Salone del mobile and Fuorisalone 2019

The best of design schools at Milan Design Week 2019

Five of the most interesting projects presented by students at this year’s Salone del Mobile.

ECAL Ring my bell

When so much of Milan’s annual design week is dictated by product launches and brand presentations, the multitude of exhibitions by schools and academies always feel like a breath of fresh air. This year, research projects ranged from deep dive investigations into online commerce to speculative takes on new communication technologies to simple explorations of overlooked household objects. We rounded up five of the most interesting projects from Europe’s design schools.

Design Academy Eindhoven
Former students of Design Academy Eindhoven set their sights on mammoth e-commerce platform Alibaba for their Design Week project. Curated by Joseph Grima and Martina Muzi, the project follows the many ways that Alibaba has become so deeply embedded in the daily life of almost half the globe. Described by the curators as an ‘Internet platform, chat system, financial institution, social network, cloud computing service, digital wallet, education and innovation driver, and an almost indescribably vast logistics network that links cities, ports and factory villages across the world.’ The exhibition shows that Alibaba’s influence on contemporary life has become intractable: from the Taobao rural villages that have popped up in China as production hubs for the retailer, all the way to the global meddling orchestrated by founder Jack Ma.

Danish Royal Academy
The KADK’s Milan Design Week project took a personal approach with their ‘Different Bodies’ exhibition, a look into the need for diversity in design. ‘We often perceive and treat the human body as an average figure which comes in a standard size when, in fact, each body is different,’ explains the accompanying text. The exhibition takes visitors through an interactive maze that challenges our perspectives on shape, size and aesthetic beauty, prompting us to rethink our approach to design.

Royal College of Art
London’s Royal College of Art looked to the not-so-distant future for their Ventura Future-based exhibition. In anticipation of the introduction of 5G in three to five years, students created a series of objects that would ‘help navigate a smart future… seamlessly connected by the deep integration of technology’. Speculative objects include an actively cooled carrier for vaccines that is powered by human motion, a modular hairdryer that can be replaced and rebuilt and SafeSound, an encrypted earphone device that protects sensitive data from being capturing from your surroundings.

Geo-Design: Alibaba
The “Geo-Design: Alibaba. From here to your home” exhibition made by students of Design Academy Eindhoven. Photo Nicole Marnati

ECAL
ECAL’s exhibition gave new life to one of the more overlooked aspects of the modern home: the doorbell. Under the leadership of Stéphane Halmaï-Voisard, first-year industrial design students were tasked with developing new tones for the otherwise commonplace object using the laws of physics — movement, friction, interaction — as a starting point for their designs. From jangling keys to a rolling snare drum, the musical aspect of design took centre stage as students explored novel ways of approaching the doorbell. The result was a cacophony of sound within the gallery as visitors took their turns interacting with the deceptively simple but delightful exhibition.

Academy of Arts, Architecture and Design in Prague
The presentation by Prague’s Academy of Arts, Architecture and Design took the form of a larger-than-life vending machine that does everything from sketch your portrait to serve you a cold Czech beer. Inspired by futuristic studio play R.U.R - Rossum’s Universal Robots by Karel Čapek — who, with his brother Josef Čapek, invented the concept of robotics — the project was designed to exist as a meeting point between manual craftsmanship and automated digital technologies. In addition to sketching and pouring drinks, the machine engaged in periodic performances where it would decorate, on site, handmade Moser crystal glassware with software-run digital airbrush technology.

Opening picture: The machine inspired by futuristic studio play R.U.R, Academy of Arts, Architecture and Design in Prague. Photo Tomas Zumr

School:
Design Academy Eindhoven
Exhibition:
Geo-design: Alibaba. From here to your home
Curators:
Joseph Grima and Martina Muzi
Address:
via Marco Aurelio 21, Milan
School :
Danish Royal Academy
Exhibition:
Different Bodies by KADK
Address:
via Pastrengo 7, Isola Design District, Milan
School:
Royal College of Art
Project:
Design products
Address:
via Tortona 54, Ventura Future, Milan
School:
ECAL
Exhibition:
Ring my bell
Venue:
Spazio Orso 16
Address:
Via dell’Orso 16, Milan
School:
Academy of Arts, Architecture and Design in Prague
Exhibition:
Studio Robotico R.U.R.
Address:
via Tortona 54, Ventura Future, Milan

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