For one week in April, designers from around the world come together in Milan to unveil new work. At Salone del Mobile, the sprawling furniture fair which saw over 300,000 visitors this year; Euroluce, the bi-annual lighting exhibition; and Fuorisalone, the offsite events, the result of years of product development and research were on-view along side elaborate branding events and art installations.
This year we were excited to see a recurring interest in greening the furniture industry. If you must consume, it should be in a responsible manner.
"As a product designer, I feel like the strongest political action that any citizen makes is buying things," says Erwan Bouroullec. "We buy things all the time, and of course, it has huge, huge consequences on the world." The Bouroullecs debuted new collections for Vitra, Artek, and Magis at Salone 2015. Always reliable for sophisticated, thoughtful designs, the Bouroullecs departed from their typical material palette with their wrought-iron chairs and tables for Magis. The rough-hewn material and revival of an early-industrial production method in contemporary furniture was refreshing. "If you compare it to cooking, to play with wrought iron is just like having an incredible fish," Bouroullec says. "In design, [manufacturing] techniques are like flavors. In the case of wrought iron, you've got a really, really rare flavor."
At designjunction Edit Milan, an offsite event in the San Babila district, the Green Room featured a curated living room of environmentally conscious furniture. Over at the fair grounds, Emeco showcased the Alfi chair by Jasper Morrison, whose seat is made from 100 percent reclaimed post-industrial polypropylene and wood fiber and base is made from ash wood.
The "natural" theme continued with Foscarini's Kurage lamp by Nendo, which sported a washi paper shade and silhouette reminiscent of a jellyfish. Brodie Neill, a designer hailing from Tasmania, launched his sinuous Alpha chair. Though made from solid wood, the perch is the product of digital fabrication and design. "To strengthen the junction between the seat and leg, we made it so there's as much surface area as possible where the two pieces fit together," Neill says. "It's almost like a bone joint. It's really solid and strong."
Engaging with technical rigor could also be seen in the Hypetex chair by Michael Sodeau, another designjunction offering. More of a concept than a production piece, the chair is made from lightweight, carbon-fiber that can be color matched to anything in the Pantone library. Engineers from the Formula-One world developed the material.
Much like 2014, 2015 saw an interest in Memphis from emerging designers as well as established brands like Cappellini. The company collaborated with Paola Navone on the Panda line of chairs, tables, and sofas. For 2016, we're hoping for new source material but the same interest in creating design that's delightful.