Highlights from Milan Design Week’s Decade of Ventura Projects

The imaginative Ventura Centrale and Ventura Future will return no more

Margriet Vollenberg, founder and art director of Ventura Projects (a forum for international creatives looking to launch during Milan Design Week these last 11 years), announced to the design community that her beloved series of events, installations and activations would cease. After the cancellation of the 11th edition (due to the pandemic) this year, Vollenberg was unable to salvage her company, which organized Ventura Centrale, Ventura Future and the former Ventura Lambrate locations. All three were hubs for innovation, invention, function and beauty. When touring the efforts of Ventura Projects, year after year, we discovered so much. Below are just some of our favorite installations and items from the previous decade.

David Rockwell + 2X4’s “The Diner” for Surface Magazine (2018)

Honoring the iconography of the American diner, Rockwell Group and NYC-based design studio 2X4 partnered to design a fully operational pop-up restaurant in Ventura Centrale at Milan Design Week. Conceived by Surface Magazine to celebrate their 25th anniversary, American design was expressed through four distinct (but well-known) diner styles echoing a road trip from east to west as you moved from the front of the space to the back.

Maarten Baas + Lensvelt (2017)

The 2017 Best Concept award (from the Milano Design Awards) was destined for winner Maarten Baas and his installation for Lensvelt. “May I have your attention, please?” was part of one of the most interesting areas of Design Week, Ventura Centrale. Baas filled one of the old warehouses of the Central Railway Station with chairs and megaphones. Counterintuitively, the sound emitted was not noise and cries, but just whispers coming from several different sources. The result was a clever, analog parody of the desperate desire for attention that we all live with, in the digital age.

Lee Broom’s “Time Machine” (2017)

Within an abandoned vaulted storage room next to the historic Milano Centrale station, a white carousel spun—the only object in a raw, unfinished space. On that carousel, visitors found reimagined furniture, objects and lighting drawn from 10 years’ worth of English designer Lee Broom‘s collections. As part of Milan Design Week, Broom’s Time Machine exhibition was exactly that—a referential timeline of the designer’s development. All the reimagined objects feature his signature geometric and architectural style, presented in new materials and finishes and limited to an edition of only 10 pieces each. The hero product was his latest, also named “Time Machine,” a handcrafted Carrara marble grandfather clock. Together, the collection captures the magnificence of Broom’s work, as both a catalog of well-executed ideas and as a conceptual exhibition unto itself.

Trapped Mirror by Aparentment (2015)

In the Ventura Lambrate district this year, designer Josep Vila Capdevila—who runs a Barcelona-based design studio and consultancy called Aparentment—showed lamps, mirrors, candleholders, and more from his ongoing marble accessories line called Marblelous. But we were partial to a piece called “Trapped,” a simple round mirror held inside a bent plate of blue-painted iron, copper or oxidized brass.

Lola Lely Lamps (2013)

On view at Ventura Lambrate in an exhibition put on by the London-based collective WORKs: Royal College of Art Graduates, Lola Lely‘s gorgeous PATINA project used science to create a series of corroded lamps. Working with a master patineur from East London’s Bronze Age Foundry, Lely hand-cast each piece in bronze using the lost-wax technique. The lamp shades were then patinated using chemical formulas and oxidization methods, which includes being buried in dirt for periods of time. These processes create a protective layer of corrosion that produce textures, hues and veins resembling marble and stone. The lamps were then topped off with a dark wood fixture for a touch of gloss.

Studio Itai Bar-On at the TLV Express (2012)

Also seen within the winding streets of Ventura Lambrate, “Free Concrete” was the product of Studio Itai Bar-On, part of the TLV Express collective. As the name implies, this sculptural piece was handmade with concrete, utilizing a customized bending process that allows the concrete to be rendered in lightweight, free-form figures. The process allows for the choice of a smooth surface or a rougher, more natural texture, and this piece took advantage of both with a smooth surface and a rough interior, to great effect.

Ikea PS 2012 + Knappa (2012)

During Salone del Mobile, IKEA took the opportunity to unveil the new PS 2012 collection in the emerging space from Ventura Lambrate. All the designers involved in the project were asked to go through the history of the company, reinventing old pieces and styles. The result is a colorful and clever series of objects, carpets, furniture and textiles. The real surprise with the exhibition was Knäppa, a cardboard digital camera designed by Jesper Kouthoofd for the launch of PS 2012.

Images courtesy of respective designers