Ten things I understood at the FuoriSalone, explained

There is an exercise that I always find useful to do after every FuoriSalone: close your eyes and remember. Projects, conversations, sometimes products. Not a list of Best Of but contents that - for the most varied reasons - have transformed into thoughts that leave their mark.

It is a totally intimate exercise built on the basis of pre-existing personal interests.

In my case, for example, I avoided blockbuster installations, designer interiors, "immersive" situations. Maybe I missed beautiful things but choosing, at the FuoriSalone, is imperative. And I chose to deal with situations in which design was evident, understood as design thinking that accompanies, represents, explains or anticipates the becoming of contemporaneity.

However "biased" it may be, this exercise is still important: the equivalent of asking yourself, after seeing an exhibition, if we came away different.

Here then are the thoughts that this FuoriSalone 2024 left me with.

Opening photo: Piercarlo Quecchia DSL Studio for Dotdotdot

You can create meaningful arrangements with little

What you need is a strong idea, a story to tell and a lot of good taste. He had all this in his pocket Lorenzo Damiani which he staged at the Fabbrica del Vapore with his About Marble, a totally self-produced project that explains how to rationalize the use of marble.

In a barren place, Damiani exhibited 5 projects and their creation process by simply placing them on the ground, without any technological aid.

It was enough to follow the path, marked with colored tape, to learn that by using scraps, combining marble with stoneware, taking advantage of semi-finished products and the possibility of folding it when it is cut very thin, one can drastically reduce the production of virgin material which is becoming increasingly rarer but also increasingly in demand.

There are less talks about sustainability and people practice it more

The great absence in the presentations and stories of the companies was the word sustainability. And that's great news.

Because getting it out of the communications and marketing offices to leave it under the management of Sustainability Managers (provided they don't report to those in charge of advertising, obviously) is the first step towards taking it seriously.

In fact, talking less about it obviously doesn't mean not practicing it: also because with the European Union's Green rules on eco-design and the control of environmental impact it is no longer a choice. Only, finally, we all realized that this is a path and not a claim to be fed to the (few) unwary people left around.

Take the Catifa Carta by Arper, the revision of the best-seller made with a body made of kraft paper sheets held together by an organic glue, no color added (the black is given by the heat of the burn that the mold leaves on the paper) .

Despite the enormous result obtained (it is even more than 50% bio-degradable and a system for recovering the pieces at the end of their life has been designed), when the Sustainability Manager talks about it he is already focused on the next objective: making it totally bio-degradable to also allow residential customers to manage it themselves, if they wish, at the end of its life.

You can design the way sound propagates in an environment

But not by installing speakers or sound-absorbing panels in a room, a young architect I met at Rossana Orlandi explained to me, Jacopo Gonzato. According to him, the way in which sound spreads in an environment, defining its atmosphere, can and should be designed together with the architecture, upstream.

How you do it?

According to him, it's all a question of angles, materials, structures to be installed in spaces.

He has been studying how to do it for years, creating sculptural objects that are like points in space connected by wooden planks: an octahedron, a tetrahedron but also concentric circles. Structures that vibrate when exposed to sound waves and transmit sound. “Imagine that they become rooms,” says Gonzato, for whom all this work is just an incipit to arrive at the definition of a methodology for the architectural design of sounds. We await the next episode with curiosity.

We can talk about excellence and Made in Italy without being banal

For those who are now in hives hearing Made in Italy spoken of as an empty slogan, the Fuorisalone offered a moment of refreshment and revenge with the Trattoria Altra Vista at Palazzo Litta, a traveling project by Anotherview with David Dolcini of which the Milanese event represents the first stage.

“It is the most expensive rendering ever made, a pilot episode”, explained Marco Tabasso of the collective that invented digital landscape windows and sells them all over the world through the gallery circuit. The Trattoria Altra Vista, in fact, showcases Italian excellence - in design, in food - recreating a beautiful country atmosphere using only contemporary furnishings and works, designed to hoc by designers and artists. Everything takes place, as tradition dictates, around a table where you eat, surrounded by wonderful landscapes in constant but slow movement. There is nothing cloying in the project, self-celebratory, sovereignist or banal. On the contrary, there is an Italy that seeks creative alternatives without losing the beauty of its past, that honors its borders by keeping them mentally very open.

You can still ask interesting questions about the home

Like the one that Formafantasma set themselves with La Casa Dentro. That is: what is the house that really defines us? The one we aspire to - due to cultural pressure and various superstructures - or the one in which we were born and raised, a poorly designed place but with undeniable warmth?

And how can these opposites be united, what should happen in us and in the objects that surround us, in order to make two often opposite universes coexist and truly find the home we have inside?

The exhibition - where furnishings that mix modernist inspirations with highly sophisticated decorations and craftsmanship are on display - is open until 19 July.

We can talk about AI to question it rathan than amaze (even in an analogue way)

There was obviously a lot of talk about AI at the FuoriSalone but to explain how it works, better than "immersive" installations, there were two small, intelligent and apparently very different projects.

The first is Data Bugs by Dotdotdot (which won the Fuorisalone award as best interaction): here, through a gaming experience, it was possible to provide an image-generating AI with different datasets on insects (one generic and one prepared ad hoc by an entomologist) and grasp the difference in the results: on the one hand those influenced by collective biases and on the other the freer ones, in which AI expresses itself, from a creative point of view, at its best.

The second project was The Blond Laboratory: a collective research initiated by the London studio Blond who provided 7 designers with an analogue "dataset", i.e. around twenty obsolete objects from which to choose one as inspiration to create a new object, relevant for the contemporary world.

It was a challenge to AI, considered a useful tool for certain moments of design but harmful in the original creative act.

Two very different exhibitions which however describe the same landscape in which design moves today, helping designers and the public not to demonize the tool but to ask themselves the relevant questions and set limits when using it.

You can use hair to make fabrics

Het Nieuwe Instituut of Rotterdam has created clothing using a material transformation process created by Human Material Loop: using enzymes, this new process transforms human hair into yarn and then fabric for fashion or decor. I was skeptical about this project but the results are truly impressive. It was exhibited at Stecca 3 in the Isola Design District.

A piece of furniture can be made without hinges

Alessandro Stabile did it for Magis with Tacito, a sideboard whose doors are thermoformed fabric panels that close thanks to a magnets hidden in the profile of the volume, with an invisible hingeplaced in the center of the furniture. Intelligent.

You discover many things by observing the behavior of materials

For example, it is possible to create even impressive objects in post-consumer recycled aluminium.

The Norwegian aluminum giant Hydro asked designers to do exactly this and the result are objects of the most varied sizes (from vases to bookcases) made with simple extrusions (exhibited at the Spazio Maiocchi).

With Wonder Powder, the Japanese studio We+ (also author of the Elica installation at Palazzo Litta, awarded by the Fuorisalone Award) studied the behavior of dust in water at Dropcity: with the support of the Shimadzu Corporation, the study observed what happens to materials pulverized in a liquid and collected data which will then be used (presumably to provide datasets to the AI?).

With the aim of thinking about how to create flatpack and very light objects to be regenerated by those who receive them (a bit like Gaetano Pesce's UP), the students of ECAL have carried out a beautiful study on the behavior of sponges.

They sewed them, cut them, sectioned them, tied them, glued them, added buttons, staples... And then they wet them and made them grow.

How do you control such a process? Is it possible to design things that will then become something else in the hands of those who receive them? Delightful.

Meaningful projects are those that last

It seems obvious but it isn't. Because there have always been plenty of hit-and-run projects. Excellent then that Giacomo Moor presented the second episode of Design for Communities for Live at Assab One In Slums, the project that brings furniture and micro-architecture to the Mathare slum – started last year.

It's also great that We Mediterranean in Dropcity was born as an itinerant project, which grows over time.

Led by Paola Carimati and Matilde Cassani, We Mediterranean promotes the role of architecture as a common home capable of writing a new vocabulary of hospitality , organizing meet-ups, events, discussions and designing temporary gathering places of which Milan was only the launch site.

While Artesanos, the group of designers put together by Luisa Bertoldo and Davide Fabio Colaci to give new forms to the works of Peruvian artisans, is part of the Operation Mato Grosso (in progress for decades). And, they assure us, it will continue, after the sale of all the furnishings on display at the former Casoretto Cinema.