Milan Opens its Clay Court Club to the Public

At Clay Court Club, Cristina Celestino sets up a game of sports and leisure. By Elisa Carassai

Hidden from the hustle and bustle of Milan’s trafficked roads lies the Tennis Club Alberto Bonacossa, a historical club built in 1930 by Giovanni Muzio under the request of Count Alberto Bonacossa. An oasis of peace where Milanese – both old and young meet to have a moment of reprieve from everyday life.

It is in this setting that Cristina Celestino, the Milan-based designer which has made the city that hosts her studio the protagonist and the main point of research for a series of projects in the last few years – with TramCorallo and CaffèConcertoCucchi in 2019 and Florilegio in 2022 – has set out to provide an evocative perspective on several iconic yet hidden locations in the city of Milan.

“I knew of the space already not because I am a tennis player, but because I had studied Muzio’s architecture, who designed so much for the city of Milan. I also liked the idea of developing something related to the theme of sport and leisure and exploring this dimension of a time dedicated to relaxation,” Celestino explained. “And so I contacted the management, who were immediately open to this. I also feel they felt the desire to open this space in a different way to the city because I feel a club is always open but just to its members or tennis players, however also for the Milanese themselves, it is not so automatic either to have access or to know about this.”

Playfully metaphysical, Celestino celebrates Muzio’s work with its ‘geometric’ character, which lends a perfect relationship between indoor and outdoor spaces by adopting materials and shades of colors to conjure a blissful blending of nature and architecture.

Overturning the perception of indoor and outdoor, furniture elements are arranged according to an out-of-scale logic, generating a new perspective and playing on the recurring theme present in much of Muzio’s works, asymmetry.

Further invading the space and ensuring the sense of conviviality present in the space isn’t lost, is a temporary restaurant organized in collaboration with WE RE ONA, which enters the Clay Court Club project by tying itself to this temporary installation, underlining its fundamental trait: being a gastronomic collective that travels the world organizing events within the most important events related to art and design. Guests are seated inside a circular room set up by Cristina Celestino, keeping true to the room’s attitude, once designed by Muzio to play the role of a dining hall. And here, while seated at two semi-circular tables looking at each other, reflected by the mirrored ceiling in shades of green and pastel pink, guests are served a three-course menu by French chef Marine Hervouet.

And during the design week, when the city was exciting for the number of projects and people that have invaded Milan, Celestino’s Clay Court Club stood out due to its respect towards Muzio’s original plan for it – to create a space where in this case, locals, visitors and club members can have a moment of reprieve from the overstimulation of the crazy, crazy, week of Salone del Milano.