MDW22: Alcova Returns With Emerging Design + Experimental Projects

Now in its fifth year, Alcova is going some way towards filling a hole left in the hearts of regular Milan Design Week goers by the demise of Ventura Lambrate. Described by its founders, Valentina Ciuffi and Joseph Grima, as “a platform for independent design,” it combines unusual venues (this year’s military base boasted soaring pine trees and a former psychiatric hospital) with emerging design talent, experimental projects, and a good supply of shaded tables served by food and drink trucks – a winning combination.

Alcova \\\ Image courtesy of David Gorrod, Seen PR

Canadian lighting brand Lambert & Fils collaborated with DWA Design Studio and New York-based wallpaper studio SuperFlower to create Caffè Populaire: an eight-day aperitivo garden set in Alcova’s vacant temple and surrounding wild garden. A table blooming with wildflowers and connected water sculpture featuring Lambert & Fils’ new lighting collection SILO were a sight for sore eyes on a hot June day.

Spoken Lines was a three-dimensional art installation by Beni Rugs, stylist Colin King and artist Amine El Gotaibi that brought the materiality of rug making to life.

The Kitchen for Cooking was a collection of playful, modular kitchens that suit modern living – enabling you to adapt them as your needs change and take them with you when you move – and are high enough for contemporary (taller) humans and designed by people who actually cook! Designed by Chmara.Rosinke – a Berlin- and Vienna-based research and design studio striving to “decipher delight and deliver design solutions in the context of food and contemporary culture.”

Estuary of Riptide and Reunion (far side) by Forêt Atelier showcased the hidden flora in the waters of the Oosterschelde in the Netherlands and their potential as a natural resource for biopolymers, cattle feed, and fabric. Seaweed and seagrasses in particular have huge potential for capturing carbon, reducing the methane emissions from cattle when used in their feed, and providing biodiverse habitats.

One of the notable shifts at Milan Design Week this year was away from “Instagrammable” moments and towards multi-sensory experiences. Taking “energy from the sun, inspiration from travel,” Alessia Anfuso’s emotional scenography for The House of Lyra represented “a ship traveling through different places, latitudes, and eras: swatches of fabrics as sails, the light of the lamp on the bow as the sun, source of energy to creation” – complete with a soundscape and bespoke scent. You really had to be there!

Holotype is a new collection from Chicago-based Refractory Studio in cast bronze, cast glass, and wood inspired by the mountainous American landscapes – all handmade in Chicago. Huge tubs of turmeric provided the scent while a collaboration with photographer Sarah Wilson added atmosphere and context.

With the AD ALL Collection of occasional furniture and accessories for Zeitraum Furniture, Mathias Hahn is exploring the in-between as well as celebrating wood as a material. “The objects are designed to migrate or moderate between spacial scenarios of the every day,” says Zeitraum of the collection.

A collection of eight chairs by Saint Petersburg-based design brand, studio, and manufacturer Delo incorporated recycled plastic, waste metal, and natural fibers – and all reflected the natural colors of their constituent elements.

There is an increasing move in sustainable design not to simply do less harm, but to actively seek to benefit the natural environment – Platforms for Humans and Birds is more than a bench – it’s a “modular cast landscape” with as much to offer our avian friends (edible insertions, water bowls, games, and perches) as the humans who co-exist with them. By Studio Ossidiana – a practice encompassing architecture, design, and art led by Alessandra Covini and Giovanni Bellotti.

Katie Treggiden is a purpose-driven journalist, author and, podcaster championing a circular approach to design – because Planet Earth needs better stories. She is also the founder and director of Making Design Circular, a program and membership community for designer-makers who want to join the circular economy. With 20 years’ experience in the creative industries, she regularly contributes to publications such as The Guardian, Crafts Magazine and Monocle24 – as well as being Editor at Large for Design Milk. She is currently exploring the question ‘can craft save the world?’ through an emerging body of work that includes her fifth book, Wasted: When Trash Becomes Treasure (Ludion, 2020), and a podcast, Circular with Katie Treggiden.

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