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

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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

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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

Osservatorio Prada: observing from both sides of the camera

Osservatorio is the most recent addition to Fondazione Prada. Opened on December 21, 2016 it is located in the very heart of Milan and is meant to showcase “photography and visual languages” today.

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Curated by Francesco Zanot, the opening exhibition is “Give me yesterday”.

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Fourteen Italian and international artists are the protagonists. Their names? Melanie Bonajo, Kenta Cobayashi, Tomé Duarte, Irene Fenara, Lebohang Kganye, Vendula Knopova, Leigh Ledare, Wen Ling, Ryan McGinley, Izumi Miyazaki, Joanna Piotrowska, Greg Reynolds, Antonio Rovaldi, Maurice van Es.

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The art on display is eye-catching, as well as the sourroundings. Being on top of the historic Galleria Vittorio Emanuele II, from the huge windows we can observe the glass top of the ancient arcade. This unusual point of view makes Osservatorio a real observatory over the city.

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I visited the space at dusk and had a lot of fun with my Fuji X100T. But I was not alone, since lots of photographers and phonographers were all going back and forth from looking at pictures to actually taking pictures.

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And this composition of Italian panoramas by Antonio Rovaldi is probably the most instagrammed work of the entire exhibition.

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Osservatorio is an ideal place for those who really love photography, from both sides of the camera.

New York, 1990

These past Christmas holidays I’ve spent some time scanning old film slides from my archives. The first set dates back to July, 1990 and it’s about my first time there, on a family trip.

I have decided not to retouch too much, so to keep the original mood, as well as the “reddish” touch of time, that makes everything more real.

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Yes. Times Square. Sony, Panasonic, JVC, Mita: technology was already the protagonist. I was there just a few weeks ago and the most impressive billboard was Snapchat Spectacles.

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And Canon, of course.

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Some things are still around.

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But some others have completely disappearded. Like thecamel. And those guys were actually painting the billboard. By hand. With brushes. Actually this is coming back. A few weeks ago I have spotted some guys in Brooklyn making advertising graffiti for Facebook.

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Of course finding the Twin Towers on my slides was hearthbreaking, in particular a few weeks after visiting the 9/11 Memorial & Museum. How magnificent and powerful they were!

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Some touristic attractions, of course. I was 17 at the time and going to New York was a dream come true. Fortunately it was just the first of many others.

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Central Park was still considered to be kind of dangerous at the time. The mayor was David Dinkins and Rudy Giuliani and gentrifucation came in 1994. Walking around the Park, even thou in full daylight, felt transgressive and adventourous.

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As real tourists, we didn’t miss the Top of the World Trade Center Observatories on the 107th and 110th floors of the South Tower.

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This is the television antenna on top of World Trade Center South Tower. A portion of this fallen giant is on display at the 9/11 Memorial & Museum. That was the tallest thing in New York City and now it’s underground.

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This is a different view, from the oservation deck of the Empire State Building. A few things have changed since then.

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This image is incredibly vintage. We flew TWA and of course on our way back we left from the amazing TWA Flight Center, the terminal designed by Eero Saarinen at JFK Airport. I realize now that the deisgn of the windows created a frame around the plane, making it ready to be photographed. Way before the Instagram age.

Inspiring Innovators: Paolo Ferrarini

Hotel Milu, Florence

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My latest article for Cool Hunting.

Florence tends to be synonymous with art, but oftentimes we think of ancient palazzos, classic paintings and iconic sculptures. The city, however also has a vibrant contemporary side, driven by fashion, art and food. Hotel Milu, a new boutique property, represents these aspects of the capital of Renaissance by way of modern design and comfort for the traveler of today, all while maintaining Florence’s grandeur.

Hotel Milu officially opened in October and we had the chance to be among the first to spend a couple of nights there. The location is ideal, since via de’ Tornabuoni is an acclaimed shopping street and the hotel is just steps from the Duomo, Uffizi Gallery, Ponte Vecchio and literally next door to Palazzo Strozzi (while we were there, a beautiful Ai Weiwei exhibition was on).

The building that hosts the hotel was originally constructed in the 15th century. After being a private property, it has recently been restored by studioDO in collaboration with artist Carmel Ilan and Matteo Baroni. The original structure of the building is intact and the hotel is now beautifully irregular. For this reason each room is different and some are perfectly symmetrical, while others are oddly shaped, like those tiny studios that you can find in old towns, but still cozy and comfortable. If you combine this with the views of the adjacent buildings and rooftops, the authentic local spirit of an ancient town stays intact.

The entire building has been developed around a grand staircase that has been transformed into a contemporary art gallery. Most works are site specific and we spotted the hyperrealistic photos by Carmel Ilan, sculptures by Argentinian artist Flavio Robalo, mixed technique works by Shalom Nachshon, yarn birds by Maya Gelfer, a video installation by Ronen Sharabani.

In the Library Lounge guests can enjoy—together with more art—books, coffee, breakfast and a very nice view. Art pieces are also in each one of the 22 rooms: paintings, drawings, photography, everything is made primarily by emerging artists and each piece is for sale, sometimes for very reasonable prices. The interior decoration respects the idea of uniqueness and originality. Materials range from Italian marble and stone, original wooden ceilings in gentle contrast with architectural glass and contemporary design pieces. Just to mention a few brands, furniture pieces hail from Moroso, Rimadesio, Minotti, Desalto, Mdf Italia, Molteni, Magis, Bonaldo and others. It’s as design forward as it is true to its striking location.

Rates at Hotel Milu start at ‎€89 per night. For bookings and information, call +39 02 4538 6190 or visit Hotel Milu online.

Interview: Mika and Studio Job

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My latest article for Cool Hunting

Pop star Mika‘s visual world is notoriously imaginative and bright, poetic and surreal. Unsurprisingly, his forthcoming TV show, “Stasera CasaMika,” boasts a set that truly embodies this wild, joyful universe. For this, Mika teamed up with Belgian art and design studio Studio Job, to envision and produce the set and props. One day prior to the show’s premiere on Italian TV channel Rai2, we exclusively unveil the entire set, which marks a unique collaboration between music, television and design.

Mika’s stage is completely filled with absurdly big domestic objects—a clock that goes backwards, a fridge covered with white frosting, a colossal winged heart, a tall throne, a huge globe covered with colorful crystals and more. Everything is gigantic and off-scale, but the venue in the south of Milan feels cozy and warm. It’s the perfect setting for the beloved singer/songwriter to host his guests. After watching rehearsals and the recording of one of the four episodes of “Stasera CasaMika” (literally “Tonight Mika’s Home”), we spoke with Mika and Job Smeets (of Studio Job) about making this wild scene a reality.

Both Mika and Smeets are extremely satisfied with the final result, which was quite a long time in the making. “We met maybe four or five years ago,” Smeets says.”Immediately we said, ‘We should do something together once.’ We stayed in touch, things went forward and developed into different kind of projects. Basically, I help Mika with his brand identity and I like it because we’re friends.” Here, the work is a true collaboration. “Mika himself is also super creative and we’re always on the same page. It’s very simple to work together,” Smeets continues. Just a few months ago, the duo began working (with a larger team, of course) on the TV show. “We started talking about it while in London, discussing the whole layout and atmosphere. It was a constant dialogue,” Smeets says.

“You know my favorite thing about the whole show? In terms of the set of the whole show?” Mika asks us. “Apart from the giant book, the cake, the heart, the paradise caravan, the remarkable globe, the car? It’s the clock. And not even the clock as an object. The idea of the clock. Because the clock is backwards and the hands also go backwards, which means that everything is backwards, but everything is still correct. It’s really great. It’s very clever because everything is wrong but actually everything is right.” The giant clock sits behind the rainbow bed, and features a peace sign on one of the hands. “The clock is quite nice,” Smeets agrees. “We’ve already seen clocks that go backwards, but this one also has the dials in the wrong way, so five o’clock is still five o’clock.”

While everything in the room is eye-catching, to say the least, the sparkling globe—hanging in the center of the studio—captivates. “It is made of 500,000 Swarovski crystals—all added manually, crystal by crystal. It’s a huge disco ball,” Smeets says. The globe was actually made for one of Mika’s concerts (in Bercy, Paris in May 2016) and a few other props come from previous shows—his fans will be familiar with the throne, the Paradise caravan and the cake. Indeed, this set seems like a temporary exhibition of sorts. “We should do an exhibition of our props one day,” Smeets adds. “It would be cool, but maybe in a few years, when we really have a lot of them.”

Smeets says, of the design approach, the difference between pop music and culture in various countries/regions was a big deciding factor. “This is European pop. We have a huge history here in Europe so you can dig from a lot of different periods—from our heritage and iconography. American pop is fast foods, supermarkets, bananas, it’s very straight-forward, streamlined. Most of that comes from the 20th and 21st centuries. The thing about European pop is that you can go much deeper,” he says. Pointing at the throne, he continues, “Like that chair, that is based on a Louis XV chair that we have translated into something fun, something happy. The farm symbols [in the big book] are classic German iconography. The cake is the church of Sacré-Cœur, the face of the clock comes from the Big Ben. But obviously there are overlaps. Our fridge is a typical American thing, it’s a Coldspot. And we chose Miami deco colors—also very ’50s and rock’n’roll.”

Some of the objects have been produced in Italy, while others (such as the cake and the chair) were made in Smeets’ atelier in Belgium. They are handcrafted in papier-mâché and it’s beautiful to observe the precision of the craft and details. “These pieces have to be beautiful on their own. They’re not just stage pieces. You don’t want to throw them away, but you will bring them to the next show or to an exhibition,” Smeets explains. “Our goal is to create pieces that have a long life.”

Stasera CasaMika” will air weekly beginning Tuesday 15 November at 9:10PM UTC+1 on Rai2.