Karl Kolbitz’s “Entryways of Milan: Ingressi di Milano”

My new article for Cool Hunting

Over the centuries, Milan‘s style has been defined by its geographical position and illustrious history. The Italian city lies on a plain, equidistant from the sea and the mountains, and its climate is colder than Mediterranean Italy. Of course, French and Austrian dominations influenced design, architecture and overall culture. All this is clearly reflected in buildings across the city, where the great beauty is sometimes well-hidden—rigorous façades often conceal imaginative interiors, beautiful courtyards and lush gardens. That said, many Milanese buildings reveal their hidden identity starting at their entrance halls, surprising the visitors and hinting at the beauty that will be found inside.

Editor Karl Kolbitz is so passionate about this Milanese dimension that he worked with TASCHEN on a beautiful new book, aptly titled “Entryways of Milan – Ingressi di Milano.” This photographic tome shows 144 of the city’s most stunning entrance halls, focusing on the timeframe from the 1920s to the 1970s. This perhaps unexpected perspective on Italian modernism focuses on the work of not-so-famous architects as well as renowned names like Giovanni Muzio, Giò Ponti, Piero Portaluppi, and Luigi Caccia Dominioni.

Kolbitz worked on the book in collaboration with photographers Delfino Sisto Legnani, Paola Pansini and Matthew Billings. Their photos are incredibly rich, despite the architecture sometimes being sparse. Not just about visuals, the book includes thoughtful essays from international architects and lecturers such as Penny Sparke, Fabrizio Ballabio, Lisa Hockemeyer, Daniel Sherer, Brian Kish, and Grazia Signori. With detailed descriptions of each design—from materials, to architects, furniture brands, and even full addresses—this is a comprehensive guide.

A book for locals and visitors alike, Koblitz writes in the foreword, “Milan is a city that draws you in, that shows itself while screening itself at the same time. It is at once private, grandiloquent, and refined. How can it be that this city, which has exported its design all over the world, has kept so silent about its exuberant and profuse entryways?”

Entryways of Milan – Ingressi di Milano” is available online for $70.

Images courtesy of Taschen

Milan Design Week 2017: Studiopepe’s “The Visit”

My new article for Cool Hunting

How do we offer access and exclusivity through design at the same time? How do we maintain intimacy in the age of social media? These are questions that seem to have yielded one of our favorite projects at Milan Design Week this year; “The Visit” by Studiopepe. Set inside the Brera Design Apartment, a private space of multiple identities in the heart of Brera (one of the most elegant and design-savvy neighborhoods of Milan), the installation was arranged in and as a real home. It was a space begging to be lived in, far from the classic commercial presentations and galleries just outside.

“The Visit” extended afterward the festival, but reservations were required throughout. In a way public and private at the same time, the exhibition offered a peaceful reprieve during design week’s hectic scheduling. Arianna Lelli Mami and Chiara Di Pinto, founders of Studiopepe, were always present to welcome guests and eager to describe every single detail of the never boring, always elegant space. Vintage pieces, works of art, colorful walls, masterful lighting, materials of all sorts—everything united to create a game of contrasts. This was Studiopepe’s manifesto, and their most complete project to date. Further, it reflects the values of the new Milanese interior design movement.

The project was born in a private moment, in one of the most famous design spots in Milan, Lelli Mami explains to us. “More than a single product or set-up,” she says, “We wanted to tell a rite, a gesture, that of visiting the intimate dimension of the apartment. It all began from a chat between Chiara and me at Bar Basso.” All of this intimacy is evident through the experience.

Entering felt like a visit to a friend’s home. The reason why is simple, “After working for projects in larger spaces, showrooms and fairs, we were looking for a more intimate dimension, [that would be] able to unveil what we are and what we like through details. This is the intimate atmosphere that we would like to bring—even in a non-domestic project, like a hotel,” Lelli Mami says. “When we design our objects, we always think of a house, where to place them, and what kind of person may like them. As creative directors, we love each project to tell a story.” In fact, being at “The Visit” one could imagine stories about the possible inhabitants of the place, and narratives that could originate a novel or even a movie.

Studiopepe’s touch and taste in interior design becomes clearer and clearer with every project. When we ask Lelli Mami about their artistic and cultural references she explains, “We love Gio Ponti a lot and all the design milieu of those years, where there was really a happy design vision and an intense intellectual exchange between creative minds. We love a delicate, intense and ironic feminine touch, from Charlotte Perriand to Sonia Delaunay, to Nanda Vigo and Natalie du Pasquier. At an artistic level Brancusi is, for us, an inexhaustible source of inspiration and joy, for its very strong, hard yet poetic, masculine—in antithesis to what has been said before.”

“Our work allows us to continue to discover and look at what may seem common or everyday with ever-new eyes, this is a great deal of privilege,” she continues. “Being a duo and having a studio with several people will definitely help in this process. We would like to find a container to carry out this research and to systematize it. And eventually in our near future there will be a book.” We look forward to their continued evolution.

Images by Paolo Ferrarini

Milano Design Award 2017: Winning Installations

My new article for Cool Hunting

Each year, after visiting Milan Design Week, everybody wants to discuss their own list of favorites. A few years ago Elita had the idea of turning the gatherings of designers and friends that used to happen at Valentina Ventrelli’s home into a real award. Milano Design Award is, to date, the only of its kind devoted to celebrating the best installations of the Fuorisalone, otherwise known as the events that happen in the city not the fairgrounds. One of the goals of this award is to document the evolution of taste and the emerging trends at Milan Design Week. However, it also aims to recognize the work of the international community of design.

After seven years, the Award is now also supported by the design districts of Milan. They help in the preliminary selection from the more than 1500 events that happen in our city’s most intense week of the year. The seventh edition award ceremony took place at La Triennale di Milano on 6 April 2017 and was opened by two lifetime achievement awards, meant for people and companies that built the history of Fuorisalone. The winners were Cappellini for the category of historical company in the field and Tom Dixon for his work as a designer, both of which were awarded by Giuseppe Sala, Mayor of Milan.

The international jury was chaired by Luca Cipelletti (architect and winner of the 2016 edition) and composed of Illustrator Olimpia Zagnoli, designer Giorgio Di Salvo, Marco Velardi (founder and director of Apartamento magazine) and Cool Hunting’s co-founder and executive editor Evan Orensten.

LG’s “S.F._Senses of the Future,” hosted by Superstudio Più in via Tortona, took this year’s top honors. The installation, designed by Tokujin Yoshioka, made use of OLED technology to create an overwhelming yet poetic environment. Yoshioka imagined a series of sculptural chairs made with transparent glass and monitors that displayed abstract images of colors and shapes derived from natural landscapes. The backdrop was an impressive wall of 30,000 tiny OLED screens, which powerfully mimics the vibrance and intensity of sunlight.

Foundation, an exhibition that showcased the work of Formafantasma at Spazio Krizia, by two Amsterdam-based Italian-born designers gained two awards: Best Technology and Press Choice. Foundation presented the light experiments made by Formafantasma. Their work is centered on an artistic approach toward technology and the essential installation was mainly orchestrated through the light and color effects created by the objects on display.

One other category, Best Concept, 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.

This year’s Best Storytelling Award went to Panasonic’s “Electronics Meets Crafts,” designed by GO ON and Panasonic Design with Shuichi Furumi. As the title clearly states, Panasonic’s desire has been to reveal the beauty of the most traditional Japanese crafts in combination with their most sophisticated technologies. The installation was made of three different stages, hosted in the historic Accademia di Brera, the most prestigious Italian art academy. The first space was a theater in which inspirational videos were projected onto a screen made of precious kimono fabrics. The second phase presented artisanal Japanese daily objects like tea pots, bamboo lamps, wooden buckets—all of which were filled with hi-tech products. Curiously, you could hear the sounds of the forest coming from the tea pots, the buckets were able to keep sake at the right temperature, and the lamps had no visible light source. The third and last step showcased collaborative work conducted by Panasonic with the design students of the Accademia.

One of the most photographed installation of the week was “New Spring,” designed by Studio Swine for COS. Their minimalistic tree created bubbles filled with perfumed smoke and visitors lined up for hours to pop them and to take photos and selfies. Such a level of involvement, the emotion and the smiles it created were among the reasons for which the jury decided to give them Milano Design Award for Best Engagement.

The Unicorn is a new entry in the competition and its goal is to award installations that are difficult to define, those which stand at the crossroads of disciplines and inspirations. The winner of the Unicorn was “Superfollies” by Nobody&co in collaboration with Studio Toogood and Arabeschi di Latte. The installation was set in a beautiful private garden, usually closed to the public, once the area in which the horses of the Royal Palace were kept. This history is what motivated the company to ask Toogood to create small shelters for objects—an installation that used dollhouses and dog houses and more to conceal design items. Further, the cute little wooden unicorn that served as the physical prize is a sculpture by artist Duilio Forte, who also imagined the other colorful horses that have become a coveted symbol of Milan Design Week.

“New Spring” image by Josh Rubin, ceremony image courtesy of Milano Design Award, all others by Paolo Ferrarini

Interview: Curator Joseph Grima of Space Caviar

My new article for Cool Hunting

Player Piano: A Subjective Atlas of a Landscape of Labour” was one of the most cerebral, engaging exhibitions we saw at this year’s 10th Biennale Internationale Design Saint-Etienne. It was the final exhibition in the exploration of the Cité du Design, the event’s primary location. Here, the 1000-square-meter room appeared to be almost empty. A round, metallic stage sat in the middle of the former-industrial space and was surrounded by dozens of monitors that showed scenes of laborers working all over the world. Live piano music was in the air but there was no pianist. In fact, the score was composed and played in real time by a robot. This presence, as well as the title, is inspired by “Player Piano,” a 1952 dystopian novel written by Kurt Vonnegut, where automation takes over humans. Visitors to this exhibition felt a clear sense of invasion of technology and a desire to be free from it.

Joseph Grima from Space Caviar curated the exhibition. We met him to discuss this piece and the mutations of physical work, which was the theme of the entire design biennial.

Don’t you feel that every visitor to the space immediately asks, “Where are we?”

Well, we are sitting at the moment underneath the island of Abraxa. This project was commissioned by Olivier Peyricot, the director of Saint-Etienne Biennale, as a conclusion to this reflection that he organized through the Biennale on the nature of work. Work is something that defines culture and it has a very strong link with design, but it is also in rapid transformation. This is a very hot topic right now, [and there’s] a lot of both pessimism and optimism, fear and also excitement.

Did he give you specific guidance for the commission?

Being the last exhibition on the circuit, Olivier asked us to react and to look toward the future. The idea that we wanted to suggest with this exhibition is the dream of liberation from work and from the dread of technology. These are ideas that we’ve been thinking about for a very long time, that we’ve been struggling with for three million years. We were very interested in reframing these questions as timeless questions, and liberating them a little bit from this very constrained perspective of the present. We’ve been embarking on a journey and attempting to remove ourselves from this oppressive presence, and to look at these questions in historical terms.

Can you explain how you gave shape to such an abstract concept?

We decided to set up a kind of fictional narrative. We decided to propose to the visitors a journey to the island of Abraxa. Abraxa is an interesting place because it was mentioned first by Thomas More as the original territory in which Utopia was constructed. So we set up this island in a place that is not specified and also a time that is not specified. We began to populate it with a series of stories, micro narratives and scenarios, which you can seen walking around the space.”

The stories of work and labor are all over the place but not as an oppressive presence. How did you achieve this?

We went to 20 countries to get all of this footage. Some of them we had to travel for a week to get. At the same time, we didn’t want to do it on how many places we went to. So at the entrance we simply list the locations, because the point is not where they were or how much work we did, but more like a simple concept of correlation. They’re all real, but we were not interested in the reality. We were interested in presenting fictional characters or fictional scenarios, so we removed all specificity of time and place, and simply presented them as a whole. Our intention was that it would be a little bit like editing a film through the movement of your body, that you would be taken through a series of transitions of connections and relations. And through all of this, it suggests the possibility of a completely different reading of history.

Where does this come from?

This is essentially what Abraxa tends to suggest, the possibility of a less pessimistic reading of the future than “Player Piano” by Vonnegut. This installation is in a way an homage to a great writer, but also an attempt to reframe his narrative, his fiction, presenting it instead as a not-inevitable future. It’s a very dark novel, very pessimistic. Speaking of technology and speaking of automation, it’s very easy to be drawn into a kind of deterministic dystopian narrative.”

So you avoid oppression and darkness?

We wanted it to be a little bit lighthearted, and the visit concludes with a kind of touristic apex, which is the binoculars in which you look through and you can see the inhabitants of Abraxa beginning to collaborate to create a civilization. Over the period of one month, civilization becomes increasingly complex. And it will begin to make interventions, it’ll begin to transform the landscape.”

What about the future of work? What do you personally think about the digital transformations of our working life?

I agree that it is necessary to retake the control and to not simply become passive subjects of a sort of new liberal market driven universal reality in which there’s no alternative. And instead, begin to dictate those terms of the future that we create and to retake control of the political terms in which technology is deployed. And I think that this is also an invitation to designers, architects and practitioners to again immerse themselves to take control, to become engaged again, not simply in thinking around or researching, but creating and inventing the future.”

Screen image courtesy of Biennale Internationale Design Saint-Etienne, all other images by Paolo Ferrarini


Dear Data Postcard Project

My new article for Cool Hunting

Dear Data,” an “analog data drawing project” founded and conducted by Giorgia Lupiand Stefanie Posavec, is essentially a personal data visualization correspondence exchange between the aforementioned artists, illustrated by hand on postcards. Lupi in Brooklyn and Posavec in London sent each other a postcard each week for a year. The 104 postcards are now a book in two editions—one for the US and one for the EU. Further, the entire set of postcards was recently acquired by NYC’s MoMA for its permanent collection.

It all started in 2013 with an encounter at the Eyeo Festival in Minneapolis. Lupi says, “I was familiar with Stefanie’s work very well before meeting her in person. It has always fascinated me how elegant, detailed, sublime and poetic her visualizations are. Her crafted and laborious way of working with data touches profound chords, I admired her process and body of work long before encountering her in real life.” Posavec explains, “We ended up talking to each other because we realized that we had a lot in common, but mainly because we both approached data visualization from a very handmade place. We didn’t code like many of our fellow data visualization colleagues but instead would use sketching and drawing as a way of coming up with new visual languages for representing data, and, for us, we saw this handmade process as vital to our creative/design process.” Of course the similarities weren’t simply professional, they hit it off personally too—both are only children and expats—and over a beer, they decided to collaborate.

“Ten days after we split and came back to our cities, I got an email from Stefanie, and everything started,” Lupi tells us. “From there on and for the following two months a copious number of emails flooded, where we over time refined the concept of our collaboration: daily or weekly datasets to work on, daily or weekly data-drawings, parallel types of data, finding a human and personal twist on the data. Ultimately we decided to work with our personal data, gathering information about ourselves to share with the other person, in an attempt to use data and drawings—the material we both work with—to get to know each other, over the course of the year.” The project—sending postcards to each other weekly—grew quite organically. Lupi says the idea of being ‘data pen pals’ “seemed incredibly compelling, and we decided to take in the risk that some of our postcards might get lost or damaged during their travel.”

While they were essentially gathering data, they also had to track it. “Initially, we had the crazy idea that we would collect our data manually; hand-writing all of our logs and details on a little Moleskine,” Lupi says. “But after the first week we agreed that it was just insane: to make our data collection sustainable over time and as less intrusive possible to our lives, we could use digital apps to jot down our data. Stefanie and I collected our data in different ways. I have been using different types of apps such as Evernote or the Reporter app, which is a very powerful tool for data recording if you know what types of ‘questions’ to set up. We also needed to get creative and find ways to quickly note things down on pieces of paper or even drawing a little reminder on our hands in all of these situations where it would be impolite to pull out our phones.”

It’s unsurprising that a project combining technology, design and personal stories would evolve into a book, but Lupi says it’s more than that. “The book obviously started with the project and it is based on our stories in form of data postcards for the year, but our collection of postcards is actually the starting point for an evolving conversation and another kind of back and forth between the two of us around our approach to data: around the importance of working with personal data with awareness and attention and expanding and elaborating on how we can use data as a material to connect with ourselves at a deeper level and to address even the trickiest matters in our minds.”

Since “Dear Data” was executed by Lupi and Posavec alone, collecting data in their own ways to create something together yet autonomous, the book evolved into something quite different. “The book was designed through lots of compromise and discussion as designers—which also helped us learn more about each other,” Lupi says. “It was also a great benefit in the end—as a designer, it can be very easy to think your way is always the right way, so through this continual discourse and debate we have been able to extend ourselves and see different solutions than what we might have normally taken.”

Their project is now part of the permanent collection at NYC’s MoMA. Lupi says, “Paola Antonelli (MoMA’s design curator) has been collecting data visualization for MoMA for a while now: Martin Wattenberg, Fernanda Viegas, Ben Fry, and Nicholas Felton are just a few prominent data visualization names who have also been acquired… We are so honored to have our work in the same collection as so many design and art masters, and we believe it also reinforces the value in experimenting and working on the edges of different disciplines (design / art / data visualization) in order to move all these disciplines forward.” Posavec explains the process took some time, as the team at MoMA decided whether or not to acquire the piece, “Stefanie and I spent months keeping all our fingers crossed, hoping the MoMA acquisition committee would agree with Paola that our work was worth being acquired. Needless to say, we couldn’t be happier and prouder and a multitude of other adjectives that our project has found the most incredibly permanent home.”

Images courtesy of Cassell & Co

Tra natura e artificio

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Un articolo che ho scritto per #MClikes, in edicola con Marie Claire di ottobre 2016

PROVIAMO A IMMAGINARE un mondo in cui la natura si contrappone al progresso tecnologico, un tempo nel quale il partito della plastica va in direzione opposta rispetto a chi vuole solo materiali natural-eco-bio, una fase che vede da una parte chi vuole un progresso fantascientifico e dall’altra gli amanti del “si stava meglio quando si stava peggio”. Stiamo ovviamente parlando degli anni 60, quando PACO RABANNE sorprendeva con abiti fatti di dischi di acetato e alluminio e Joe Colombo arredava le case con mobili di plastica bianca. Gli stessi anni in cui i figli dei fiori volevano solo fiori di campo e non fiori usciti da uno stampo, pensavano solo a fare l’amore, possibilmente dopo essersi sfilati larghi abiti di cotone, scarpe di canapa e cappelli di paglia. La storia si ripete, ma non torna mai uguale a se stessa. Anche oggi nutriamo fiducia nel futuro tecnologico, ma ne temiamo le conseguenze e calibriamo le nostre scelte con cibi biologici e auto ecologiche. Forse stiamo diventando tutti animisti, come i giapponesi, e stiamo iniziando a percepire che dentro tutte le cose c’è una piccola parte vivente, un’anima che esprime la natura stessa di quello che tocchiamo. E non importa se sia fatto dall’uomo o da Madre Natura, se sia artificiale o naturale: la vita dei materiali è diventata un argomento via via più interessante.

Oggi la materia delle cose diventa ricca di storie da scoprire e da raccontare, a partire dal cibo per arrivare agli oggetti di design e di moda. Non è solo una questione di salute, intolleranze o allergie, ma di conoscenza e rassicurazione. In Italia il mercato del cibo biologico cresce senza sosta, ma possiamo anche trovare facilmente capi in cotone bio, persino da ZARA e H&M. Il legno FSC (quello raccolto senza danneggiare le foreste) è ormai alla base di moltissimi progetti di design di qualità, dai mobili ai pavimenti in parquet. Abbiamo fatto tanti passi avanti dai tempi della canapa grezza e ruvida dei frequentatori dell’isola di Wight: oggi buono e bello vanno a braccetto, e sarà sempre più vero nei materiali del futuro. Il cortocircuito tra cibo bio e moda bio porta nuova consapevolezza, ma crea anche qualche situazione al limite del surreale. Come per esempio quando si va da Stella McCartney e si scopre che le sue scarpe sono «per vegetariani». Vuol dire che ce le possiamo mangiare anche nei venerdì di quaresima? Ovviamente no, ma possiamo stare certi che nessun animale è stato toccato per la loro realizzazione. Stella sarà sicuramente felice se MODERN MEADOW riuscirà nell’intento di mettere in produzione i suoi pellami coltivati in laboratorio. Infatti la start up inglese sta sviluppando molti materiali ecologici partendo da cellule bovine e ovine. La somiglianza con la pelle reale è impressionante e sono arrivati addirittura ad avere un’innovativa pelle trasparente. La soia fermentata è considerata un superfood, ma al MIT DI BOSTON sono riusciti a trasformarla in un alleato per il design. BIOLOGIC è un processo di stampa 3D che consente ai tessuti di diventare vivi. I batteri derivati dalla fermentazione della soia sono sensibili a calore e umidità e possono reagire di conseguenza. Con una speciale stampante, sottili strisce di batteri vengono depositate su lamelle di tessuto, che si possono così aprire quando il nostro corpo è caldo o chiudere quando è freddo. Ed ecco che l’abbigliamento diventa tecnologico e biologico allo stesso tempo, grazie a bio-trigger che funzionano con la rapidità e l’efficacia di un microchip. O di un Bifidus Regularis.

La vita degli oggetti non è fatta solo di materiali, ma anche di idee, di hardware e software. GOOGLE è forse l’azienda più immateriale al mondo, ma sperimenta parecchio con la dimensione fisica. Il progetto “Jacquard”, sviluppato con LEVI’S, è da togliere il fiato: i tessuti più classici sono integrati con fili sensibili e invisibili, che in sostanza trasformano ogni superficie tessile in un touch screen. Le applicazioni sono varie: dal bracciolo del divano che diventa un telecomando al polsino della camicia che toccheremo per aprire la porta di casa. Basta solo immaginare. Vita, morte, ma anche miracoli. Miracoli laici, per carità, quelli della scienza e della tecnologia, che oggi ci indicano abitudini che con tutta probabilità avremo in futuro. Molto spesso è una questione di contesto, di materiali che esistono già, che vengono perfezionati, e messi in un posto che mai ci saremmo aspettati. Quando abbiamo avuto per le mani i primi dispositivi mobili (pc portatili, ma anche databank, scacciapensieri e Tamagotchi vari) ci saremmo immaginati un futuro fatto solo di plastica e un po’ di metallo. Nella sua autobiografia, Steve Jobs racconta che senza lo schermo in vetro l’iPhone non sarebbe mai nato. Pensiamoci: portiamo in tasca un grosso pezzo di vetro. Pericoloso? No, perché non è vetro comune, ma un vetro reinventato e ipertecnologico. Chi immagina gli aggeggi mobili di domani prefigura la scomparsa dei materiali di contorno, a favore di un semplice rettangolone di vetro robustissimo e flessibile, sul quale comparirà per magia tutto il nostro mondo digitale. E dove potremo magari scaricare il file per stampare le nostre scarpe. UNITED NUDE vende sul suo sito non solo scarpe fatte e finite, ma anche i file per le “Float Shoes”, da acquistare proprio come facciamo per musica e film. Serve poi una stampante 3D per trasformarli in oggetti indossabili.

Non si tratta di un fenomeno di massa, ma se torniamo per un attimo in Giappone vedremo che le utopie tecnovisionarie sono spesso già parte della vita quotidiana. Andiamo per esempio a osservare i materiali che usa UNIQLO, il gigante del retail che ha recentemente dichiarato di voler diventare il più grande produttore di abbigliamento al mondo. E ci vuole arrivare unendo moda e tecnologia. Infatti le sue linee di maggior successo sono fatte di colori vivaci, capi semplici da indossare, ma anche di materiali hi-tech e performanti, come i capi “AIRism” e “HeatTech”, freschissimi per l’estate e caldissimi per l’inverno. Non hanno bisogno di manutenzione particolare e possono essere sbattuti in lavatrice. Ma sta già accadendo ben altro. La luce negli abiti e negli oggetti è ormai una realtà, soprattutto grazie all’evoluzione della tecnologia a led. Abbiamo visto sulla passerella di VERSACE aitanti runner in abiti luminescenti con fibre ottiche. Non è difficile immaginare che tra un po’ tutti gli appassionati di running indosseranno abiti e accessori dotati di luce propria, per rendersi più visibili (autisti e ciclisti urbani sanno essere pericolosi) ma anche per farsi notare (lo stile prima di tutto, anche nello sport). Se gli adolescenti italiani sono già impazziti per le suole psichedeliche delle scarpe WIZE & OPE, NIKE ha annunciato la messa in commercio delle HYPERADAPT, scarpe da running con luci segnaletiche che si allacciano da sole, proprio come quelle di Marty McFly in Ritorno al futuro. Sempre parlando di scarpe, ma passando ai prototipi, vale la pena di citare le VIXOLE SHOES. Sneakers dal design contemporaneo e pulito, le Vixole sono dotate di un monitor fatto di microscopici led e possono cambiar pelle, come un tecnocamaleonte. Si può cambiare il colore, ma anche trasmettere immagini, persino video. Che ovviamente si possono collegare anche con le notifiche di POKÉMON GO, per vedere – letteralmente – i mostriciattoli nei dintorni e prenderli. Realtà virtuale? Realtà aumentata? Forse, ma quello che sicuramente troveremo nel futuro saranno materiali a sensibilità aumentata, piacevoli per il corpo e la mente.

Design Studio Garcia Cumini on their Cesar Unit kitchen


My latest article for Cool Hunting.

The design of kitchens for the last 20 years seems to have focused primarily on two styles reflecting two opposite poles: classical or country versus contemporary or industrial. It’s become very difficult today to find real alternatives, contemporary designs able to make a kitchen look non-obvious and original. That said, there are options, one of which happens to a newly revamped Italian company. Cesar carries nearly 50 years of history in the kitchen sector. Gina Cester, Cesar’s CEO, is determined to define the next chapter, and has called upon the support of Garcia Cumini‘s design studio—the newly appointed artistic directors of Cesar.

The first project designed entirely by Vicente Garcia and Cinzia Cumini is Unit—a system that wants to shift the idea of a kitchen as a fixed object to that of a concept with free elements. During a recent meeting, Garcia and Cumini told us about their new work, starting with their relationship to both the industrial and the domestic kitchen. “The Bauhaus movement,” Garcia explains, “was a pioneer in defining functions, even for this area of the home. It triggered the basic principles of modularity. Since then, many things have changed, but the kitchen remains a very technical space, even though it’s an emotional and special area. In the last decades the offer from kitchen manufacturers was centered on that—technical and material aspects—but the formal side has been linked mainly to modularity and design of cabinet doors. This happened for so long that sometimes it’s hard to see the differences between kitchens from different manufacturers.”

Unit is designed to meet this need. “The objective of Unit is to connect the practicality and ergonomics of the professional kitchen with the humanity of the home kitchen,” Cumini continues. “With our research, we tried to carry the product in a freer design dimension, where the kitchen becomes a single object—such as a table or chair, and no longer an object tied to the size of one single space, or a space designed to measure from wall to wall.”

To achieve this goal the technical choices the duo made were very important. “From an ergonomic point of view,” Cumini shares, “it allows a more comfortable position while you cook because you can put your feet under the containment volume. Research and development at Cesar has allowed the creation of Unit in such a way that frees 2.4 meters of floor space.” This allows occupants the ability to move freely while cooking, without being impeded by their own appliances. Further, “the internal construction has been engineered so completely different from the rest of the kitchens on the market—combining lightweight materials that do not belong to the world of cooking, with traditional materials in this field. As it happens, for example, in the automotive industry when different metals are used in different parts of the chassis depending on their function.”

From an aesthetic standpoint, it is the handles and the materials that compose them which seem very different from the standards to which we are accustomed. “We wanted to bring back the handle as a functional element but also as a decoration,” Garcia adds. “For these reasons we designed two handles for Unit with two completely different personalities, in five finishes. Shell is a handle with a compact size that has been inspired by the classic recessed handles of country kitchens. Eero, instead, has been designed around the idea of realizing a bridge handle. Also the adjustable feet are small functional details that we wanted to become graphic elements.”

“The materials and the colors are also a very important point in this project, because it is that which gives human touch and bring the flavor of the professional kitchen at home,” Garcia explains. “When you imagine a professional kitchen you always think of the practicality of stainless steel, but we also wanted an object that would give warmth and cheer or simply be able to express the taste of the people, not just another finish. [We have therefore chosen] wood, mortar, steel, rolled products, magnetic lacquer—coordinated to Amani and Carrara marbles, slate, Piacenza stone, steel, ceramic and Corian.” All of this lends the kitchen something beyond what we’ve come to expect.

Another addition to the Garcia Cumini line for Cesar is the Wall Waiter: a vertical system that was designed as a horizontal kitchen top. Here classic—albeit lit up—shelves can become containers since they can be folded up to hide objects. As a simple yet clever solution to the stagnation of the kitchen, anyone who lives and uses such a room will surely appreciate what the brand has done to shed new light.

Studio Job + Alessi’s Comtoise Clock


My latest article for Cool Hunting.

Best known for their unique creative approach that merges art and design, Studio Job‘s creations are oftentimes easily recognized. The two Flemish designers leading the studio (Job Smets and Nynke Tynagel) have a knack for using plenty of symbols—from the esoteric to the digital, and the classic to the obscure. During Milan Design Week we spoke with Smets about the industry as a whole, and the studio’s latest creation: the Comtoise Clock, designed for iconic Italian design house Alessi.

Studio Job (which is now made up of 20 people) is in the process of creating several products for Alessi, and the collaboration has been a long time coming. “I met Alberto Alessi for the first time, I think, in 2003 and then we didn’t have any contact for at least 10-15 years,” Smet tells us. “I thought [a collaboration] would never happen.” In the end, the timing has proven to be perfect, because a decade ago, the studio was leaning toward art more than design. But now, Smets says, there’s a balance that has aligned them with Alessi’s desires.

After gaining a little more understanding about Alessi’s production methods and catalogue, thanks to a visit at their plant and a brainstorming session with the team, Smets says Studio Job asked themselves, “‘What has never been done within Alessi?’ And tin—like tin that can be used for soup cans—never really had been adopted there.”

The result is the Comtoise, which is smothered in classic and modern-day symbolism—from hands forming a peace sign to arrows, diamonds, pills and bananas. The clock has an overall nostalgic visual language. “[We wanted] embossing and color, to make it become like an old cookie tin. Everyone has an old cookie tin, everyone still knows what it is,” Smets says. “For us, it was perfect because we’ve got the perfect combination between what Nynke does and what I do. The shape of the clock refers to the 18th century, something which my parents had hanging on the wall when I was young. That makes the design personal and that’s what we need these days,” Smets tells us.

Like so many industries, design has evolved a lot over the past decade. Smets is positive about all the changes, however, and predicts a kind of design renaissance. “We are living again in this sort of post-modern era, and also the identity of a designer becomes more and more important in the way that they develop personal products instead of modernist products… The fields are overlapping a little bit and this is really great. If you look at our office, we work in art, we work in design, we work in fashion and music and architecture, graphic design, 3D design, product development and corporate identities.” In many ways, the Comtoise Clock represents an intersection between art and design, and again, the past and present of both.

Comprendere la Design Week

Il mio editoriale per il lancio di Fuorisalone Magazine.

Quest’anno Fuorisalone.it si arricchisce di una nuova sezione, un percorso di riflessione e scoperta che prende il via due mesi prima della settimana che tutti aspettiamo con un misto di entusiasmo, attesa e trepidazione. Fuorisalone Magazine ci accompagnerà fino all’inizio della Design Week, quando – come di consueto – entreranno in gioco la guida e i racconti dal vivo dei nostri reporter.

Nel percorso di realizzazione di Fuorisalone Magazine abbiamo incontrato molte persone che costruiscono la Design Week di Milano con le loro idee e con le loro azioni. Abbiamo strutturato le pagine di questa pubblicazione cercando di rispecchiare l’esperienza più viva e diretta degli operatori del settore e degli amanti di design, senza distinzione di ruolo, convinti che in aprile, per le strade e nei padiglioni di Milano, ci troveremo a sperimentare il vero potere del design: comprendere.

Comprendere significa capire e ascoltare, ma anche accogliere il mondo a casa propria, esattamente come fa Milano, che per una settimana diventa la città più internazionale e creativa del pianeta. Abbiamo cercato di comprendere anche noi, attraverso gli approfondimenti dei Focus, con le novità dei protagonisti di Discover, ma anche con le Stories delle aziende che il design lo pensano e lo producono. La generosità degli intervistati nella sezione People ci ha confermato ancora una volta che quando si parla di quella settimana, tutti hanno qualcosa di meraviglioso da raccontare. E non importa se sei nei libri di storia del design o dall’altra parte del mondo, il cuore e la mente si aprono alla discussione e alla comprensione.

Intervista a Giorgia Lupi


La mia intervista a Giorgia Lupi, pubblicata sul Brera Design District Magazine in occasione del Salone del Mobile 2016

Per l’edizione 2016, le attività di Brera Design District ruotano attorno al tema “Progettare è ascoltare”, un tema che sottolinea la forza didattica e formativa del buon design. Se è vero che un bravo insegnante è colui che riesce ad immaginare le persone per quello che ancora non sono, un bravo designer (di qualsiasi disciplina) riesce a mostrarci il mondo come sarà.
E in questo contesto, ricerca e ascolto sono legati a doppio filo. Per questo motivo il premio Lezioni di Design 2016 è stato attribuito a Giorgia Lupi, data designer italiana che da anni opera a New York. Fondatrice di Accurat, Giorgia rappresenta la nuova generazione di designer capaci di superare il concetto classico di “design del prodotto” per arrivare all’elaborazione di materiali puramente immateriali.

Intervista a cura di Paolo Ferrarini

Giorgia Lupi è un’information designer italiana, co-fondatrice e design-director di Accurat, uno studio di ricerca dati innovativa, attento al design. Abita a Brooklyn, disegna, ricerca, scrive. Il suo lavoro attraversa spesso il divario tra digitale e stampato, esplorando modelli visuali e metafore per rappresentare storie piene di dati. Nel suo lavoro, Giorgia sfida l’impersonalità che i dati comunicano,la progettazione di narrazioni visive che raccontano i numeri in base a ciò che rappresentano: conoscenze, comportamenti, persone.

Per fare il tuo lavoro, si deve “ascoltare” il mondo, bisogna sintonizzarsi a tempo pieno su una modalità di ascolto. Come riesci a farlo? È qualcosa che accade spontaneamente o c’è una maniera specifica per riuscirci?
Sì, assolutamente. Per essere un data visualization designer bisogna trovare nuovi modi di attirare le persone attraverso nuovi linguaggi e nuove soluzioni che accanto al fatto di essere funzionali, precise e adeguate devono essere magnetiche e sorprendenti. Proprio in questo senso credo che imparare ad “ascoltare virtualmente” il mondo sia essenziale: imparare come vedere è essenziale per imparare come fare design. Imparare a vedere e a capire quali sono le qualità estetiche che attirano i nostri occhi in merito a ciò che ci circonda, è essenziale per i creatori di qualsivoglia tipo. Ciò che faccio ogni volta in cui comincio qualsiasi tipo di progetto è concedere a me stessa di essere veramente ispirata da ciò che mi circonda. Cercare degli indizi in contesti insoliti è una buona maniera per scoprire e setacciare le qualità estetiche di tutte le cose che mi piacciono, come fonte continua di ispirazione, e per essere in grado di astrarle e di introdurle come principi basilari e linee guida nel mio lavoro. Facendo soltanto attenzione a ciò che accade nella nostra mente quando guardiamo il mondo intorno a noi, possiamo sforzarci di imparare come vedere e come riconoscere gli elementi qualitativi e riportarli mentre creiamo qualcosa di nuovo.

Sostieni di essere particolarmente attratta da “forme comuni” di visualizzazione. Qual è la relazione tra familiarità e innovazione nel tuo lavoro?
Ho capito di essere ispirata soprattutto da linguaggi visivi che sono in qualche modo già convenzionali, alla cui estetica è familiare per la nostra mente: se una serie di norme estetiche per le forme, i colori e la composizione spaziale funzionano in un contesto che osservo, credo che ci dovrebbe essere una modalità di applicarle al design al quale sto lavorando. I contesti visivi ai quali mi riferisco sono arte astratta, ma anche l’estetica ripetitiva delle note musicali, specialmente della musica contemporanea, o il sistema di stratificazione dei disegni in architettura o addirittura le forme e gli elementi degli oggetti e degli elementi naturali: ambienti visivi ai quali le nostre menti possono fare riferimento senza necessariamente coglierli appieno. Definirei poi il design di successo come quello in grado di equilibrare gli aspetti convenzionali (ad esempio le forme con le quali le nostre menti hanno già familiarità) e gli aspetti nuovi: nuovi elementi che possono coinvolgere e dare piacere alle persone nella speranza che si tratterrà sulle nostre visualizzazioni un pochino di più, e nella speranza di poter contribuire allo sviluppo del dibattito nel nostro ambito.

Potresti essere definita artigiana dei dati? Qual è il ruolo del lavoro manuale nel tuo ambito?
Mi piace! Infatti lavoro con i dati in una maniera estremamente manuale. Quando lavoro su qualsiasi tipo di progetto di visualizzazione di dati, produco tonnellate di schizzi addirittura prima di inserire i dati in qualsiasi tipo di strumento che può restituirmeli in un grafico. Produco degli schizzi per comprendere come organizzare i dati a livello di spazio, per definire sia l’architettura della composizione che gli aspetti visivi dei minimi dettagli. Ho sempre utilizzato questo processo laborioso come un modo di implicarmi con i dati prima di creare le visualizzazioni digitali finali. Per molti lettori, il termine “data visualization” potrebbe essere associato con competenze nell’ambito della programmazione pesante, software complessi e tanti numeri per la gran parte, ma, che lo si creda o no, tantissimi dei designer della visualizzazioni di dati utilizzano gli schizzi di vecchio stampo e le tecniche di disegno su foglio come loro strumento principale di lavoro: producono degli schizzi con i dati per capire ciò che è presente nel numero e come organizzare quelle quantità in maniera visiva per trarne un significato.

Molte persone temono che l’eccesso di dati possa uccidere la spontaneità, ma tu ha detto che i dati possono aiutarci a vivere una vita migliore. Com’è possibile?
Per il progetto Dear Data, ho impiegato più di un anno a raccogliere dei dati personali su diverse tematiche (le mie ossessioni, le mie routine, i miei desideri, i miei pensieri negativi, i miei pensieri positivi, un po’ della mia relazione con il mio partner…). Ma invece di fare affidamento su una app di auto-rilevamento digitale, ho raccolto i dati a livello manuale, aggiungendo il contesto di ognuno dei miei log, e pertanto rendendoli davvero personali, soltanto su di me. Nel momento in cui stanno proliferando le app di auto-rilevamento e il numero di dati personali che possiamo raccogliere su di noi aumenta nel tempo, dovremmo aggiungere significato in maniera attiva e contestuale al nostro rilevamento. Non dovremmo aspettarci che la app ci dica qualcosa su di noi senza sforzarci in maniera attiva, dobbiamo seriamente implicarci per dare un senso ai nostri dati. Mi piace dire che i dati possono essere uno stato d’animo, che possono essere un atteggiamento più che una questione di competenze e di strumenti, e da ultimo che i dati possono aiutarci a diventare più umani e connetterci con noi stessi a un livello più profondo, se indossiamo le lenti giuste per vederli.

Qual è il ruolo dell’arte nel tuo lavoro? Come puoi combinate un tocco artistico e poetico con i freddi dati?
Personalmente vedo la visualizzazione dei dati come una combinazione del mio lato “artistico” (o, per meglio dire, emozionale!) e del mio lato razionale e scientifico. Ho una formazione in architettura e la mia mente ha bisogno di strutturare e di organizzare le informazioni, ma i miei occhi e i mio spirito hanno bisogno di vedere e di inventare delle visualizzazioni inattese in ogni momento, credo. Mi piace disegnare artefatti visivi che hanno un senso logico e strutturale. Non provo piacere dal produrre design grafici fini a se stessi, al contrario, mi piace formare modi visivi di rappresentare i rigorosi parametri quantitativi. Ciò che mi spinge in quello che faccio è la sovrapposizione dell’analisi e dell’intuizione, tra logica e bellezza, tra numeri ed immagini.

Se fossi un’insegnante, cosa insegneresti?
La matematica dell’arte o l’arte della matematica.