Rain and insecurity in the global economy failed to dampen the spirit of the more than 324,000 enthusiastic visitors who attended the 52nd Salone Internazionale del Mobile, which took place in Milan in April.
Although there was a slight dip in attendance from previous years, the furniture fair remained active throughout the week, while displays in and around the city were more subdued. Euroluce, the biennial lighting expo, had the most to offer in terms of magic, creativity, and design integrity. The trend toward LEDs continues, and prototypes manufactured with 3D printing made a subtle yet impressive impact.
Numerous Pritzker Architecture Prize winners were represented, including furniture and products from Tadao Ando and Zaha Hadid, furniture by UNStudio, and lighting by Daniel Libeskind. Also on display was a photo-worthy presentation at Prada's exhibition space by Dutch architect Rem Koolhaas for Knoll. French architect Jean Nouvel’s homage to the way we work, titled “Office for Living,” was illustrated through various scenarios, including a home office, warehouse space, and open plan offices. While the mise-en-scène was impressive, the ideas presented were not exactly nouveau.
Across the board, companies scaled back, tweaking existing product lines, while numerous manufacturers presented reissues of classics such as Gino Sarfatti’s lights for Flos and Gio Ponti’s furniture for Molteni & C. And though many brands were content to just apply new color, pattern, or upholstery, there were still plenty of introductions of thoughtful chairs, tables, lighting, and sofas to be found. Here are a few of Contract’s picks for 2013:
“Alone together” is the new mantra when it comes to public space. Werner Aisslinger’s Bikini Island sectional seating system for Moroso consists of modular components that can work in unison or individually. Available in varying heights, offerings include a daybed, a sofa, a shelf unit, adjacent coffee tables, and plant holders, as well as curtains to provide privacy. The system could be specified for hotel lobbies or even an office
Dutch architects Ben van Berkel and Caroline Bos of UNStudio collaborated with Swedish manufacturer Offecct to create Studio, a new seating system. Designed with lobbies and waiting areas in mind, the modular, laminated wood unit comes upholstered in fabric or leather and consists of several versions, including the Studio Twin (shown at right), an ideal arrangement for an on-the-fly tête-à-tête.
The iconic American brand Knoll launched an unusual collaboration with Dutch architect Rem Koolhaas of OMA. The result is Tools for Life, a furniture collection that balances residential and contract needs, “supporting the ebb and flow of work and social life,” according to Knoll. The 04 Counter (shown) is a monumental stack of three rotating horizontal beams in concrete, leather, or patterned wood grain, which, when cantilevered, provides a place to gather or lean.
Japanese designer Tokujin Yoshioka’s Element Collection for Desalto features a chair and a range of tables made from black or white metal in a variety of finishes from oak veneer to opaque black glass. Inspired by Yoshioka’s “Crystalized Project” from 2007, the table’s angled central support appears to
Juggler Tony Duncan inspired London-based industrial designer Michael Anastassiades’ IC Lights for Flos. Offered in painted anthracite or
satin-finished brass, the opalescent glass sphere on the table lamp is strategically balanced off-center, while the sphere of the standing lamp (shown) is spot-on. Hanging and wall-mounted versions are also available.
The Dream Chair by Japanese starchitect Tadao Ando could be mistaken for sculpture if it weren’t so comfortable. Ando worked closely with Carl Hansen & Son, the Danish manufacturer of Hans Wegner’s iconic designs, on the engineering. Made from molded plywood and available in oak, walnut, or upholstered in fabric or leather, the chair beckons one to relax, perchance to dream.
The Knot lamp by German lighting legend Ingo Maurer is manufactured through a three-dimensional printing process from polyamide, steel, and aluminum and illuminated by LEDs. Although each lamp is identical in form, according to Maurer, “each possesses its own DNA.”
Milanese architect Carlotta de Bevilacqua teamed up with lighting designer Laura Pessoni on Scrittura, a “lighting alphabet” for Artemide using Bevilacqua’s own third-generation technology. Combining optics and color in a wall-mounted modular light,
the aluminum frame is embedded with nine LED lights and comes in four colors: red, green, blue, and white, with the potential to create numerous color combinations.
This year, Zaha Hadid launched seven product collections in Milan including Swirl Wall, a series of wall panels for Citco,
a Verona-based marble company. The three-dimensional
patterns—available in swirl (shown at left), lace, matrix, ridge, rift, and thorn—were
hand-carved on oversize
marble slabs. Only three copies of each panel will be available, adding a collector’s-only component to the series.
Spanish designer Patricia Urquiola created her utilitarian, multipurpose Clap chair for Kartell in green, blue, beige, white, or red upholstered fabric with a molded nylon frame in red, white, or black. The chair works well in tech conference rooms or retail shops alike.