Helen Berresford's notes from Milan, Salone del Mobile

20th April 2015

Milan Design Week is always a whirlwind of shapes, colour, ideas and talent – and Salone del Mobile 2015 was no different. The days following your visit, you are left to ponder what you have seen, trawling through the business cards and scrolling through iPads in order to capture the creative energy that the city and the design industry sparks. Here are just couple of ideas that have left a lasting impression on me.

Window dressing

The Serpentine Gallery, London, commissioned a series of new wallpapers that were presented in shop windows at la Rinascente, (Piazza Duomo, 20121, Milan). Pasted was as provocative as it was beautiful, displaying 13 new wallpaper designs by artists and designers. In an ephemeral world, there was something refreshing about the craft and timelessness of the designs. This focus on making was championed by Wallpaper* magazine, its exhibition Hand Made was again captivating – nothing reveals process or captures the imagination quite like a craftsman withinthe exhibition spaces battering a piece of metal!

Texture and craftsmanship are everywhere you look in Milan – from iron gates to delicately woven seat covers (image 1).

Contemplation and colour

Amongst the mayhem, it’s a good idea to find a peaceful pocket of the city to think about what you’ve seen, whether it be a church or an installation. As part of the 'Creative Energy exhibition', Daniel Libeskind's ‘Future Flowers’ installation (image 2) at the University of Milan was a carefully-executed piece and the source of contemplation. As Libeskind puts it “Colour is the essence of life”. I couldn’t have put it better myself.

The Garden of Wonder (image 3) created a feast for the senses, with striking design and scents. The installation – which takes the visitors on a captivating journey – was received very well (no doubt helped by the glorious weather we had). It is a reminder about how design can shape experience – and that goes beyond things you can see and touch.

Flexibility is an ever-present part of workspace vocabulary so it’s always interesting to see provocative pieces that go against the grain, like this very beautiful stone and copper desk (image 4). The monumentality, craftsmanship (and most probably the price-tag) are staggering. But at Milan it’s not just precious objects that are on display –simple, robust ideas also take centre stage: for example, this very elegant and simple table made from modest wooden and fittings (image 5) highlights the contrast of objects on display during Design Week.

Helen Berresford RIBA

Partner, Head of ID:SR