group of Italian creatives have interpreted Salone’s institutional values, such as emotion, enterprise and communication — will take participants through a multi-sensory experience featuring a monumental “camera obscura.”

Rendering of La Scatola Magica.

Salone del Mobile will also feature a programme of talks curated by Chiara Alessi, Maria Cristina Didero and Beatrice Leanza, with conversations focusing on ideas around beauty, the planet, human beings and design, as well as pressing issues of the day the role ofdigital in the near future.

The Salone has partnered with award-winning illustrator Emiliano Ponzi to design a series of six posters for the occasion, equipped with augmented reality imagery which will be accessible via QR codes, and each representing a decade of the show’s history in the cityscape and culture of Milan.

Poster by Emiliano Ponti representing the 1970s in Milan.

Salone del Mobile takes place 7-12 June 2022 at Fiera Milano Rho. More information on tickets is available on Salone del Mobile’s website.

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  • mike dempsey March 25, 2022 at 8:34 am

    The Italians certainly know how to stage a stylish and innovative show.

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