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Into that tunnel, design reflects upon big problems. For instance: can we resist the bombing of images and suggestions that every day come in their hundreds from the web and the social network or are we destined to irreversibly become sponges that absorb them without discerning what’s relevant and a quality product? Also: are we able to relate to the people around us, really understanding who and what’s in front of us, or we actually have completely lost the empathy that is the root of the social life?


There is a fil rouge of extremely current issues that this year runs all over the Fuorisalone in Milan in shape of installations, including a few of the most spectacular ones of 2019. The set is placed in the former Magazzini Raccordati, aka the tunnels of the Central Station, where for the third year in a row Ventura Projects creates a series of installations curated by famous creatives commissioned by international brands. Along this thread, we find reflections in the shape of screens, furnitures and technologies that, between a tactile feel and an immersive experience will try to cast doubts and deliver critical points of view.

For one, Freitag, the Swiss brand of bags made from tarps used to cover 18wheeler, recycled and recyclable, asked Georg Lendorff to set a course that suggests to the public – in an unusual way – a reflection upon bad design. The installation is named Unfluencer and assumes that in the Milan Design Week the main topic has to be good design, hence the need to explore the other side of the coin.

Tell me more - Rapt

Another piece of interest in the main theme of social reflections, is definitely Tell me more, if only for its creators, none other than Rapt, the American studio that design spaces all over the world for the giants of the web and not, from Google to Dropbox, from HBO to Vans, through The North Face, Twitter and Paypal. In Rapt’s space you’ll enter as individual and exit feeling part of a team. How? Basically, you’ll pass each room by answering a question asked from the person who’s been there before, in a chain meant to develop the awareness of being part of a group of people, and not individuals separated from its kind. The installation, in two parts, consists of a lobby and a huge room that works as a set to explore the human connection. When the guests enter in the space for the first time, they are welcomed by small circular, draped “stages”, that are a sort of personal theatre in small scale. In this theatre, each guest is asked the question formulated by the unknown individual that was there before. Everything in a suggestive atmosphere that urges to speak, ask, communicate. The beauty of design: being able to let us exit the bubbles in which everyone has more or less trapped themselves.



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Sometimes you have to stop in order to move forward. Make a quick recap, a summary of what’s already been done and restart, with a clearer mind and new objectives. Milan has been living its greatest time for a few years. Design gave to the city an injection of self-esteem and a stage that every day sends out the images of a growing, buzzing creativity all over the world. But to keep moving fast, you need to be aware of your origins, of who you were before. In a word, retrace your own history and your own DNA. And this is the effort put out by a beautiful, thick book: the title is The design city – Milan city lab, curated by Anna Mainoli and Marco Sammicheli, edited by Forma edizioni in collaboration with Salone del Mobile.

The book reviews the Milan of design, in the past and in the present. A section is dedicated to the study of the past, to the fathers and mothers of the noble art that determined the success of the city in the world, another section is about their heirs, the following generations still at work who redesigned the world after the old masters planned it. A needed book, almost an atlas, with two hundred and fifty pictures and about eighty portraits, a long time ago it would have been called a baedeker, that displays on its pages the reasons why this city is both a creative hub and a design laboratory, through the pictures of the studies of the Castiglioni brothers, Vico Magistretti, Giulio Iacchetti and many foreign designers, such as Nendo, who are always very active in the city. A city that, as shown by this tour of designers’ studies, has already become polycentric, as its Design Week that keeps growing every year, reaching and gaining new areas and new districts. A city that, to use the words of one of the book’s curators, Marco Sammicheli, promotes new actions true to the cause of quality, coexistence, occasion and public good.

“The knowledge heritage that Milan has been able to preserve and develop is passed on and becomes incubator for future creativity”, writes the Salone del Mobile president Claudio Luti in the introduction, while Stefano Boeri, the Triennale president, speaks about a unique city, “a small yet very intense metropolis, with the desire for new spaces and the technical ability to innovate both in the field of materials and fabrics, together with the amazing propension to take creative risks that Milan narrates, also and foremost in the area of the intense personal relationships that connect everyone in it.”



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It’s an especially productive time for Formafantasma. The duo made by Andrea Trimarchi and Simone Farresin comes from Ore Streams, the set up at Milan Triennale into Broken Nature, where they explore the creative options for reusing electronic waste, and are getting ready for Fuorisalone 2019, where they’ll be presenting, together with Dzek, ExCInere, a collection of surfaces for architecture, born from their study on the Etna.

In between there is Nervi in the making, the installation at the Maxxi museum in Rome, opening today, in cooperation with Alcantara, curated by Domitilla Dardi. A project that brings out the duo attitude to researching on materials and exploring new creative formulas, which then become input to a more critical and conceptual reflection on design.

After consulting the Maxxi’s Architectural archives, Trimarchi and Farresin decided to measure up to Pier Luigi Nervi’s work. The result is an installation that re-creates an environment, both physical and psychological, a nest of Chinese boxes to tell how important can a material be in the work of a designer.

The two designers approached the archive of the undisputed grandmaster of the iron and concrete design, to fully understand his work on the material, discovering unprecedented and unexpected analogies with an apparently very different material such as Alcantara.

Versatile, functional, suitable for many applications and interpretations, able to work together with other materials: those are all properties of concrete, that Nervi has been, in the After-war, a pioneer and unmatched experimenter of, but are properties linkable to Alcantara, a material that’s born to design a new future, which is now our contemporary present time. “Structure – explains Formafantasma – is the key word that more than any other links the two materials. Nervi proved, with an impressive research, made of evidences, tests and calculations, the achievements that the concrete could be bearer of. Thanks to his far-sighted work our Country was built in the last sixty years. We approached Alcantara with the same spirit and we studied its extensive potential of applications. But, most of all, we experimented on what makes it a material unique of its kind, ruled by some sort of artificial intelligence which makes it extremely ductile.”

“Working with Studio Formafantasma – says Domitilla Dardi – always means to follow a research work that proceeds mixing scientific knowledge and designing instinct. Never more than in this project on Nervi, these two souls of them have emerged so clearly: the passion of the researchers who read the work written a long time ago by a great scholar of the materials such as Nervi, and the designing ability to make these assessments enter their own work.”



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It’s a little over a month until the next Milan Design week, but from the previews and leaks going around since mid-February it’s possible to catch threads, inspirations and trends of a Fuorisalone that will once again try to beat its affluence record.

Gaetano Pesce | Up | Courtesy photo 

So far, we know it will be a strongly polarized festival, maybe even more than the past ones: on one side highly content-wise spectacular installations, all to be instagrammed, perfect to fuel the wonder effect that every year generates very long queues. On the opposite pole, exhibitions more focused on the research, itineraries that are often linked to science, chemistry, biology, sustainability. Anthropocene, for one, is not only the key word of “Broken Nature”, Paola Antonelli’s Triennale, but a theme, the theme of the relationship between mankind, design and nature, unrolled in other shows, for instance in the Belgian design exhibition, that has been all along a strong presence in Milan, with projects of substance. This year, once again, we’ll find the mix of wonder and in-depth analysis that always marks the fair. In between, the strong front of the handmade design, connected to craftsmanship, lead by none other than master Ugo La Pietra who, in the 5Vie area, will be the protagonist of the exhibition “Design Territoriale, Genius Loci”.

Ugo La Pietra | Design Territoriale Genius Loci | alabaster fromVolterra

This is a set up that explores La Pietra’s interest toward the world of the classic artistic craftsmanship, able to support and represent the art work, able to become the artistic research laboratory for design and, at the same time, give back tools to connote architecture. As a result of this activity we have the awareness of the huge heritage that still identifies our land, which has brought to the growing trend of the “regional design”, a design born from the analysis of the resources of the territory, not just the material ones, but also the ones linked to traditions, work techniques consolidated through time and are now part of our cultural and artistic heritage. The exhibited works will be samples of the object’s collections designed by Ugo La Pietra and other artists and designer and crafted by artisans that, through this project, were able to renew their artisanal tradition, expression of their culture and their territory.

Ugo La Pietra | Design Territoriale Genius Loci | Cactus

Among all the productive areas many are still alive and lively, from the mosaic of Spilimpergo, Monreale and Ravenna, to the stone from Lecce and Lavagna, to the alabaster from Volterra and the marbles of Carrara and Verona, to the Murano, Altare and Colle Val D’Elsa glass and the ceramics from Grottaglie, Caltagirone, Vietri sul Mare, Albissola and Faenza, to the bronze of the Verona area.



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The starting point is set for March 1st, when art, design and installations from twenty-six Conuntries from all over the world will be presented to the public, after months of hype that made “Broken Nature: Design Takes on Human Survival” the cultural event per excellence of 2019. It’s the XXII International Exhibition of Milan Triennale. A show signed by Paola Antonelli, senior curator of the Architecture and design department at New York MoMA and a high-profile team that can count on names such as Ala Tannir, Laura Meran and Erica Petrillo as curators, Laura Agnesi and Marco Sammicheli to guarantee an international panel of artists and Matilde Cassani of Studio Folder for the set up.

Capsula Mundi, Anna Citelli and Raoul Bretzel

Broken Nature’s concept is set to, as anticipated by Antonelli herself in the past few days, reach the objective to break certainties with the same strength that climate change is putting into melting glaciers and opening humanity to a new destiny. The focus is on the “broken” nature, on the mankind’s place on the Planet, on the fate of Heart, irreversibly destined to extinction. “It’s a certainty that we’re going extinct” explains Antonelli, “It’s just a matter of time. Design can walk us toward extinction, trying to slow down the process. Designers love constraints and extinction is an excellent one”.

Llareta #0308-2B31 (Up to 3,000 years old; Atacama Desert, Chile), from The Oldest Living Things in the World by Rachel Sussman

While reversing certainties and ideas, questioning anthropocentrism and its corollaries strengthened by time, Antonelli also defies lexical clichés. She speaks about the exhibition as a “sustainability festival”, however she admits not to love the word sustainability and to prefer “restorative”. She claims that the challenge design has to face is to walk us toward extinction ethically, but also in an “elegant and sexy” way.

Copyright Pnat s.r.l., 2018

In Antonelli’s vocabulary, design and nature are political entities. In her geography, the epicenter is not the West, but countries such as Brazil or whole Continents like Africa, where science, technology and the designers experiment on approaches and solutions to emergencies that are more likely to present themselves in these areas of the world. The feeling of urgency is, indeed, another focus, to “leave the visitor with the idea that we must think and live with the awareness of a long time, the one that takes to our behaviors show their consequences on the Planet”. That’s why, for example, among the main character of Broken Nature, there is the Canadian Kelly Jazvak that with her Plasticglomerates focuses on new fossils, which are the plastic remains that don’t decompose and are the inerasable traces we’re leaving for the next generations, equivalent of the ones left for us by the cave men. Big or small scale, cosmic and daily overlap and mix in a set up that promises to be a huge guide to present and future, in a sea of possibilities with only one way out. It’s going to be a XXII Triennale that will look at design more as a tool that a content. And maybe that’s why we already like it this much.



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It all begun in Memphis: an explosion of color and kitsch graphics that had to break the minimalism’s balance pushing on the pedal of excess. That thread never broke: it rather stood there, toned down, resurfaced in other worlds, such as the fashion one. Today, forty years later, it’s back again into bold set designs which try to get over the walk along the memory lane, bringing back a style that, in the meantime, has become a language capable of connecting design and architecture through the most refined forms of urban art.

Sasha Bikoff | Kips Bay Decorator Show House

The zig-zag, the pois, the doodles, the pyramidal triangles, are all back in the Sasha Bikoff project for the Kips Bay Decorator Show House, the stairs of a New York building that, every year since 1973 have been given to a different interior designer for a charity project meant to raise funds for after-school activities for kids in New York. Birkoff’s idea is a genuine dream in technicolor, a breathtaking vertigo filled with hints to Italian post-modernism that the American designer is in love with. And it might not be a case that the studio ilmiodesign, that signed the Paradise Ibiza Art Hotel, with a color palette inspired by Ettore Sottsass, is Italian (and Spanish). A hotel that goes back up to Memphis with a very specific objective in mind: the “instagrammability” of both interiors and outoor spaces.

Camille Walala | Paradise hotel 

The spectacularity of the images and their being so photogenic has, indeed, given a huge push forward to the comeback of Memphis colors as well as the ones from Art Deco. If the value of an interior project is measured, and like it or not, that’s how it’s now, also and especially by its performance online, than the irreverent, playful and ironic palettes from the Eighties are perfect to leave a sign. Even better if mixed with signs that refer, for one, to the Ndebele tribe from South Africa and the art of Victor Vasarely, as in certain powerful and magnificent artworks by Camille Walala. She’s probably the designer who more than anyone is strongly bringing back Memphis’ codes trying, at the same time, to cross the boundaries of bare memory and homage.

Walala’s trait is unmistakable: an optical and psychedelic sign that mixes different influences. To define this France born creative, who works, from London, all over the world (she even had a collaboration with Armani for a marketing campaign) a graphic designer, is reductive to say the least: her interventions are reinterpretations of the space through design, graphic and architecture, mixed to create a result where it’s impossible to isolate the single component and you can only see the whole picture.

Camille Walala | Tanzanian village

And this is true for a boutique hotel in Mauritius, as well as a whole village in Tanzania or for an intervention of the artist on the face of a former factory in Brooklyn. Hence, the best homage that can be given to a master is not to simply reprise his language, but bringing it in your own time. Even better, looking forward to the future.



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A full-scale party to celebrate architecture and design through a masterpiece that, in 2019 will celebrate its sixtieth birthday. On October 21st, 1959, opened its doors the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum in New York, along that Museum Mile in the Upper East Side, which still is the area with the highest concentration of cultural institutions in the world. Since then, the upside-down ziqqurat by Frank Lloyd Wright is a must-go for all the art and design enthusiasts, and very more so will be this year, with a special calendar of seven days a week opening, speeches by historians and critics, special dedicated exhibitions and guided tours to discover the history and the architecture of this iconic building.

An icon not only for the Big Apple, but also for the challenges that architecture can engage in, against conventions and mainstream taste. Today, with the Guggenheim being part – since 2008 – of the American National Historical Landmark and being a candidate – since 2015 – to enter the UNESCO’s World Heritage List, it’s hard to imagine that the twenty years that took Lloyd Wright to build his masterpiece were riddled with controversies and invectives against the project that was slowly revealing itself to the city. What Lloyd Wright did, was indeed almost a provocation: his creature was thought of as something entirely outside the Manhattan’s architectural principles, that the architect wasn’t fond of. From the shape to the material, reinforced concrete, everything placed the project light years away from the aesthetic of the blocks of the Big Apple. It wasn’t long till the criticism came. “Much longer before its opening, the Guggenheim became a topic of public domain. Journalists, critics, and simple citizens went out of their way to find it the most appropriate nickname: “An upside-down bowl of oatmeal”, “a washing machine”, “a wash house”, “a big, white ice-cream freezer”, “an awful Hollywoodesque avocado-burger”. These are memories that Gabriele Neri wrote in his nice book published a few years ago for Quodlibet, “Architectural spoofs”, worth one more quote: “In a famous article on the New Yorker, Lewis Mumford linked it to a “huge pill-organizer”, while were common comments such this one, from the New York Mirror: “The Museum is one of the most radiant monstrosities by Frank Lloyd Wright. From the outside it looks like a mud-ball. This hive-like thing is not appropriate in any part of New York. Well, there it is, a building that should be in a museum to show how crazy the Twentieth Century is”.


Moreover, it was very hard for Wright to obtain the permit for the authorities, since the building violated in more than one point the rules of the local building code at that time.

Neri again remembers the title of the New York Times on October 25th , 1959, a few days after the opening of the museum, summing up all the critics to the building with a famous pun, that had inspired a few satirical cartoons: “That Museum: Wright or Wrong?”. The subtitled added “Is it a museum or a monument to Mr. Wright?”.

In short, polemics and satire against contemporaries archistars’ projects considered over-the-top are not exactly news, rather, how this story proves, encores of a play at least sixty years old. A play that can be retraced until December 31st  2019 in the New York Guggenheim, along Fifth Avenue, maybe tasting one of the courses that the restaurant “The Wright”, in the museum, will serve during these months, dedicated to the museum’s founders and to Lloyd Wright himself.

Photo: David M. Heald
© The Solomon R. Guggenheim Foundation, New York



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Experimenting pays off. Pushing up the benchmark of research gives important fruits. Working with matter and materials, suggest brave combinations, designing an unprecedent and never tested scene: in the design universe, betting is a choice that can really place you in the rightful spotlight.


It so happens that the teamwork between a talent scouting gallerist and a young, growing creative studio wins, today, an important recognition as the Wallpaper Award: the prize given each February by the prestigious British magazine to the best of the world design, architecture and fashion scenes.

We’re talking about Fusion, the bench designed by Millim Studio and presented by Secondome during 2018 Milan Design Week in the FutureDome spaces, in the exhibition Match: the show, which included the coffee table Atlas, designed by the duo Hillsideout, was meant to present pieces that “married” different, almost opposite materials, creating an unlikely, yet full of interesting new suggestions, union. A Match, indeed, with the double meaning of meeting and clashing between parallel worlds joined by creativity.

Match | Fuorisalone 2018

The jury who assigned the prize to Fusion in the Best Dream Factory category was composed by Bjarke Ingles and Paola Antonelli, Neneh Cherry and Philippe Malouin, Do Ho Suh and Davide Korins. All “eminences” fascinated by a project that joined marble, with its infinite details and veining, and plexiglass, with its typical clarity and distortion property. Heaviness and lightness, solidity and transparency, nature and technology all in one piece.

Fusion bench

Millim Studio are Chiara Pellicano and Edoardo Giammarioli, both class 1989, based in Rome, in the same creative district where Secondome is. No yet in their thirties, the two designers who debuted at Operae 2016, the independent design festival in Turin, with the soap collection “Wash your sins”, an ironic interpretation of the seven capital sins, bring in the Italian and international design panorama their own millennial and multidisciplinary approach that places as center of inspiration feelings, moods and desires, translated in culture of the project. “We were fascinated by the idea of fusion, that we wanted to connect with the feeling of discovery. We wanted to melt to reveal, so we needed a whole material that could be explored on the inside and a lens able to amplify the usual perspective.” Fusion is born to amaze. And, apparently, it’s made it.



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In the sign of lightness. It was not an easy task setting up the retrospective exhibition for the 100th anniversary of Achille Castiglioni, father of italian design, and turning it into and experience both scientific and enjoyable, with the just right amount of irony, after all, Achille’s approach to design was ironic as well.

“To Castiglioni”, until January 20th at Milan Triennale, is a trip into the extensive production by “Cicci” as he was lovingly called by relatives, friends and colleagues, through his “long century”, structured in an unusual way by curators Patricia Urquiola and Federica Sala: not following a timeline, but set up in thematic clusters where a product reminds others from different periods. Achille’s genius – as well as his brothers’ Livio and Pier Giacomo – led the designer to develop ideas which resulted in different ones, even years later.

That’s how in the different areas of the Triennale you can admire Achille’s creations grouped following a project continuity instead of a timeline, with a set up built on rhizomes, the impossible geometric shapes theorized by Gilles Deleuze and Félix Guattari that connect a point to any other, with none of both recalling other of the same kind. Basically an apparent chaos that subtely hides the creativity’s fil rouge, avoiding hierachies, especially the more predictable ones.There are twenty clusters, Federica Sala explains, and are actual microcosms you venture into without any specific route, moving to one point to any other. A contemporary and immersive idea of setting, coherent with the more experience-based and less pedagogic approach to the culture.

There are more than two hundred piece in show, from Alessi to Zanotta, to Flos and other historical brands which Castiglioni worked for. There are also architectures and installations realized for showroom, fairs and exhibitions. Keep it simple is the section of the iconic lamps of Italian desing: Tubino, Luminator, Parentesi. To Parenesi is dedicated the Traparentesi installation created by Studio Urquiola with Flos: one hundred units activate in front of the specators, accompanied by the recorded voice of Castiglioni himself and the noise of daily use objects. In the Ready Making cluster, Sony Design reinterprets through technology the icons Toio and Lampadina together with the stools Sella and Mezzadro.

The curatorial work brought Urquiola and Sala to spend months between the Achille Castiglioni Foundation and several archives, both private and corporate, “looking for unknown items and missing tiles to picture such a complex character”, explains Federica.

The result is a journey into the genius of a man and the made in Italy, but also an enlightning tour that sparks into the visitor an idea of how an intuition comes and grows to become fulfilled design.

Photo: Gianluca Di Iola



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From illustration to design, as in an ancient fairytale about the origin of the mankind, its sense and its fate.

There are primates, primitive creatures which remind the man of his animal nature. There is Countess Florinda, the totem of a woman who doesn’t want to grow old and indulges in aesthetic surgery to the point where her appearance is completely exhausted in a grotesque yet - in her own way - poetic image. There are the colored lamps, homage to Giorgio Morandi and there is Polifemo, with the eye of the giant that opens becoming the shutters of a credenza, inspired to the part and yet entirely reinterpreted in a contemporary key, almost turning into a treasure chest full of secrets and memories.

Elena Salmistraro’s creations look like objects from a fairytale, works where playfulness, irony and research take the shapes and colors of peculiar furniture and decor items. All these collections , in the six years since her debut - during 2012 Milan Fuorisalone - made the 35 years old Milanese designer a case both in Italy and abroad.

An exhibition in Milan, in Cc-Tapis showroom, curated by Valentina Guidi Ottobri and in collaboration with Seletti, Bosa, Stone Italia, Lithea, SecondoMe, DeCastelli, London Art and Camp Design Gallery – all brands Elena Salmistraro works actively with – is the chance (up to October 26th) to explore this poetic and the way it translates into objects that look from a timeless past and represent an unicum into the Italian creativity panorama.

The first peculiar thing that sets Salmistraro as a singularity in the Italian design scene is that everything starts with an illustration and slowly turns into matter that, through patterns, zoomorph creatures and geometries, conquers the eyes with an incredible richness in colors and expressivity, leading the gaze on precious finishings and details.

The earliest of Elena’s experiments, paper-machè lamps and the Deux Ames sofa, implied the course her work was going to take. Even more telling, the trasition to the use of Jacroki, a natural fiber, than to ceramic and step by step to a moltitude of materials, in a continuous research and game, fueled by the awareness that “objects were becoming my favourite subjects”, as she once said.

From the early self-productions – that brought her to the Fuorisalone, six years ago – to today, there is the whole vertigo of a creative whose items are touring around the world thanks to the exhibition “The new Italian design” curated by Silvana Annichiarico and Andrea Branzi.

The exhibition develops on two rooms and it’s a full immersion into products of every kind, from vases to rugs, that long to become icons. And sometimes they already are.

credit: Photo by Juliano Araujo