Just after receiving an email laying out the plans that the organizers of Salone del Mobile have put in place for its September show, a press release landed in our inbox that declared international tourism is back in Italy for Summer 2021. The desire to “get back to normal” oozes from all of the communiques we’re seeing as publicists put their best spin on travel and international design fair organizers scramble to regroup.
Salone del Mobile Debuts Supersalone
September 5 through 10 are the new dates for this year’s Salone del Mobile, which would have normally taken place in April but was pushed back due to the global pandemic. Touting a new format for the show at the fairgrounds in Rho, Milano, the organizers describe “supersalone” as a special exhibition curated by architect Stefano Boeri that will reaffirm the centrality of Milan and the show on the international design, cultural, and innovation scene.
Working alongside the curator is an international team of collaborators that includes Andrea Caputo; Maria Cristina Didero; Anniina Koivu; Lukas Wegwerth, Marco Ferrari and Elisa Pasqual of Studio Folder; and Giorgio Donà, co-founder and director of Stefano Boeri Interiors will develop projects and products in an innovative setting for reflection and sharing. A fluid and dynamic exhibition design will display new products and creations that have launched over the last 18 months to allow visitors to navigate freely inside a large design library, which organizers of Salone del Mobile describe as “a huge national and international archive of creativity.”
The display in the fairgrounds will be broken up by themed areas that include “arenas for talks with leading figures on the contemporary cultural and creative scene, dedicated lounges for business company meetings, areas reserved for young students at design schools and for a display of chairs awarded with the Compasso d’Oro curated by the ADI [the design museum in Milan], food courts conceived and set up in partnership with Identità Golose [an Italian foodie magazine] and The International Chef Congress, and socializing and relaxation areas.”
Marilena Sobacchi interviewed Boeri for the Salone del Mobile magazine. The lead to her article stated that this year’s fair will be “An event built on imagination, participation and digital innovation, which will turn the Fairgrounds into a multifaceted city.” Sobacchi asked the architect what inspired him to take on such a heavy lift. He answered, “I immediately thought that the challenge of conceiving a 2021 edition of the Salone in an objectively extremely difficult situation such as the post-pandemic, not many months ahead of the 2022 Salone that will mark a major breakthrough, was fantastic. Because it meant that Milan and Italy were flagging up their presence on the international scene. It meant that the design world was giving out a sign of its strength as a powerful public magnet and a powerful link between different worlds. It also meant narrating a different sort of Salone, still retaining its commercial dimension while responding to the demand for intervention, renewal, and improvement in furnishing and domestic spaces that emerged during lockdown, at a time marked by introspection, family relationships, and proximity. All that fed into the idea for the ‘supersalone.’”
Conceptual is Nothing New at iSalone
Salone del Mobile has always had a strong conceptual component to it. When we were last there, in 2015, we had the pleasure of meeting architect Michele de Lucchi, who organized and designed La Passeggiata [The Walk] for the fair’s special exhibition that year. During a press conference we attended at the Italian Trade Commission in New York City just before traveling to Milan, he said, “We should think of the workspace as a gymnasium for the mind, conceiving it as a place where relationships generate new ideas and possibilities. The office of the future should be visualized with the focus on lifestyles unfettered by convention, evolving spaces that perpetuate an endless stream of new ideas.”
In the video above, he is unveiling the design for the exhibition, a sketch of which is below. It was a meandering experience through which we came upon body parts in white that starkly contrasted the warm wooden hues of the backgrounds on which they were mounted or sitting; books, some of them open, and a bust of Socrates to represent exercising the mind; and reflections of mobiles that were starkly reflected on the ceiling, their shadows refusing the bright light that rendered their outlines. It was a peek into the mysterious mind of a famed Italian architect.
We look forward to returning to Milan to see what the brilliant committee that organizes Salone del Mobile and the collaborators they choose to realize their special events have conceptualized. Whether it will be September or next April, we’re not quite sure, but this news that some form of iSaloni will take place this year merits attention as the design industry grapples with how to structure product launches.