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Milano Design Week 2005

Wed, 20 Apr 2005

Every year, hordes of designers from across Europe gather in Milan to present their work and gain inspiration for next year's. Newcomers to the event are usually surprised to realise how accurate the title is: work is not confined to just one arena, but the entire city. Good shoes are definitely high on the list when packing. That said, many people still head directly to the main exhibition site, Fiera, missing out on the plethora of smaller boutiques that really make the event special.

First stop this year was Triennale, located between Fiera and the city centre. Each year the building seemingly hosts a sample of each aspect of the show: past masters and their work, student work, and a smattering of big names supporting small competitions.

This year the most exciting work there came from Israel under the title 'Promisedesign'. With fresh ideas for furniture, the designers displayed a youthful feeling in their work that made an interesting alternative to the more sober stuff at the show. While bright colours helped, it was the imagination behind the work that set it apart: witness the potty with feet and a toilet-roll tail, its anthropomorphic character entirely conceptually appropriate. The silicon fruit bowl also caught one's attention, with slits in the material flexing to accommodate different foods.

The set of appliances for kitchen counters by I2D demonstrated the designer's ability to resolve ideas in this attractive solution. Taking porcelain as an inspiration, Elisha Tal and Eyal Cremer have given the plastics used a feeling of high quality not always present in product design. In terms of resolution, this was far ahead of the other projects, though the others fought back with their greater experimentation. Also inside Triennale were students from Melbourne displaying their ideas on how to interact with Milan. Projects ranged from television sets put up over the city, to more sculptural proposals with a physical and not just visual inter-relation.

Superstudio Piu' in Zona Tortona is one of the main attractions of the fair, featuring companies with many young designers on board. As a result, work here tends to be both imaginative and well done. Thorsten van Elten displayed his usual array of witty products, though his new shelves and rocking chair showed a new maturity in his work. In producing 'wit' in design, what he was essentially doing was creating individuality. Though his rocking chair is not as humorous as an LED cuckoo clock, it still displays a strong sense of uniqueness.

Alongside, work by Hay showed holes making a comeback in furniture. This visual weakening in design seems to have borrowed from the typically exciting work by the Brazilian Campanas brothers. Objects picked up from the street inspire their irregular compositions of household objects. Though it seems improbable Hay or any of the Israeli designers did the same, the effect is clearly related: while in isolation the pieces are visually random, their context deciphers these irregularities.

By Robert Forrest