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‘Thinking Differently’ with Superdesign Show 2024 at this year’s Milan Design Week
Superdesign show returns with a supersized list of designers, studios, brands and installations (on R: Why Not by graphic artist Daniele Cima)
Image: Courtesy of Superstudio

‘Thinking Differently’ with Superdesign Show 2024 at this year’s Milan Design Week

The event by Superstudio aims to disrupt conventional ways of thinking through projects that reiterate sustainability, inclusivity, cultural heritage, and a keen eye for aesthetics.

by Mrinmayee Bhoot
Published on : Apr 02, 2024

Embracing the challenge that comes with a world where there seems to be a solution for every issue, where everything seems to have been invented and even reinvented, this year’s Superdesign Show asks its participants to think outside the box. The design event, described as “a tapestry of revisited traditions, virtual worlds, humanised technologies, respect for nature, regenerated materials, inclusive choices, ethics, and aesthetics” in an official press release encourages designers to break from norm as a means of asking why not, of letting creativity run wild.

The prolific, diverse and forward-looking showcase at this year’s preeminent design showcase by Superstudio in the Tortona Design District brings together participants from 11 nations and the collaboration of over 80 companies resulting in the presentation of nearly 40 cutting-edge projects that toe the line between tradition and contemporaneity, virtuality and materiality, restraint and exuberance. To design is to see the world differently and think differently. The urge to explore new horizons drives good design practices, and in today’s world, the ability to see something in a new way can help provide the right answers to grapple with the realities of a tumultuous world. As Gisella Borioli, the project’s creator reiterates, “The complexity of contemporary life is mirrored in our collective choices, between conformity and diversity. This year, we have explored the latter path, inviting designers, artists and companies to THINK DIFFERENTLY in many aspects.”

While Milan prepares to usher in Milan Design Week, bringing the city alive with design exhibitions, installations and a pop-up gallery around every corner, the show curated by Superstudio speaks to the power of individual creativity through projects that address technology, the natural world, inclusivity and ultimately the future. This bold theme and spirit for experimentation also guides Giulio Cappellini, the event’s art director, in choosing an uncommon colour for the walls of the Superdesign Show, an unusual bright green that speaks of nature, peace, serenity and joy.

As we gear up to immerse ourselves in an assemblage of practices that play off each other in unexpected ways, leading the visitor into a serendipitous journey of discovery, one product answering the questions another raises. STIR enlists the “everything, everywhere, everyone” and then more from this year’s showcase at Superstudio Più. Thinking differently is just the beginning of Superdesign Show 2024.

Revisited Traditions

Often, designers have turned to traditional practices and materials as a means of highlighting the inherent respect for local contexts and landscapes. Increasingly, sustainable design practices reinvent traditional methods, updating them for the contemporary world. Highlighting this idea, Slow Hand Design Thailand by the Department of International Trade Promotion (DITP) highlights Thai culture in all its vibrance. The exhibition will be curated by Eggarat Wongcharit and will display designs that received Thailand’s Design Excellence Award (DEmark)—projects that draw on the local wisdom of Thai roots—in a setting that references traditional Thai fun markets.

Similarly, the 10 Czech artists who will display their work as part of a glass object installation called Designblok Cosmos presented by Prague’s festival Designblok reinvent the traditional material of the country, glass. Designblok’s director Jana Zielinski and creative director Jiří Macek have curated artists and makers, Jakub Berdych Karpelis, DECHEM studio, Lucie Koldová, Václav Mlynář, Lukáš Novák, Jiří Pelcl, Rony Plesl, Tadeáš Podracký, Maxim Velčovský and Jan Plecháč, who present unique approaches to and deft craftsmanship in glassmaking and glass art, along with an immersive audiovisual show transforming their glassmaking and exhibition space.

Creativity, cultural heritage, and a futuristic vision of Italian craftsmanship define Made in Italy. CNA’s display at the design fair. Under the artistic direction of Sapiens Design Studio and Stefano Lodesani Studio, CNA, the Italian Confederation of Craft Trades and Small- and Medium-Sized Enterprises presents their second iteration of FUORISERIE. The exhibition platforms small and medium-sized Italian design practices that focus on craftsmanship, in-depth knowledge of construction techniques and materials, and respect for traditions while still adopting a forward-looking approach. The selected theme Tangible – Intangible, draws attention to the pervasiveness of technology in modern life, and how it mediates consumption of products and services.

Virtual worlds, Humanised technologies

Acknowledging the fact that modern life is governed by technology, several design studios and brands in the list of participants experiment with virtual reality, 3D printing software, sustainable innovations and even generative design. LEXUS presents two installations that blur the boundaries between design and technology to imagine a carbon-neutral future. The interactive installations, BEYOND THE HORIZON by Hideki Yoshimoto/Tangent and 8 Minutes and 20 Seconds by Marjan van Aubel highlight pioneering new approaches by LEXUS toward a cleaner future.

HABITS DESIGN, an industrial design studio, focused on technological and interactive projects showcases a range of designs that incorporate technology in a way that the objects are able to react to their surrounding environmental stimuli. Their exhibition, titled Digital Domestic Dialogues gives smart home devices an affective quality where users can interact with the objects through simple and natural gestures.

On the other hand, projects by students from Istituto Marangoni Milano’s School of Design in collaboration with Italian brand, Cappellini reimagine furniture designs for a speculative spin-off of the brand aimed at Gen Z consumers. While the purpose was to rethink furniture and products with a savvy approach aimed at the future generation, the 13 proposals on display also incorporated technologies such as artificial intelligence and virtual design into physical objects.

PIXOM, a design brand that combines generative design, artificial intelligence, sustainable materials and 3D printing will showcase its furniture and lighting designs at this year’s Superdesign Show. The dichotomy between the natural and machinic drives the creative process for their objects that aim to humanise computing and the materialisation of digital culture, prioritising a circular economy and user experience.

Respect for nature, Regenerated materials

Sustainability is no longer a buzzword but a core tenet for any design practice. Numerous projects highlight this at this year’s Superdesign Show, including the furniture created by The Good Plastic Company for their infopoint. The sustainable design company has also collaborated with StudioXAG for an installation that asks its visitors to reconsider their material usage. The design installation, an enormous Earth sculpture, was crafted from 100 per cent recycled plastic and hopes to showcase how spaces can be designed in tandem with the Earth, and its limited resources.

An immersive site-specific installation by sculptor Michele D’Agostino and NichelcromLab, an Italian brand specialised in stainless steel cladding and surfaces, urges visitors to engage in a dialogue with nature. The mirrored stainless steel surfaces of the installation reflect the greenery of an oak forest, creating an endlessly replicating landscape. The aim of the almost disorienting interiors of the installation is to emphasise the beauty and fragility of our ecosystem, asking visitors to better consider the natural world around them.

Inclusive choices

While respect for nature, local contexts and a growing awareness of technology are all vital to contemporary design and its practice, there is also a need to consider divergent perspectives that don’t fit the normal. Underscoring the importance of inclusive, universal design, designer Mara Bragagnolo’s collection of children’s furniture brings to the fore the needs of people diagnosed with autism, encouraging designers to consider functionality and aesthetics in a new light. Similarly, an anthropomorphic sculpture presented by George P. Johnson Japan, at the design fair asks visitors to embrace multiple perspectives.

Ethics and aesthetics

Apart from interpreting the subversive call by Superstudio in a manner that actively engages with the processes of design (through material, or making), several projects present objects and solutions that are simply aesthetic reinventions. For instance, Heilig Objects by young Hungarian-German designer Daniel Heilig showcases MONUMENTS which reinterpret monumental architecture as furniture pieces.

Epitomising the sleek aesthetics of next125’s innovative kitchens, Pritzker Prize laureate, Burkinabè-German architect and educator Diébédo Francis Kéré will present an installation in collaboration with the kitchen brand.

Closing out the dizzying array of designs and perspectives, graphic artist Daniele Cima poses a daring challenge to visitors by asking Why not? His work, presented right at the start of the exhibition space offers 42 different graphic interpretations of the question translated into languages from around the globe. The question asks one to let go of inhibition, the question a basis for nearly every human innovation, and think fresh.

To cap off the displays and installations, a talk centred on “The role of education for the future of design,” on April 17, 2024, marks the beginning of a collaboration that brings the Superdesign Show to New York. The speakers will discuss the role of design schools today and in the future in shaping more inclusive design practices.

Further, apart from the physical displays, the team at Superstudio have also created three SuperDigital Virtual Points, where visitors can engage with a widespread digital experience including holograms, avatars, artificial intelligence, and immersive environments to allow visitors to fully immerse themselves into the design experience that is Milan.

Stay tuned with STIR's coverage of Milan Design Week 2024 which showcases the best of exhibitions, studios, designers, installations, brands and events to look out for. Explore EuroCucina and all the design districts—Fuorisalone, 5vie Design Week, Isola Design Week, Brera Design District and Porta Venezia Design District.

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