Milan Design Week 2023: Lily Kwong’s Living Installation for Buccellati’s “Rosso Maraviglia”

The Italian high jewelry maison's Venini collaboration nestles in a garden of carnivorous plants beneath a striking red dome

Above a rationalist façade constructed by legendary architect Piero Portaluppi, a temporary red mesh dome encloses an outdoor terrace populated with precious items set into islands of carnivorous plants. Designed by botanical artist Lily Kwong, these verdant moments spotlight high jewelry maison Buccellati Milan‘s new tableware items as well as their collaboration with Italian heritage glassmaker Venini. This striking site-specific installation, curated by Federica Sala for Milan Design Week 2023, is known as “Rosso Maraviglia” (Italian for “red wonders”). Altogether, it’s a marvelous confluence of organic matter, colorful glass and silver.

For the geometric structure, architect Michele De Lucchi, founder of multidisciplinary studio AMDL CIRCLE, married inspiration from the prismatic coffers of Rome’s Pantheon with a deep red that references pieces in the new Buccellati collaboration with Venini. “Our intention was to create something totally unexpected on the top of this building,” De Lucchi tells COOL HUNTING. “It’s a Portaluppi building—it is very rational and very clean. We knew we needed to build something in contrast. It’s as much a statement as it is a piece of architecture.” De Lucchi utilized perforated geometries to guarantee the passage of light and air—and to maintain the spectacular views of Milan.

Rising beneath the dome, Kwong’s dune-shaped gardens act as living pedestals for the precious collection. “When I found out that Buccellati would be showing their tableware, I started thinking about feasting and consumption and food in the plant world,” Kwong shares with us. Carnivorous plants soon arose as a theme. “They’re this really mysterious genus—they’ve evolved over millennia,” she says. “I was fascinated by their incredible architectures which emerged for biological necessity.” Kwong also took note of a pop-culture fixation with carnivorous plants and Darwin’s own 16-year obsession.

“It felt like the perfect way to explore a conversation between the plant world and the design world. Buccellati is obviously so inspired by the natural world,” Kwong says. Though she was unsure if she’d be able to find carnivorous plants en masse in Milan—she ended up with many variations, including dozens of mesmerizing Venus Flytraps. “They’re so sophisticated. They’ll only close on what they think is an insect. They won’t be fooled by a raindrop,” she says. “Each of the species that you see—the sarracenias, the pitcher plants, the dewdrops—they all have their own stories like that, their own adaptations. They’re symbols of resilience and ingenuity.”

Kwong sourced several specialized species—including tinier ones that she hopes won’t go unnoticed between the stunning tableware and the more dramatic plant life. She also hopes visitors to the installation will scour for details, and even draw correlations between the sarracenia and the form of the Venini vase.

“This collaboration is the merging of two Italian art forms: glass and silver,” Lucrezia Buccellati, co-creative director of the prestige brand (and their first woman designer), tells us. “Together, they’ve become timeless pieces that will make a statement in your home. The way Lily transformed the space—as well as the work of the architect, De Lucchi—it all enhances the silver and shows how our inspiration stems from the beauty of nature.”

Images courtesy of Buccellati