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Beyond Materiality Salone

The world’s biggest furniture fair ups its game and celebrates design within larger narratives and wider contexts.

It is no wonder that the annual pilgrimage-inducing event for the design industry’s movers and shakers – Salone del Mobile – has firmly established its home in Milan. The city of piazzas and palazzos offers a multitude of opportunities to interweave historic and aesthetic narratives within its inimitable settings. This year’s Salone, in particular, emerges with a dominant theme of storytelling, with stories behind designed objects becoming increasingly important in the digital age where mass production/consumption arguably tends to lower the products’ notion of authenticity.

At the jointly conducted event by IndesignMediaAsiaPacific and XTRA at its Marina Square location in Singapore, the conversations on the importance of storytelling originated in Milan continued in a more intimate setting. This time, through a story told in 80 slides, Narelle Yabuka, editor of Cubes and, and Hunn Wai, co-founder and creative director of Lanzavecchia + Wai, relayed their own experiences of Salone del Mobile through highlights and observations on design narratives.

Hermes Maison collection at La Permanente

Milan’s La Permanente museum underwent a temporary transformation, providing a backdrop to Hermes’ zellige tile-cladded seven-pavilion installation – each in a different eye-catching colour enhanced further by dramatic lighting – that became a setting to showcase particular objects, like Périmètre porcelain vases and Droit Fil scarf boxes. A distinctly architectural installation, the pavilions transported visitors into theatrical settings hosting the precious objects – each backdrop an awe-inspiring composition of tiles imported from Morocco, emphasising the handcrafted finesse of products on display.

Clockwork for EXTO by Lanzavecchia + Wai

Taking cues from the usually hidden functional parts and hinges of clocks, the design duo reinterpreted a family of sideboards, putting on ready display the typically hidden mechanical components. Here, hinges and locks are deliberately enlarged and fabricated using precious metals, speaking to their importance as functional features, while also highlighting them as the ‘crown jewels’ of each furniture piece.

Vitra’s “Typecasting: An Assembly of iconic, Forgotten and New Vitra Characters” at La Pelota

With a stage set at the Milan’s former sports arena, La Pelota, Vitra collaborated with Australian designer Robert Stadler to showcase almost 200 products from its archived and current product lines, organised into groups of characters based on human characteristics. Thus, the chairs were grouped into unconventional categories, typecasting each group into a common stereotype in today’s media, highlighting design at large as a means of self-representation.

Observatory by Lee Broom

A revelation of seven new lighting products by British furniture designer Lee Broom played with proportions of vertical and horizontal space and showcased a more sculptural side of the brand. Presented in a 250 square metre space delineated with dramatic vertical blinds to highlight the soaring heights and the sculptural qualities of the pieces, the collection was a testament to the brand’s evolution over the years, with the latest pieces being the most progressive and experimental to date, integrating the latest LED technology into its celestial-inspired design.

Forms of Movement exhibition by Nendo

Beyond the conventional displays of products, expressive installations extending into non-furniture territories permeated Salone del Mobile this year. Nendo’s Forms of Movement exhibition posed and, perhaps, answered a question of how everyday objects could convey motion. Via dramatic representations of 10 designs that dealt with concepts of movement in unique and jaw-dropping installations, set in a series of black and white rooms, objects became a part of larger settings that in turn placed the focus back on the highlighted concepts.

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