Milan Design Week 2019 was yet another success for Australian and international designers. MA Architect Associate Rachael McNally shares her experience from this year’s Design Week and the Australian designers who are making their mark on the international design scene.
How was your experience at Milan Design Week? What motivated you to make the trek from Australia to Milan?
RM: Milan Design Week was incredible! The Salone del Mobile and the Fuorisalone programs were a complete design overload. The week is a global platform for design bringing together legendary names and emerging talent – it was an opportunity I couldn’t pass up.
If you could bring back any exhibition or installation to Australia, which one would it be?
RM: I was captivated by the Echo Pavilion by Chilean architects Pezo and Von Ellrichshausen. The pavilion is a mirrored installation clad in stainless steel that creates disorienting reflections of the palazzo’s baroque architecture. At the end of Design Week, the pavilion will become part of the private collection of Flos founder Piero Gandini. It has been designed to last a long time, unlike so many of the exhibitions that will ultimately end up in landfill.
What do you think are the biggest design trends this year?
RM:. Sustainability and circular design were themes that were evident in many of the exhibitions. I personally don’t see these as trends, but pressing issues that face humanity. As designers we need to increase awareness of the impact design has on our environment. Fashion Designer Eileen Fisher’s exhibition ‘Waste No More’ at Galleria Rossana Orlandi was a fantastic example of how we can recycle material and minimise waste in design. Fisher showcased a zero waste initiative with beautiful artworks of layered recycled garments. The COS installation, in collaboration with Architect Mamou-Mani, was a fully biodegradable structure made from 3D printed bioplastic.
As always, Australia had a strong presence at Milan Design Week. Are there any upcoming Australian designers we should watch out for?
RM: There were a number of Australian designers exhibiting at Salone del Mobile, with stand outs including Melbourne-based lighting studios Articolo and Rakumba.
DesignByThem in collaboration with Dion Lee was also another highlight for Australian design, launching a Bauhaus inspired DL Chair and DL Bench. The saddle leather is woven beautifully throughout the metal frame to create a geometric form focusing on the natural material.
How does the Australian design aesthetic compare to that of international designers? Do you think we have a certain style or nuance that is unlike anything else?
RM: Australia is challenged with the limits of production and scale compared to Italy and other parts of the world – but this also means the designers are makers. Local Milan No.4 showcased over 40 Australian designers, demonstrating the breadth and variety of Australian design, rather than a distinct style.
As a practice we think it is important to be across what is happening internationally, but be confident in what we are producing locally.
What inspired you the most from this year’s design week?
RM: The tour of Milan-based designer Henry Timi’s apartment was a surreal experience – the space drew on Timi’s minimalist aesthetic, which created a sense of calm through the combination of raw materials and simple, pure shapes. The entire apartment had a quiet elegance with clean lines and impeccable detail.
In contrast, Achille Castiglioni’s studio was the opposite of Timi’s apartment – it was cluttered with miscellaneous objects and prototypes, and offered incredible insight to his thought process. Castiglioni was one of the most important and prolific designers of the 20th century. His studio was a reminder to enjoy what we do, to stay playful and curious in design.