The new look of Hommés Studio, with links to imaginary worlds. The installation on NFTs by Arturo Tedeschi, to inform the audience about a complex subject. The research on the home of tomorrow at Meet. In these FuoriSalone locations, people spoke the language of an increasingly digital future

What are we talking about when we talk about the metaverse? Or about NFTs, blockchains and their relation to design? There was a lot of curiosity, at the latest FuoriSalone, to see how certain key terms of the last two years would spread their active ingredients through the installations in Milan. The 24 previous months generated a new dictionary, along with the need to bring the audience and sector professionals up to speed on digital innovation. On one side, there was design as we know it; on the other, a series of futuristic worlds populated by pioneers coming to grips with algorithms and artificial intelligence. In the middle, creative talents were ready to grasp the most advanced digital impressions and turn them back out in appealing ways, a sort of Instagrammability reloaded riding the wave of the metaverse, as in the case of Hommés Studio, which transformed the Museo Bagatti Valsecchi into an iridescent, stratified Chromatik House, a voyage through works and furnishings inspired by different periods and styles.

Spectacle and instruction

The most interesting projects in June were those of the avant-gardes, which rolled up their sleeves, rewinding the tapes and trying to bring the general public on board, producing exhibits that had a caption-like function, though still conserving the wonder effect. Small and major operations of synthesis that combined spectacle and instruction, like crossing a vividly striking viaduct towards the future, emerging with an added bit of expertise and ready to jump onto the tech bandwagon. As Arturo Tedeschi put it, “the last year has been the one in which the acronym NFT was on the tip of everyone’s tongue – but how many people were able to explain it?”

A practical experience

An architect and computational designer, collaborating with Zaha Hadid Architects and Ross Lovegrove, Tedeschi was one of the protagonists of the latest FuoriSalone, with the installation Gateway, created to shed light and clarity on the potential of a subject in ongoing evolution – the so-called ‘non fungible tokens’. He had two objectives: “To explain, in the clearest possible way, what we are talking about when we talk about NFTs, providing a practical experience. But also to debunk some negative clichés about blockchain, which is usually narrated by the media with various, perhaps excessive, notes of doubt and distrust.”

Digital property

At Gateway, set up in a space of Palazzo Bandello, you could download an NFT on your smartphone, simply by aiming the device at the QR Code of the installation: an app allowed you to choose one of the squares projected in 3D on the wall like a sort of Tetris game, and to then take it home, in virtual terms, under the form of a digital ownership certificate, in the precise way that pieces of crypto art or virtual urban spaces are sold every day at outlandish prices – though the process was free, in this case. The cliché to be debunked, on the other hand, was that of the environmental impact of blockchain technology, one of the favorite rants of techno-skeptics. “It’s true,” Tedeschi explains, “that most blockchains feed on energy, but research in this field has led to the birth of low-consumption platforms. One of them is Tezos, which is precisely what we used in Gateway.”

Shedding light on the future

To shed light on the future, to light a torch in what many see as a dark tunnel, was also the objective of the Meet Digital Culture Center, through Tomorrow Living. The docu-series created by the Huawei Milan Aesthetic Research Center called on 30 international architects and designers, asking them about the encounter between design and digital culture – as it is, as it will be, as it should be. Maria Grazia Mattei, president and founder of the center: “Over the months, words like ‘metaverse’ have drawn great attention. But then the hype fades, while innovation continues to travel at high speed, heading for the next peak of popularity. It is up to cultural institutions to keep level high, through content that explores all the possibilities and brings clarity.” In this perspective, the 30 interviews of Tomorrow Living, accompanied by the immersive installation The Global Home of Space Popular, encouraged people to fearlessly take the train of technology that will bring us into a mixed-reality world.

Architecture and Artificial Intelligence

As Carlo Ratti says, “artificial intelligence is making our buildings, but also our cities and objects, increasingly similar to the natural world, things that react in a dynamic way. Today with technology, with sensors and AI, the skin of architecture can begin to respond to us in a new, much more fluid way.” For the digital artist Krista Kim and the father of the multisensorial meditation robots Nicholas Henchoz, thanks to the digital dimension spaces can become refuges for wellbeing of the body and the mind: “We introduce lights and works that make people feel good, not to overstimulate us but instead to calm the mind and to lower the breath rate. This is about visual relaxation, using colors as tools with which to heal.” The future is already here… we just need to learn how to open the door.