9 Installations That Transformed Milan during Milan Design Week

While the Salone del Milano 2024 was being held during Milan Design Week, the city of Milan geared up with contributions of its own to be the eminent pulpit that celebrated design. We look at a few of our favourites that went beyond the preambles of design and touched on subjects that had to be focused, from women empowerment to inspirational people, from being venues of transformation to taking a step back and focusing on the erudite use of water in everyday life, all the while celebrating the history of the land and the surroundings they were set in.

If one reaches Milan for the Milan Design Week by train you are welcomed by two huge installations right as you step foot into the historic Milano Centrale railway station, which by itself is one of the most iconic venues in the city. A lively hub of arrivals and departures, Milan Centrale represents the pursuit of dreams and the journey of turning them into a reality, a door from which you step into the city of fashion and design.

Moncler on the Monumental Milan Centrale

The historic destination landmark is transformed into a vast public art space with two great works of art. One within the large arches of the welcome lounge area of the station is ‘An Invitation To Dream,’ a Moncler project curated by Jefferson Hack, filmed and photographed by Jack Davison, that portrays some of the most extraordinary minds shaping culture today, to inspire us.

The exhibition features Daniel Arsham, Dr Deepak Chopra, Isamaya Ffrench, Laila Gohar, Jeremy O. Harris, Francesca Hayward, Julianknxx, Ruth Rogers, Remo Ruffini, Rina Sawayama, Sumayya Vally and Zaya.

“The curated community represent some of the finest creative visionaries across culture who dare to dream for us. They are today’s reality-shapers and they were invited to participate as their work carries with it new hopes and possibilities. It’s the deeply transformative aspects in their work and practice that makes them essential artists of our time and essential for us to bring into this project,” according to Jefferson Hack, curator of the project.

The Rock by JR

The next installation as you step foot into the city is an alter space created by multimedia artist JR. JR’s latest installation is La Nascita, Italian for “the birth.” Commissioned for Milan Design Week 2024, this public art piece is JR’s first sculptural installation.

Instead of using his signature artistic medium of paper and glue, JR printed photographic images of rock formations directly onto large aluminium panels. This rocky installation is said to recall the unique backstory and architecture of Milan Central Station, a monumental building that turned the city into an important Italian transportation hub.

The photographic images of towering alpine rocks represent over a century of physical and cultural transformation that has happened there, without over powering the original image of the Station behind.

Right within the Salone Milano

Interiors by David Lynch. A Thinking Room

The Salone is as it is every year. Crowded with design; filled to the brim with grippingly created stalls with wares and products even more creative. And in between this chaos by design is another space, Interiors by David Lynch. A Thinking Room, that is supposed to give the visitors a respite.

Through David Lynch’s two identical imagined and imaginative rooms, visitors to the Salone del Mobile.Milano are treated to an immersive experience of silence and reflection, in search of a meaning and a connection with the space, with others, and with the other.

“For its 62nd edition, the Salone del Mobile.Milano chose David Lynch, the director of films that channel the subconscious, to provide an original and metaphysical narration and reflection on the production of interiors and how this can shape and create spaces that will strike up a deep, sometimes symbiotic and symbolic relationship with those who will live in them and furnish them,” says Antonio Monda, the curator of this space.

The space takes us through a pitch-dark corridor to finally arrive at a visionary installation that is at once intimate and profound. Harnessing the scenography language of film and theatre, the installation consists of two relatively small, empty rooms, apart from the large central armchair equipped with tools for writing, drawing and painting and seven cylinders that connect it to the ceiling, a few niches with images chosen by the filmmaker, a mirror and a clock.

All around, an undulating curtain gives rhythm to the walls and marks the time, below one’s feet are slats like ocean waves, above one’s head a curved, gilded ceiling connected to the tubes and to the armchair by seven strands of light. The emptiness, however, is only illusory: the rooms are full of blue, of gold, of light and of silence.

David Lynch allows us to pass through them and experience them – preferably in solitude – just before or after we come into contact with their very opposite: the crowd, the buzz, the multitude of projects being showcased at the fair.

Why? Perhaps because an empty room can teach us how to become empty receptacles, yet ready, capable and welcoming.

David Lynch said: “Even thinking about A Thinking Room is nice to think about. A room conducive to thinking.”

“Thinking Rooms created for the Salone del Mobile plunge us into a harmoniously thought-out universe, thanks to the vital thrust of every single detail, managing to seduce us by reminding that true art does not provide answers, but asks questions,” says Mondo.

The Thinking Rooms are enveloping places, deep and evocative, places in which every impulse, every spasm and every hope finds a moment of reflection, perhaps of stillness, even. Which is what makes them the ideal antechamber for embarking on visits around the fair.

Under the Surface

While David Lynch takes us into moments of self-realisation and internalisation, Under the Surface makes us more aware of the surroundings, our responsibilities as a consumer and talks about matters that we forget in the pursuit of design. Ethics, sustainability and technology, but also the power, fascination and fragility of water.

The Salone del Mobile.Milano reflects on the footprint and value of water resources in the bathroom furniture supply chain with a major exhibition project.

Through the installation Under the Surface – a large, submerged island, an evocative symbol of water as a source of life – designed and created by Accurat, Design Group Italia and Emiliano Ponzi (Salotto.NYC), the Salone del Mobile.Milano, a careful look and an immersive, meaningful experience exploring the state of the art of bathroom furniture production. Completely blue surroundings turn the spotlight on the vital importance of global water resources and their conservation, aiming to investigate and reflect on the water footprint of the bathroom furniture supply chain, encouraging strategies for the responsible use of this planet’s most precious resource.

A visit to Under the Surface is a combination of physical and digital experience. Externally, information on water consumption made available by the World Bank is projected onto the island’s reliefs in three different areas. Data on the availability of freshwater from renewable resources per capita take the form of imaginary shoals of fish, grouped by country and region, within the time frame 1961-2019. Their movement serves to predict the possible end to this resource, unless virtuous behaviours and technological solutions are adopted to safeguard them. The data on freshwater withdrawal in the domestic and industrial sector come together to form suggestive geysers, uncontrollable phenomena intended to trigger the reflection that, if nature cannot be controlled, the relationship between man and nature can and must be. Finally, data on global rainfall in mm3 become impalpable drops destined to fall onto a plain, intended to represent the geographical area under examination bathed by the rainfall.

An experience that is all about information and a call for action to consumers to do their bit as the bathroom industry keeps its innovation and dedication alive, creating products that are sustainable.

Kohler’s Take on Water

Bright orange, or industrial Haptic Orange catches our eye as one enters the Palazzo del Senato, a Baroque palace in central Milan.

Kohler, a global lifestyle brand and leader in kitchen and bath products, returned to Milan Design Week with the world premiere of a large-scale immersive installation here in this historic location in partnership with artist-designer, Dr Samuel Ross MBE to unveil Formation 02, a new smart toilet, the second product from the Kohler x SR_A multiyear partnership.

The industrial Haptic Orange hue pays Formation 02 is the second product drop for the partnership, continuing to embrace Ross’ avant-garde artistic approach while honouring Kohler’s 150 years of developing a new design language for water solutions.

Drawing inspiration from the velocity and power of water in nature, Formation 02 represents a departure in design language in this brutalist silhouette. Utilising unique moulding and tooling techniques, the toilet’s base features dramatic colours, edges, and angles, juxtaposed with the softness of integrated cylindrical shapes.

It is through this new design that Ross intends to amplify the movement and experience of water offering a place of reconsideration among daily objects and rituals.

On the design, Samuel Ross says, “We continue to look to nature’s power and the defining feats of industrial engineering. Be it through the unique embellishments of water character, or through nature’s force to reshape the material. Within Formation 02, you will be reminded of the journey water must embark upon.”

“Amazing Walk” by MAD Architects

 Ma Yansong of MAD Architects designed the “Amazing Walk” installation at the Cortile della Farmacia courtyard of the University of Milan during Milan Design Week 2024. This is the architectural firms’ seventh participation at the Milan Design Week and each and every time they have come up with installations that stun the viewers.

Made of hundreds of triangular elements, the Amazing Walk structure stands 7.5 meters tall without internal columns, reflecting the shape of mountains and it tries to blur the boundary between built and natural environments creating a surreal experience.

“This open design invites exploration and imagination, offering visitors the chance to connect with each other and immerse themselves in the beauty of their surroundings.

This installation is enveloped in a semi-reflective, transparent skin that allows for a visual connection with the 100-year-old courtyard while still providing a sense of shelter,” explains Yansong.

As night falls, lights and mist gently blur the edges of materials, making the ‘Amazing Walk’ seem like an apparition, light and floating, almost a surreal experience.

The “Amazing Walk” is constructed from sustainable aluminium alloy and covered with a semi-permeable composite membrane. Numerous virtual reality applications enhance this installation, offering a deeply engaging experience that brings surreal elements to life.

An Amphitheatre of Creative Energy

Milan-based design agency Studiopepe: Uni Sonos created a collection of stunning costumes of Aida and female figures created for the 100th Arena di Verona Opera Festival 2023 during the Milan Design Week. The installation is a milestone bridging the world of finance and design and a celebration of women’s empowerment, diversity, and creativity.

Uni Sonos is born of two institutions working together who are a natural fit with each other, as Studiopepe’s extraordinary and innovative approach to design aligns perfectly with UniCredit’s commitment to excellence, being forward-thinking, and acting for change.

The project also reinforces UniCredit’s long-term partnership with Fondazione Arena di Verona, the only Italian opera foundation directed by a woman, Cecilia Gasdia (currently in her second term). Uni Sonos showcases the very peak of female creativity and culture in a unique setting that mirrors the iconic Arena di Verona, with contemporary amphitheater-shaped structures that serve as both a stage for performances and a communal gathering space. Its inviting, curved forms encourage exploration and the pleasure of discovery.

The Auditorium also hosted discussions, uniting thought leaders and innovators to delve into topics related to Italian culture, societal trends, and aspirational design.

Molten Glass by Lasvit

Installations in Milan celebrate not just the designer or the maker, but also the historic setting in which they are realised. This creation by Lasvit, a leader in hand-made glassmaking called “Re/Creation,” at Palazzo Isimbardi was a perfect example of celebrating design, innovation and the location.

A monumental outdoor fused glass installation made for the Milan Design Week showcased the brand’s mastery and innovative approach to design, architecture, and glassmaking.

Through “Re/Creation,” Lasvit sets up a sanctuary for creative escapism amid the hustle and bustle of Milan Design Week and the Salone week. In the serene embrace of Palazzo Isimbardi, “Re/Creation” offers a space where minds are free to wander, inspired by the fluid grace of molten glass. The title refers to the innovative technique, where the essence of fused glass lies in letting go. Extremely hot melted glass is allowed to relax, spread and take shape of a form designed for the glass to lie down on.

The weight and gravity of glass takes care of the form. Similarly, a creative mind is most prolific and innovative when relaxed, free of everyday pressures and demands. This is the explanation for Lasvit in creating a haven of renewal within the beautiful location of Palazzo Isimbardi.

Aiming to redefine the relationship between glass and architecture, the centrepiece of the presentation is an installation designed by Lasvit’s Art Director Maxim Velcovsky. Crafted in Europe’s largest glass kiln, this installation is not merely a display of technical prowess but an illustration of the brand’s capabilities in terms of size and variability, whilst ensuring precision and creativity that meet the rigorous demands of architectural projects.

Cloud View at Palazzo Litta

Another site-specific installation during Milan Design Week was ‘Straordinaria’ by Elica within Palazzo Litta, in the heart of the 5vie district, is a sensorial story that touches on the lightness of the clouds.

Air and heat will be the protagonists of the project: two fundamental elements for Elica, which will dialogue in an uninterrupted flow of visual games, involving visitors in an intimate atmosphere to experience and photograph.

The Italian company, which has always been at the forefront in the design and production of appliances dedicated to cooking with over 50 years of history and global leadership in kitchen extraction systems (hoods and extractor hobs), showcases its pioneering approach through this installation during the Milan Design Week.

Curated by Marcello Smarrelli, artistic director of the Foundation Ermanno Casoli, and designed by the Japanese studio we+ founded by Toshiya Hayashiand Hokuto Ando, Elica’s Straordinaria installation was born from the desire to give voice to the strong understanding between nature and heat. So as to translate identity values into a project.

“The essence of the brand pushed us to seek a perspective of authentic interpretation of its values,” say the artists Toshiya Hayashi and Hokuto Ando, designers of we+, “The relationship and contact with the shapes, materials, shades and depth transport the visitor into a unique dimension of connection with the element.”

The skilful use of materials, the modularity of shapes and space, the lightness and dynamism of the elements pay homage to expertise in Elica’s creations.

All Images Courtesy of the specific Brands and Salone del Mobile.Milano