This article was originally published on Domus 1073, November 2022.
The Oasi di Ines, a mini-flat (36 m2) renovated by Paradisiartificiali, incorporates many ‘very Milanese’ themes: the casa di ringhiera (typical working-class houses with railings), minimal lifestyle and customisable space, which speak about and to the client. And the Milanese collective Paradisiartificiali has talent in this. “We like to interpret design in a fantastical and playful way,” they state. By establishing an emotional connection with clients, they create suggestive spaces of great visual impact. Despite very tight budgets, unique, hybrid and expressive designs are created, which often become collaborations with other creatives (in this specific case, the stylist Veronica Leali and the illustrator Pavel Zhovba). That is why it is ‘collective’.
The Oasi di Ines is on the fourth floor of a casa di ringhiera, right outside the south railway circle of the Lombard metropolis. Between the empty spaces (not for long) of the Porta Romana railway yard and the new Symbiosis district, there are some blocks of courtyard housing from the early 1900s, creating a compact front overlooking the street. Here are still traces of working-class Milan that, having moved to the city, replaced farmyard life with courtyard life. The entryways and windows of these working-class homes, laundry hung out to dry, shared bathrooms, chickens in courtyards and cats on staircases represented the deeply communal habits and customs of these living spaces. If little remains of that day-to-day life, the form of the architecture endures and keeps suggesting an attitude of sharing in which personal space is more flexible and collectivity becomes an integral part of the domestic identity.
These suggestions led to the idea of living areas and the egg, a metaphor for the circle of life and also an ancient symbol of hope and renewal, which becomes the protagonist. Like in a film by Kusturica, hens, feathers, eggs and recipes come alive in The chicken sisters by the Ukrainian illustrator Pavel Zhovba, which, stamped on white 10x10 cm tiles by CE.SI. Ceramic, runs along the kitchen, marking off the space of the home where people come together and eat.
Just a few metres from this ‘family reunion’, in the bathroom, is a more abstract scenario. The client loves and is well versed in art. In a somewhat surreal and provocative manner, the bathroom thus becomes the location to install a solo exhibition by the American artist Ellsworth Kelly. “We wanted to transform the colours of the feathers, the sounds of pots and pans and the scent of fresh laundry into perceptive experiences, so we needed to deconstruct the visible.” With ordinary coloured tiles, Paradisiartificiali recreates some works by the American master.
So in a few square metres and with precise gestures, in a creative and plural alliance between authors, clients and suppliers, this space takes on new meaning, comes alive and begins to vibrate.