For 2023, Milan Design Week returned to its traditional mid-April presence in the annual, inspirational events calendar after a sun-soaked June 2022 iteration and September 2021’s SuperSalone. A design showcase of immense proportion saturated with pools of imagination, the prestigious fair Salone del Mobile acts as the week’s centerpiece. Throughout the city of Milan, official activations known as Fuorisalone provide pockets of awe, whimsy and wonder. And, in addition, even more brands, organizations and institutions stage exhibitions and installations so that it feels as if the entire city has come to life with design-oriented activities that capture the attention of thousands of design professionals and even more locals. Perhaps unsurprisingly many of this year’s most captivating presentations came from Italian brands. Though we’ve already explored the presence of Maserati and Buccellati in depth, the following ten experiences helped to define this year’s Milan Design Week.
Featuring an abundance of inspiring independent designers and their purposeful imaginings, Alcova once again settled into a sprawling indoor-outdoor location, this time the ex-public abattoir known as Porta Vittoria. As with previous years, some of the fair’s success can be attributed to the collision between pioneering design and unexpected setting (whether that’s the unkept vegetation or a deteriorating facade). This year’s slate featured more than 100 brands and designers, and their notable works took all shapes and sizes—from the fixates of Lindsey Adelman Studio to the creations of Kiki Goti, Elisa Uberti, Jonathan Bocca, Umut Yamac, a subterranean den by Mario Tsai Studio and an automated Negroni machine from MAMO.
To stage one attention-grabbing installation during Milan Design Week is a feat; to mount two transportive large-scale exhibitions, successfully, is a near impossibility. For the 20th anniversary of Dimorestudio, the atmospheric design institution (and sibling to Dimore Gallery) presented Silence at Dimorecentrale, a multi-sensory immersion,complete with olfactory elements, into distinctly imagined worlds often viewed through distortion. The thrilling, subversive installation incorporated new pieces designed by Dimoremilano. At Dimorestudio’s apartment-style space on Via Sammartini, another dreamlike environment came to life, rich with Pierre Frey textiles and stacked pieces of furniture.
With activations in their Nilufar Depot and Nilufar Gallery Via della Spiga locations, acclaimed Milan design house Nilufar (founded by Nina Yashar in 1979) set the utmost standard in quality twice. Throughout both destinations, the unifying “Bright Side of Design” exhibition incorporated elements of staggering beauty (like the site-specific installation, “Poikilos,” by Objects of Common Interest) and utter wonderment (like Maximilian Marchesani‘s organic lighting design). Nilufar enthusiasts, however, will likely be most grateful for the institution’s first-ever open edition of exquisite sofas, armchairs, tables and more.
There’s no design wonderland in Milan quite like Rossana Orlandi‘s enchanted, avant-garde outpost. For the gallery’s 2023 edition of RoCollectible, an annual exhibition, every floor was dressed in design items, some of which were classically pleasing while others were defiant of traditional convention. Within, Rossana Orlandi allowed visitors to feel a sense of discovery as treasures were observed—for instance, this Milan Design Week featured new lighting fixtures by Andrea Claire Studio. Known as the Pisces Collection, these pieces alluded to underwater movement through their use of organic shapes and aqua-hued fiberglass. The sculptural wood speakers by Jacopo Gonzato defy our understanding of sound.
A brilliant beacon for all who attended Milan Design Week, heritage lighting and furniture brand Cassina presented two eye-catching exhibitions. One, inside their Milan flagship, incorporated The Cassina Perspective On Light, an installation dedicated to extraordinary fixtures in a range of design styles. Its undeniable highlight, a preview of the “GALAXY” chandelier prototype by Charles and Ray Eames first presented in 1949 but never produced, will finally be available in 2024. Cassina’s other installation, Echoes, 50 years of iMaestri at Palazzo Broggi, celebrated the 50th anniversary of the brand’s iconic iMaestri collection.
This Milan Design Week marked a momentous occasion for prestige porcelain house Ginori 1735 as they debuted their first-ever collection of home furnishings, known as Domus. Designed by Luca Nichetto, Domus is comprised of striking lamps and tables, as well as a luscious lounge chair, an armchair and a pouf. Each and every item acts as a statement piece—underscored by impeccable craftsmanship and premium materials (including four original fabrics developed with Rubelli and Murano glass from Barovier & Toso). The highlight, a portable lamp, is as surprising as it is elegant—the essence of Ginori 1735.
In the courtyard of the historic Palazzo Borromeo d’Adda, iconic Italian design house Alessi unveiled the shimmering four-part exhibition Ars Metallica. Within each dimly lit quadrant, the maison displayed distinct new collaborations—from the Conversational Objects tableware collection by Virgil Abloh to a line of chairs by Philippe Starck (named Poêle) to Obget Inutile, an art piece designed by Salvador Dalí in 1973.
Perhaps the most delightfully eccentric installation this Milan Design Week, Nemo Lighting‘s Enlightenment exhibition with artist and designer Ron Gilad explored light fixtures in relation to humans and other forms, often in miniature. The playful, atmospheric exhibit, marking the brand’s 30th anniversary, presented orbs with floating figures, projected faces, a figurine that blocked rays of light and more.
For Milan Design Week, B&B Italia‘s impressive flagship store on Via Durini transformed into a speckled shrine to high furniture design. Visitors found British designers Edward Barber and Jay Osgerby’s plush, comfortable and sculptural Tortello sofa and armchair. Contributing to their future-forward point of view, these curvaceous, monolithic releases were molded from recycled polyethylene without the use of adhesive. Accompanying these compelling pieces, B&B Italia also debuted the Dambo modular system by Piero Lissoni, the Lemante collection of tables by Kensaku Oshiro and more.
At the Triennale Milano design museum, among the impressive temporary shows is the permanent exhibition Casa Lana, an entire room originally designed by Ettore Sottsass in the mid-’60s for lithographer and printer Giovanni Lana that’s been faithfully rebuilt on site, is now joined by the temporary Sottsass study, La Parola (The World), which runs through September 2023. Enthusiasts of the pioneering Italian architect and designer will have trouble stepping away from the magnificent immersion into his vision.
Hero image courtesy of Silvia Rivoltella