An air of bon ton pervades the new proposals presented in Milan for the 48th edition of the Salone del Mobile, the world’s most important trade fair for design, furniture and complements. The functional beauty of the Fifties seems to be back: maybe because the financial crisis has brought all the most important Brands to focus on their best products, to refine them, to get back to the roots of their excellence. Or maybe because the colourful, optimistic research typical of that decade (applied to materials and shapes) has been perceived as a real element of innovation. “But innovation is not something absurd, to achieve at all costs. What we need is an idea, even a small one, but an idea that can bring competitive advantage” explains Carlo Guglielmi, President of COSMIT – the society that has organized the Salone del Mobile since 1961. A competitive advantage that for a number of brands already lies in their history: many legendary pieces have in fact been refreshed, or presented in new versions, like the UP5 armchair by Gaetano Pesce for B&B. A clear sign of the necessity to find a balance between crisis and innovation, sustainability and aesthetics: a balance that can only come from clear-sighted creativity, applied to reasonable projects. As Pierre Paulin has shown, with his two new sublime projects for Magis presented at the Salone. With its almost 3000 exponents, over 300,000 visitors from all over the world, hundreds of young designers and events, the Salone represents perhaps the most relevant concentration of creative minds in the world. A concentration that, as Tyler Brulé (Editor of the cult magazine “Mononcle”) declared, is likely to produce more effects than the G20. Its first effects have already been presented by Guglielmi, who described this last edition as a healthy litmus test to identify who the best actors really are. Less products, but better ones: projects have
Salone del Mobile 2009: Trends and Tendencies become more sober, more driven, closer to the “right, true, natural, simple things” Gio Ponti cried out for. Patricia Urquiola, one of the most talented contemporary designers, stated in the Italian newspaper Il Sole 24 Ore that “creativity and intuition become something real, something effective, if there is an adequate space to realize them. In such times, I say that rigour is the most precious thing I learnt from Milanese architects”. Rigour, together with curiosity, energy and a careful attention to ecology, is one of the most powerful trends that emerged: it’s not an improbable “back to minimalism”, but a clear will to eliminate the unessential without giving up the pleasure of colour, the novelty of shapes and the sense of admiration we expect from excellent pieces of design, and from the daily masterpieces that spring from the fertile union of the creators’ minds and the artisans’ hands. Sobriety. The collection 360° that Konstantin Grcic created for Magis is the epitome of this new need for a sober, scalene design: no formalism, just concepts, projects, functional perfection. From the pristine shapes that Arik Levy designed for Swarovski, working on molecular structures and cuts, to the perfect proportions of the Lakki bed by Piero Lissoni for Porro; from the Adelchi table, precious proposal of Armani Casa, to the rigorous lines of Luxor by Cappellini; from the Sequence bookshelves by Patricia Urquiola for Molteni & Co. to the Totem lamp by Zaha Hadid for Artemide, the dominating direction can be
condensed in one Japanese concept: Shibui, eliminating the unessential. The Toot sofa by Piero Lissoni for Cassina perfectly epitomizes the renovated demand for an exquisite, unaffected elegance, which find its natural complement in the lavish linge de maison proposed by Frette: top quality, great craftsmanship, exclusive design. But with no excess. Sustainability. As Daniel Libeskind has said, “It’s crazy to project an architecture or an object of design without thinking about resources, ecology, environment”. Nature is the real, evident and transversal trend of the Salone, declined in both its Arcadian and romantic allure, and its visionary possibilities. In the first sense, the young designers of Fabrica have re-edited Zanotta’s Shanghai hatstand by assembling farmers’ instruments of work. Natural fibres triumph everywhere, and wood (hand-carved, polished, exotic, sculpted in emotional shapes) takes centre stage again, as in the Loi6 coffee-tables by F.lli Boffi, for instance, or the Kauri table by Matteo Thun for Riva 1920. The need is for a more sustainable, reasonable and ecological way of living: not just recycling, but also re-thinking, reshaping, re-inventing. Energy from the sun (Luca Trazzi for Olmi/Pramac or Michele De Lucchi for ENEL) and the re-use of materials (as shown by gallery owner Rossana Orlandi in Madeathome, or by Patricia Urquiola with her valorisation of traditional artisans’ techniques) are the biophysical foundations of nature, which have to be connected to those ethic and aesthetic requirements that are at
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