20 April 2016 / Ester

Milan Design Week 2016

Tom Dixon

This past week, Milan was the place to be for all things design. From 12 until 17 April, the city hosted the amazing Salone del Mobile as well as more than a thousand design events all over the city.

Obviously four days in Milan were not sufficient to see everything. But our stay made a lasting impression on us and made us want to come back and see more. On the bus to the airport in Bergamo, we dreamt of an apartment in the city, with one of those stunning balconies full of greenery. Or of the rundown building in vendita that we spotted in Lambrate.

"A magnificent city, the scale of the buildings and their green rooftop terraces made a lasting impression on us. I don't think I've ever seen that many gigantic classic buildings in one city, all with wisteria on the façades."

Nobel Truong

Athoz Burez - hidden vases

Tom Dixon

Villa Nechi

Ventura Lambrate

In the design district of Lambrate you can spot a huge amount of design in a small neigbourhood with several exciting industrial locations. Venture Lambrate hosts a mix of established values and up-and-coming talented new designers. 
The highlight, literally, on the fifth floor (which is much higher than a Belgian fifth floor) at no. 15 Via Ventura was the exhibition of the Royal Academy of Art, from The Hague. Where art and design blended in beautifully with the stunning skyline of Milan. On the ground floor we saw the cheerful designs of Studio Plutarco and Nobel Truong (see the photos).
By lunchtime the first rain started to fall and we really felt at home in "A Belgian Village". A Just Like Your Mom’s Chili Burger under the Light my table table light by the Ghent-based Studio Mie completed the picture. 

The Belgians                    

And we can be proud of our Belgian designers. For example in the magnificent Palazzo Litta, which hosted the exhibition "Belgian Matters" featuring work by Marie Mees & Catherine Biasino, Ben Storms and Unfold. We ran into Valerie_objects in the palazzo's courtyard garden. Here they also presented the new aluminium designs of Muller Van Severen and the foldable table with chairs by Robbrecht & Daem for the first time. Chris Kabel's Hidden Vases were also very popular, in spite of their underlying idea of making a vase invisible.

Wow factor

Just like it is impossible to see everything during the Design Week, it is impossible to list everything we saw in one blog post. 
The most impressive thing we saw was The Forest of Light by COS, a collaboration with Sou Fujimoto Architects. They created a contemporary forest with light, sound and fog in the former Cinema Arti. 
Whereas The Forest of Light created an oasis of peace in the city, Nike did just the opposite with the exhibition "The Nature of Motion", featuring works by Max Lamb, Bertjan Pot and Sebastian Wrong among others. My friends thought it was a Nike brainwash which only encourages people to buy more Nike. But I was already wearing my Nikes so I didn't feel any pressure until we were led outside into a huge square where a DJ was playing science-fiction style techno beats. I felt the bass deep in my belly and was suddenly overcome by a strange sensation of euphoria and energy. So maybe Nike did end up getting hold of me.

According to social media, The Restaurant by Tom Dixon was the must see event in Milan. When I wanted to enter La Rotonda on Sunday afternoon, the last day of Design Week, I was refused entry. It was 3 p.m. and The Restaurant was closed forever. I decided to walk around the building, much saddened, and found a side entrance that was open. Plenty of people were still hanging around in The Restaurant and it seemed as if nobody had the heart to tell them to leave. I ended up getting a very clear idea of what The Restaurant had looked like during the previous days, in spite of the cardboard boxes everywhere. The table covered in chocolate unfortunately had been polished off already.     

Cibo e bevande

Can you think of a better place to eat and drink than Italy? 
The best place for a cocktail is the stunning Bar Luce at Fondazione Prada. This museum café was decorated by the film director Wes Anderson, with a design aesthetic that is reminiscent of a café in Milan in the Sixties and Seventies. A pastel-hued gem for anyone who loved The Grand Budapest Hotel and The Royal Tenenbaums.   

We enjoyed the best focaccia at Sgroi Pasticceria near Loreto. I can't remember ever eating such a simple and pure focaccia, with tomatoes that were so sweet. 
The best place for ice-cream is on the other side of the city, near the canal in Via Vigevano at Gelateria Latteneve. I tried the vegan pistachio and mascarpone with ginger. Yum! 

Milan is love

If it wasn't for the Design Week, Milan would have never been on my list of places to go. In the past, people had told me that the city is only good for shopping but the opposite is true. It is a stunning city, we were astounded at the scale of the buildings and their green rooftop terraces. I don't think I ever spotted that many large classic buildings in one city, all covered with wisteria. There are flowers and plants on every terrace.

Don't forget to visit Villa Necchi Campiglio on your city trip to Milan. We recommend seeing the film "Io Sono l'Amore" beforehand though because this is the house where this drama starring Tilda Swinton was mainly filmed. This magnificent villa, which is not that large considering Milanese standards, is just a stone's throw from the Duomo but also has a lovely garden and swimming pool. You can enter the garden but do take a guided tour of the villa too.

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