Major brands and avant-garde platforms alike mount striking installations during Milan Design Week

Set Design This

One of the key elements of each annual Milan Design Week is its wide offering of interior and exterior installations. Such commercial and cultural stagings indirectly promote products or new ideas as fully immersive and tangible experiences. Many are positioned as quick Instagramable moments but others offer visitors the chance to cut away and find respite from the hustle and bustle of the massive design event. Brands often tap leading interior designers to create dramatic set designs that suggest the potential application of new products, trends, or escapist fantasies. While a surge in architect-designed pavilions occupy the city’s numerous palazzos, design collectives create thematic displays in repurposed warehouses. School and cultural initiatives employ this format to bolster avant-garde concepts. Most of these ephemeral scenographies employ theatrical devices to inspire awe and ultimately sell a lifestyle concept or a sharp critique thereof. A far cry from the monotonous fair booth, the installation approach has become common practice.

During this year’s Milan Design Week, tech giants like Google, Samsung, and Sony joined major car brands like Lexus and Hyundai to create grand interactive and virtual exhibits. Whereas the former explored neuroaesthetics through a series of carefully staged interior designs, the others mounted sensorial spectacles; complete with dance performances, visual projections, smells, and sounds. This focus carried through various dramatic interior scenarios staged by top Milan design studios. Textile brands adopted clear if not slightly humoristic themes for their showcases at both the fair and downtown showrooms. Major publications challenged their obligation to host events with clever initiatives; such as the temporary transformation of editorial offices into a series of interior design curios. Here are our highlights of Milan Design Week installations.

No Man’s Land by Raf Simons for Kvadrat

Danish fabric giant Kvadrat marked its sixth year collaborating with Belgian fashion designer Raf Simons by mounting a seemingly innocent yet eerily dystopic streetscape installation. Launching four new textiles, the brand employed mid-century modern architecture—Jean Prouvé’s iconic pre-fab structure—, long wildflower beds and fences to suggest a seemingly sterile suburban setting. Shredded textiles were used to simulate grass. Inside the three pavilions, Rietveld’s Utrecht-chair—clad in the new textiles—were staged in inviting seating area setting. Further in, Kvadrat presented a series of mini displays that helped depict its production process.  

Spectrum — Killer Knots from Outer by Studio-MILO for CC Tapis

(Andrea Bortolucci)

Adopting a kitsch, pre-digital, Sci-Fi aesthetic, Studio-MILO transformed CC Tapis’s Milan showroom and Salone del Mobile booth into spaceship-like interiors. This striking interior scheme—complete with furniture by Atelier de Troupe and Chapel Petrassi—formed as a jarring yet effective backdrop for the Spanish carpet brand’s new Spectrum — Killer Knots from Outer Space collection. Among the eclectic series are works by design world heavy-hitters Martino Gamper, Patricia Urquiola, David/Nicolas, Maarten De Ceulaer, Cristina Celestino, and Germans Ermics.

Formations by Note Design Studio for Tarkett

To launch its new recyclable IQ Surface collection at this year’s Milan Design Week, French vinyl producer Tarkett asked Stockholm-based Note Design Studio to create a monumental installation. Clad in the terrazzo-like material, a series of totemic volumes rose tall in Milan’s double-height Circolo Filologicio building. The forest-like installation had an almost-neolithic and monolithic presence; with elements hinting at Memphis design. It’s moody pink, mauve, grey, blue, silver and gold palette suggested new color trends for the design industry.

The Circle, Dutch Invertuals

Ronald Smits/Courtesy Dutch Invertuals

Celebrating its 10th anniversary, Dutch Invertuals mounted The Circle showcase. To commemorate this milestone, the Eindhoven-based exhibition platform asked a select group from its network of Netherlands-based talents to consider and reconsider the primal shape of the circle. This universal form is a symbol of unity, perfection, and the infinite. New commissioned projects by Architects of Identity (Edhv), Bram Vanderbeke, Carlo Lorenzetti, Daniël de Bruin, Hongjie Yang, Nel Verbeke, Martens & Visser, Max Lipsey, Nina van Bart, Raw Color, Jeroen Wand, Jólan van der Wiel, Studio Joachim Morineau, and Schimmel and Schweikle interpreted this prompt through various concepts and applications.  

Land by Masquespacio for Poggi Ugo

(Mattia Otti)

In the past few years, Milan P.R. wiz Martina Gamboni—founder of the local Strategic Footprints agency—has gained praise by hosting Milan Design Week installations for clients in her off-the-beaten-track penthouse office. The reward is often worth the journey. The annual installation always places focus on a young interior stylist or heritage, craft-led brands. This year, Tuscan terracotta tile producer Poggi Ugo tapped emerging Spanish duo Masquespacio to create a holistic showcase, curated by Valentina Guidi Ottobri, that could display its new future-oriented yet primal collection. Sharp plant motif and totemic relief variants were juxtaposed against a cobalt blue interior; complete with porthole window frames.

Interstellar by Dimoremilano, Dimorestudio

(Paola Pansini/Courtesy of Dimorestudio)

Among multiple exhibitions mounted during this year’s Milan Design Week, famed Milan design practice Dimorestudio—Britt Moran and Emiliano Salci—debuted its new Dimoremilano branch with a multi-room video- and light-based installation. The new Interstellar furniture, textile, accessory, and outdoor collection was staged using an illuminated platform, strobe lights, and pulsating techno music. The discotheque-like exhibit employed red silk curtains to divide different spaces. Throughout, dark tones, iridescent metallics, cold blues, and sumptuous lacquers hinted at an almost Art Deco-like flamboyance. Visitors could view the dramatic display from all angles.

Life in Vogue, The Interior's Cut

Current Affairs Office by Storagemilano (Delfino Sisto Legnani)

Exploring the intersection of fashion and interior design, Vogue Italia editor-in-chief Emanuele Farneti invited top talents David/Nicolas, Massimiliano Locatelli, Pierre Marie, Ana Kraš, Rafael de Cárdenas / Architecture at Large, Jonathan Anderson, storagemilano, and Studio Proba to create interior curios within the magazine’s headquarters. In its second edition, the Life in Vogue, The Interior’s Cut program revealed vastly different approaches. However, the overall installation worked as a cohesive whole; revealing and even exaggerating aspects of the office’s daily operations.