After registering more than 60,000 visitors last year, Alcova is back, the most awaited event of the Milan FuoriSalone, scheduled for from 17 to 23 April 2023, this year in a new location, namely the monumental former slaughterhouse of Porta Vittoria, in viale Molise 62.
Now in its fifth edition, Alcova is an exhibition of exhibitions, which does not want to be a curatorial review, but a platform for independent design in all its expressions, and at the same time an opportunity to discover and reactivate forgotten places of the city.
Over 70 exhibitors have already been announced, including designers, companies, galleries, institutions who through research projects investigate living environments, products, systems, materials and technological innovation.
To tell us the news, the creators of Alcova, i.e. the stainless tandem formed by Valentina Ciuffi, founder of Studio Vedèt, and Joseph Grima, at the helm of Space Caviar.
Read also: FuoriSalone 2023 event location: Alcove, seen for you
Why did you choose the former slaughterhouse of Porta Vittoria for Alcova 2023?
Valentina Ciuffi and Joseph Grima: "We always accept new challenges, we could have stopped our research and stayed in last year's location, much loved by everyone, that is the military hospital of Baggio.
Ours is an itinerant project, like a temporary urban planning project, it is an important contribution that we make to the city , is a way for Milan to rediscover itself.
We visit many spaces before choosing the right one for Alcova, because it must have very precise technical requirements to host the event, it must be accessible, easy to reach, with a good part of covered and diversified spaces, but above all it must be a place a bit magical, special, unpublished, which transmits sensations to us.
The relationship with greenery is also fundamental, we go hunting for places that experience the topical moment of transition in which nature reappropriates the architecture and the city, given the state of abandonment, this contributes to the magic of the place.
After activating a former bread factory, a cashmere factory and the abandoned buildings of a military hospital complex, this time we explore the former slaughterhouse of Porta Vittoria, it's the last chance to see it as it is , because it will then be transformed to host a new interesting cultural and urban settlement".
What's new in Alcova 2023?
Valentina Ciuffi and Joseph Grima: “Among the novelties is Alcova Project Space, the evolution of last year's Curated by Alcova, a space- exhibition in which we will promote a selection of projects that in our opinion represent the most interesting languages of the moment with strength and originality.
In fact, Alcova is not a curatorial exhibition, but a selection of the proposals that come to us spontaneously.
In Alcova Project Space, on the other hand, we proactively choose to exhibit some designers who for us are representatives of contemporary trends.
Alcova Project Space could evolve in the future, become a permanent space that works all year round, or it could move with us and participate in other exhibitions, or live online.
Furthermore, we will have a concept store in collaboration with Older, the studio made up of Letizia Caramia and Morten Thuesen which has been customizing our uniforms for years, it will be an Older x Alcova store, therefore with collectible design pieces by the creative duo, and with other objects designed specifically for this edition”.
How did you rethink the former slaughterhouse of Porta Vittoria?
Valentina Ciuffi and Joseph Grima: "Last year we understood that we had reached the maximum visit limit of the space, so we calibrated ourselves on the idea of not exceeding the size and extent of 2022.
The former slaughterhouse of Porta Vittoria, municipal slaughterhouse built between 1912 and 1914 to a design by Giannino Ferrini and Giovanni Filippini, and decommissioned between 1995 and 2005, extends over 20,000 square meters, with many exteriors, an exhibition area slightly larger than last year's, but well proportioned.
We have not occupied every corner voraciously. There are many requests to participate, but we believe that Alcova must keep its soul and be open to visitors in a sustainable way”.
Any preview of this year's exhibitors?
Valentina Ciuffi and Joseph Grima: "Alcova is a multifaceted exhibition that touches on several topics, from materials to gender, from innovation to craft.
For instance, there will be This is Denmark, an installation built on the themes of landscape and sound, exploring the relationship between those who make design in Denmark today and its heritage.
Research on materials is a theme investigated by numerous participants, from Atelier Luma - Luma, Arles which, coordinated by Jan Boelen, will invite visitors on a spectacular journey to discover materials and their evolutions; to the Finns of Habitarematerials, who will present a maxi installation curated by NemoArchitects, a large encyclopaedia of innovative and sustainable materials with which the public will be able to interact . The start-up Chair 1:1 will propose a completely circular production path, the Californian duo Prowl will show how to make a fully compostable chair, while Stacklab</strong > chairs will transform recycled fabrics without rhetoric.
Another trend will be contemporary craft with, for example, the projects of Cengiz Hartmann and Yuma Kano x < strong>Sho Ota, and new technologies exemplified by the research of Kate Greenberg.
The exhibition also explores the often neglected fields of sensory design, investigating its olfactory dimension, with the new project by Dwa for Les Eaux Primordiales, or that of taste, with the liquid installation by Mamo. Great space for emerging names, such as N/A (Natalia Triantafylli - Andrew Scott), Kiki Goti, Monstrum Studio, Sangmin Oh and WangyichuWangyichu, whose projects will be alongside those of established brands and studios such as Lindsey Adelman Studio or Atelier Areti.
Alcova 2023 will investigate the boundary between in&out with the site specific installations of Polcha and Objects of Common Interest.
Like every year, we want to celebrate the unifying force of design, capable of connecting talents from different places, such as China, Japan, Korea, the United States, India, Turkey, to name a few".
How do you choose the participants?
Valentina Ciuffi and Joseph Grima: "There is no defined and formal process. Alcova is a growing community, so most of our attendees come from past editions.
Others, on the other hand, apply spontaneously, there are no calls, but word of mouth works a lot.
We believe this is the best way to create a sort of cohesion, to give a sense of wholeness and continuity to all projects, as if Alcova were to become the expression of a certain way of seeing design, without this being defined through of specific parameters.
Alcova is a set of exhibitions by independent designers, but also by large institutions, galleries and collectives, so participation is very transversal, despite the exhibitors sharing a certain vision of design".
Do the participants also interpret the place?
Valentina Ciuffi and Joseph Grima: "A fundamental aspect of Alcova is the link with the architecture that hosts us.
We always choose places that have a great variety of environments, some huge, some very small, some more domestic-like or in the form of large outdoor galleries.
We therefore make a great effort to select and interpret the projects submitted to us, placing them in spaces that we believe are suitable for their research, and also for their investment capacity.
At the same time we ensure that the projects have a certain resonance in their succession".
This year Alcova is in its fifth edition. Is there an evolution in the proposals you receive?
Valentina Ciuffi and Joseph Grima: "In Milan, before Alcova, for the FuoriSalone there did not exist a large platform for non-canonical and unorthodox design expressions, such as for example the young collectives who work with the performance or showing the processes, and not just the objects.
We are attentive and give space to every form of expression, not only to installations or products, but also to very conceptual proposals, made of sound, of people who move.
Being a research platform, very experimental projects arrive, there are no limits.
More and more often we receive proposals already designed for the space, which means that we have managed to convey the concept that Alcova is not a fair, there are no stands, but we need to dialogue with the architecture.
A strong trend that is returning, and that has always been there, is represented, as mentioned before, by research projects on materials".
Just find a forgotten place to create a successful event?
Valentina Ciuffi and Joseph Grima: "It's not enough to choose a remote location and then put things inside, space is just one of the ingredients. Alcova is the result of a permanent work that we carry out throughout the year, for Alcova but also as curators and talent scouts.
We know that many, after us, have decided to exhibit in distant and forgotten places.
We are not in competition with anyone. On the contrary, we are interested in everyone presenting value propositions, so that the experience of the Milan Furniture Fair and the FuoriSalone are increasingly important moments of convergence, exchange, creation of new contacts, it is in everyone's interest that the Milan design week goes well.
We would only be happy if others helped us carry on with this process, to modernize the way in which independent but also mainstream design is described.
We are the first supporters of those who want to help us go in this direction, we want it to become the norm in the world of design, not the exception".
Alcova has become a very successful event. Are you afraid of losing some of your freedom and independence?
Valentina Ciuffi and Joseph Grima: "We think that our way of working has not changed in these five years, we have remained a small, very close-knit, agile team, in the field and independent, we have never institutionalized ourselves.
The Alcova formula hasn't changed: we are a platform for independent research design.
It's a fresh project, which we carry on out of (great) passion, because as our main activity we have studies and we do something else, and I think this is transmitted and perceived".