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10 great architectural moments of Milan Design Week

Architecture International
10 great architectural moments of Milan Design Week. Studio Job took over the facade of Garage Traversi for Milan Design Week (Carmine Conte)

With the opening of OMA’s Torre for Fondazione Prada, tours of midcentury Villa Borsani, and (a few days late to the Design Week party and thus not included here) the completion of Zaha Hadid Architects’ Generali Tower, Milan Design Week 2018 was exceptionally steeped in architecture. There was the usual abundance of collaborations with architects, such as Alejandro Aravena for Artemide, John Pawson for Swarovski, and David Rockwell’s The Diner with Cosentino and Design Within Reach, but it was the host of architectural installations and interventions that took it over the top. Here are ten memorable architectural moments of Milan Design Week 2018.

Studio Job took over the facade of Garage Traversi for Milan Design Week (Carmine Conte)

Studio Job took over the facade of Garage Traversi for Milan Design Week (Carmine Conte)

Garage Traversi

The rationalist 1938 Garage Traversi in Milan’s Montenapoleone District received a facade makeover by Studio Job for Milan Design Week. The Pop Art mural comes in advance of the building’s renovation into a “luxury hub” by British private equity fund Hayrish. The reinforced concrete building, originally designed by architect Giacomo de Min, sits on an odd lot, leading to it being built like a fan and resulting in its popularity. The iconic building has been unused for 15 years, but has retained its reputation as a cultural and architectural landmark.

U Joints, a collection of joints covering myriad applications, was on display through April 26. (Courtesy PlusDesign Gallery's Instagram)

U Joints, a collection of joints covering myriad applications, was on display through April 26. (Courtesy PlusDesign Gallery’s Instagram)

U-JOINT

PlusDesign Gallery hosted an immensely satisfying architectural exhibition on joints. The group show offered joints of all sizes, materials, and shapes to demonstrate its importance in objects and buildings alike. Over 50 designers, studios, and research institutes, including Alvar Aalto, Aldo Bakker, Edward Barber & Jay Osgerby, Konstantin Grcic, Jonathan Nesci, Cecilie Manz, Self-Assembly Lab MIT, and Jonathan Olivares, displayed prototypes and products.

Piero Lissoni used shipping containers to create space for a Haitian photography exhibition that discussed the concept of home in poverty-stricken Haiti.

Piero Lissoni used shipping containers to create space for a Haitian photography exhibition that discussed the concept of home in poverty-stricken Haiti. (INTERNI-SAVERIO LOMBARDI VALLAURI)

My Dream Home by Piero Lissoni

“My Dream Home,” an installation by Piero Lissoni, stacks twelve shipping containers vertically to host an exhibition by photographers Elisabetta Illy and Stefano Guindani of photos taken in Haiti alongside drawings by Haitian children of their dream homes. Lissoni chose to build with containers as an inexpensive, sustainable option that could potentially be used for multi- and single-family homes in Haiti.

Snarkitecture's Caesarstone installation examined different forms of water (Courtesy Caesarstone).

Snarkitecture’s Caesarstone installation examined different forms of water (Courtesy Caesarstone).

Altered States

Snarkitecture is no stranger to Milan Design Week installations. For its most recent, the firm partnered with Caesarstone to create “Altered States” inside the 19th-century Palazzo dell’Ufficio Elettorale di Porta Romana. The installation examined water in its three forms (ice, liquid, steam/vapor) and the way it appears in nature (glacier, river, geyser) through a collection of kitchen islands made from Caesarstone’s quartz surface material.

Osvaldo Borsani built this midcentury villa for his twin brother. Curator Ambra Medda brought it back to life for Milan Design Week.

Osvaldo Borsani built this midcentury villa for his twin brother. Curator Ambra Medda brought it back to life for Milan Design Week. (Courtesy Villa Borsani)

Villa Borsani

In advance of an exhibition curated by Norman Foster and Osvaldo Borsani’s grandson, the Villa Borsani opened to visitors after being newly decorated by curator Ambra Medda, who collaborated with various artists to bring in floral arrangements, scents, and a playlist that enliven the midcentury villa.

James Wines collaborated with Foscarini to challenge people's subconscious spatial expectations (Courtesy Foscarini).

James Wines collaborated with Foscarini to challenge people’s subconscious spatial expectations (Courtesy Foscarini).

James Wines X Foscarini

James Wines/SITE collaborated with Foscarini to make the “Reverse Room,” a slanting black box that houses a limited edition set of lights called “The Lightbulb Series.” Wines relied on his research on subconscious spatial expectations to keep visitors constantly surprised. “This series comes from the idea of disrupting the classic design of incandescent light bulbs,” Wines said in a statement. “An idea that suggests a critical reflection on the absolutely non-iconic forms of modern LED lamps. The concept, implemented by Foscarini, stems from research on the spontaneous way people identify with forms and functions of everyday objects. In this case, the light bulbs merge crack, shatter, and burn out, overturning any expectations.”

Fondazione Prada is now complete with the latest building by OMA. (Courtesy Fondazione Prada).

Fondazione Prada is now complete with the latest building by OMA. (Courtesy Fondazione Prada).

Fondazione Prada

On April 18, the Fondazione Prada completed the latest, and last, building in its 200,000-square-foot Milan complex. Torre, designed by Rem Koolhaas, Chris van Duijn, and Federico Pompignoli of OMA, is wrapped in white concrete and nearly 197 feet tall. This form offers a two-fold experience: From the exterior, the spare, modern block contrasts with the more ornate buildings of the campus (the Italianate-style entry building, gold-painted tower, and the mirror-clad theater, among others) and from the interior, sweeping views of the surrounding industrial neighborhood.

At the back of the building, an exterior elevator core is intersected by a diagonal form that connects the Torre to the adjacent Deposito gallery. The elevator’s interior is painted an electrifying hot pink, framing the panorama of the campus in madcap fashion. The gallery’s floors, currently occupied by the exhibition Atlas, are similarly eclectic. Floor plans alternate between trapezoidal and rectangular and the ceiling heights increase from about 9 feet on the first floor to 26 feet on the top floor, with glowing pink staircases in between. Even so, the space complements rather than competes with massive, immersive installations from heavy-hitting artists such as Damien Hirst and Jeff Koons. (Although the maze-like entrance to Carsten Höller’s Upside Down Mushroom is so dark, this writer ran into a wall.)

This housing prototype was 3-D printed on-site using materials that can be recycled into new structures as needed.

This housing prototype was 3-D printed on-site using materials that can be recycled into new structures as needed. (Courtesy Massimiliano Locatelli | CLS Architetti)

3D Housing 05

Massimiliano Locatelli | CLS Architetti collaborated with Arup, Italcementi, and Cybe to 3-D print a 1,076-square-foot house on-site. The house, located in front of the Piazza Cesare Beccaria, demonstrated that 3-D printing could be used as a sustainable and feasible construction method. The house was 3-D printed from a recycled concrete that, in the event the house is destroyed, could be reused to make a new structure.

Testing Hypotheticals invites communities to creatively explore the future of urban design (Courtesy Lexus).

Testing Hypotheticals invites communities to creatively explore the future of urban design (Courtesy Lexus).

Lexus Design Award

This year marked two firsts for the 2018 Lexus Design Award (LDA) Grand Prix Winner: It was the first time an American design team took home the prize, and the first time a workshop, rather than a product, won. New York design research studio, Extrapolation Factory, “studies the future” and helps communities create and experience their cities’ futures through workshops and activities. “We all have a vested interest in the future. But how many people have taken a class in futures?” asked Extrapolation Factory cofounder Elliott P. Montgomery. “We’ve had classes in history, math, science, but we are never taught how to think about the future. And this seems like a glaring omission in our country’s education.” Montgomery and his cofounder Christopher Woebken conducted a workshop at the Queens Museum and presented a video alongside a few props as their LDA presentation. The unusual urban planning project garnered praise for its focus on community and its exploration of society, technology, and environment.

“It’s completely different than the other participants because it isn’t product-based. It is about education and using design as a way to engage with people, and given the context of the theme, CO-, we felt that was incredibly important,” said Simone Farresin of Formafantasma, who mentored the Extrapolation Factory for the LDA.

A verdant communal kitchen anchors four living modules in Studio Mama's design for Mini Living (Olivia Martin/AN)

A verdant communal kitchen anchors four living modules in Studio Mama’s design for Mini Living (Olivia Martin/AN)

MINI Living House

London-based architecture firm Studiomama created four modular co-living spaces for MINI. Each module had its own color and built-in furniture “totems” that distinguish the space’s personality. The four units share communal spaces, including a kitchen (shown above), a dining area, a gym, and home theater space.

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