Ventura Lambrate is the most interesting large scale design event of Milan Design Week. While Milan seems to have at least one new self proclaimed ‘Design District’ every year – this year it was Isola, near the famous fashion destination Corso Como, Isola included some talented studios and companies such as Kiki van Eijk & Joost van Bleiswijk and Cor Unum.
As a whole it was a mere blip on the design radar with just a hand full of exhibitors, and hopefully next year this little destination may have grown into something more substantial but for now Ventura Lambrate remains the premier alternative design destination for younger more adventurous designers. You can see an element of commercialism creeping in to Ventura Lambrate but those of us who have visited the event every year since it’s inception in 2010 try to turn a blind eye. We love the premise. We’re desperate to hold onto a section of Milan Design Week which isn’t totally devoted to consumerism and which wholeheartedly flies the flag for art.
Since the departure of co-founder Margo Konings in early 2015, Ventura Lambrate hasn’t quite been the same. It does still offer a wonderful day out for the design enthusiast who wants to explore the unusual and the poetic however, and it still has the potential to be truly great. Just a thirty-minute metro ride on the MM2 green line from the city centre, Lambrate is a former industrial area in the city’s north that has an abundance of large warehouses and garages perfect for design exhibitions.
This year the design colleges that have dominated in recent years seemed to take a back seat – there were no mega exhibitions from the Royal College of Art or Danish, German and Swedish design Colleges, KADK, Kassel, Beckman’s and HDK, with only Aarhus, Head Genevé and Design Academy Eindhoven continuing to show in a big way.
As usual the main street of the district, Via Ventura, had some wonderfully exiting exhibits in its line up of tiny mechanic’s garages and this set the tone for the rest of the day. One of my favourite designers on my visits to Milan in recent years has been German designer Joa Herrenknecht who I’ve followed from shows in Lambrate to Satellite and back again. This year she was showing as part of a group under the banner The Journey of Things.
Her work this year included a salmon skin upholstered bench called ‘Nani’, the ‘Panna’ pendant light in folded cork and the ‘Ora’ distressed mirror. Also showing as part of The Journey of Things group was Elisa Storzyk who has been exploring veneered timber fabrics in various ways since 2009. Her ‘Wooden Textile’ fabric is not new but always startling.
Her ‘Septagon’ Bar Cabinet was an extraordinary piece made in collaboration with Sebastian Neeb. The seven sided wall cabinet is made from a multitude of tiny triangular pieces formed into an incredible landscape.
On an completely different tack, Storzyk has recently been exploring flowing glazing techniques on side tables (now released by German brand Pulpo) and in this instance wall mirrors she calls ‘Ceramic Surface Mirrors’.
Virtually next door was another great collective of twenty-four designers showing from nine countries under the name of Form & Seek. Curated by Turkish designer Bilge Nur Saltikand, Iranian Australian designer Golnar Roshan, the exhibition featured the work of a number of leading young Swiss, Polish, British, Italian and Turkish designers such as Alicja Patanowska, Malgorzata Mozolewska, Bilge Nur Saltik, Studio Ayaskan and Sarah Colson.
The cramped mechanics garage hosted so much work that it was hard to appreciate the quality of each piece but everything from Polish designer Malgorzata Mozolewska’s chain mail-style light fittings to the delicate glass work of British designer and glass artist, Sarah Colson were totally inspiring.
Particularly intriguing was the ‘101.86º Colour of the Day’ clock/light/artpiece by French designer Thomas Vailley and Dutch designer Laura Lynn Jensen (both graduates of Design Academy Eindhoven). The clock / light/ art piece reveals what is normally only possible to see under a polarized microscope. Crystal style forms in coloured shards adorn the clock face and move in a rough approximation of time as a second hand propels the colours to overlap changing what we see.
While Ventura Lambrate is full of exotic designers from far-flung lands such Norway, Afghanistan, Japan and Chile, occasionally an Australian or two pop up in the mix. This year apart from London based Golnar Roshan mentioned earlier, it was Ross Gardam, the Melbourne based furniture and lighting designer, who flew the flag for Australian design showing his amazing ‘Ora’ and new ‘Polar’ desk lights.
Every year I make a bee-line for Head Genève’s installation at Ventura Lambrate. Always interesting and thought provoking, the Swiss design school delivered a large scale exhibition based on the theme 24 Hours in the life of a Swiss Cuckoo Clock.
Students and lecturers alike were invited to reinvent the traditional Swiss timepiece and reinvent it they did with everything from a Cuckoo clock with a year long paper roll that prints an entry each minute called ‘Sémaphore’ by Wendy Gaze, to a clock called ‘CC Timer’ by Mathias Zeiber and Alexandre Burdin that delivers a variety of sampled forest sounds via an old-school ‘patchable’ synthesiser.
Twenty-six Bachelor and Masters students were joined by six professors who teach at Head Genève, including Nitzen Cohen and Matali Crasset.
Baars & Bloemhoff are a Dutch materials supplier that commissioned six Dutch studios to come up with new ways of using common sheet materials. The project called Transitions saw Lex Pott, Os &Oos, Michiel Martens, Visser & Meijwaard, De IntuitieFabriek and Studio Meike Meijer all design and create exciting new products using basic materials like laminate and MDF. Marten’s shelving pieces made purely from laminate were particularly interesting as the triangulated structure gave the thin plastic sheets the rigidity required to create extremely lightweight storage with integrated colour.
Dutch brand, LABEL/BREED launched it’s first collection of sustainably manufactured design items at Ventura Lambrate in 2015 and came back this year with a new collection that builds on some of the previous concepts and introduces several new items. Simone Post’s ‘Carpet Vlisco Recycled’ rug is made from waste Dutch wax fabrics (commonly worn in Africa). Like all the other LABEL/BREED products it’s the involvement of a manufacturer that adds the sustainable component. The brand’s designers design around the use of waste products but need the manufacturer to help them develop methods to realize their concepts.
One of the new products is a light weight dining chair made from scrap carbon fiber from the aerospace industry by Marleen Kaptein. The lounge chair version launched last year by Kaptein, while very well received, proved quite expensive to produce as the design requires the carbon fiber to be woven in a continuous manner from start to finish. The new dining chair version by contrast uses short length scraps made into several panels that are joined together and is as a consequence far more affordable.
As in previous years Klubben, a platform to support Norwegian designers, in conjunction with Norwegian Crafts, created a beautifully restrained exhibition of work presented within the context of geometric blocks and rectangular sheets in pastel pinks and blues with an earthy red. Beyond the beautiful styling the exhibition delivered some great new product (particularly lighting) along with wonderful hand-made vessels in timber and ceramic, and objects and jewellery in metal.
The work included pieces by established Norwegian designers such as Andreas Engesvik, to up and coming artists and designers such as Elin Hedberg, Vera & Kyte and Sverre Uhnger.
Leipzig based designers Studio Oink exhibited a range of products under the banner ‘Design with the Unknown” that came about through the sharing of found objects between two studios that only knew each other through social media. Studio Oink and British artist Aimee Bollu frequently swapped found items with each other via post and assembled uncategorised accessories from the various parts. The result was an interesting array of small objects that revealed how incredibly perfect collaboration can be.
Not all design exhibitions revolve around finished product. Envisions : Products in Process was a show curated by nine Dutch designers to show just the process with no final products anywhere in sight. Participants included Adrianus Kundert (one half of Studio Oddness mentioned below), Bastiaan de Nennie, Iwan Pol, Jeroen van de Gruiter, Sanne Schuurman, Simone Post, Plott studio (Rudi Boiten and Mireilli Burger), Studio Truly Truly and Tys Gilde. The exhibition was beautifully curated by Simone Post, Sanne Schuurman and Iwan Pol.
I found the beautifully delicate decoration of Rotterdam based Studio Oddness’ ‘Bubblegraphy’ ceramics a little too close for comfort to the process developed by Dutch designer Nienke Sybrandy of Studio SY Brandy just a few years ago. I have to admit however the vessels by Adrianus Kundert and of Studio Oddness are completely different to the plates and teacups of Studio Sybrandy and the final outcome absolutely beautiful. Maybe its just me?
The designers and installations included here were only the tip of the Ventura Lambrate iceberg with 161 exhibitions, 27 design schools and 935 designers from 29 different nationalities being represented this year. I’m already looking forward to what next year will bring. Lets hope that Ventura Projects, the body that curates the various Ventura Projects events from Belgium’s Biennale Interieur in Kortrijkto events in Berlin, London and New York, keep commercialism at bay and continue to bring us what is the most interesting large scale design event of Milan Design Week.