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– Written by Abbey Bamford – April 19, 2024

Milan Design Week 2024 in review: TDC’s favourite installations, exhibitions and showrooms

The TDC team has been on the ground at Milan Design Week seeing as much as we can in the fields of sustainability, technology, innovation and luxury. Read all about our highlights and watch our exclusive video content over on TDC’s Instagram and LinkedIn.

The Best of Sustainability

Throughout Milan Design Week, TDC has been on the hunt for the most sustainable projects and those exhibited at House of Switzerland, Taiwan Pavilion and Isola’s Is One Life Enough? ticked all the boxes.

There was a total of eleven different collective exhibitions at House of Switzerland. Some of our favourites were In Collaboration, which converged national brands and new-generation Swiss designers, and Emerging Talents. The latter involved eight emerging designers who were tasked with examining how joy influences the creative process and explored things like the modern application of traditional craft, the connection between technology and sustainability and how we can rethink consumption habits.

Material innovation was the most prevalent theme at Taiwan Pavilion, where each exhibitor answered a question specific to their project. UKL Enterprise Co responded to the questions of how we can add value to farm waste by turning pineapple leaf fibre – which is abundant in Taiwan – into a fashionable, low carbon yarn for clothing.

Creative from JC. Architecture & Design, Kobe Leather, Studio Kiichi and Ryosuke Nagata Shoten took a sustainably sourced meat by-product called Kobe Leather, previously thought to have very little commercial value, and turned it into a surprisingly comfortable chair called Bloom. Even better, the chair folds away to become completely flat, saving space during shipping and reducing its carbon emissions even more.

At Isola’s Is One life Enough?, TDC interviewed Interesting Times Gang about their furniture pieces that use natural materials from Scandinavian sources, like sea kelp and oyster shells. Other highlights from Isola’s Milan Design Week programme included lammi’s LIKE A ROCK “tofu” seats, scattered around the space where we heard a talk from Panasonic Design London’s Rowan Williams. At first glance these things don’t look like they’d be comfortable to sit on but, despite their rocky appearance, they’re made from upcycled foam that practically moulds itself to your body when you sit.

Radical Experimentation

Taking on the theme of Radical Sensations, Capsule Plaza – now in its second edition at Milan Design Week – housed the much-talked-about 100R exhibit by Norwegian aluminium and renewable energy company. Every product was designed and made to spotlight Hydro’s CIRCAL 100R, which is the world’s first recycled aluminium made entirely from post-consumer scrap on an industrial scale.

Seven designers were chosen to apply the infinitely recyclable material to their designs, each unique to their own personality and skillset.

ECAL presented two innovative projects at Milan Design Week 2024: UPS – Under Pressure Solutions and Access over Ownership. The former is the result of an experimental research project designed to reduce the environmental impact of the furniture industry using shape memory materials.

Led by five industrial designers teaching at ECAL, with objects designed by Master Product Design students, UPS revealed the innovative and creative potential of cellulose sponge.

Access over Ownership was a collaboration between the design school and bag brand FREITAG that showcased a series of upcycled, functional, and enjoyable objects available for borrowing. Ultimately, it argued that having access to goods rather than owning them could be a more sustainable and practical way forward, a unique and controversial point of view in the context of Milan Design Week.

Colour and Aesthetics

As was expected, Google’s Making Sense of Colour really drew in the crowds this year, with some people queuing for nearly three hours to get a glimpse of their collaboration with Chromasonic. There was no expense spared on theatrics and the two-part experience overall intended to interpret colour through sound.

The first section encouraged everyone to sit inside one of the many “nodes” and experience the immersive sound and colour bath. Then, we walked through a series of rooms, each dedicated to a different colour that Google designers have interpreted and brought to life through various objects and tones.

The final room was a sort of rainbow dinner party – with each place set for a different hue – scattered with different Google products. Although it looked edible, the “food” on the plates was in fact made from the materials that the tech giant uses across its products, from Wi-Fi routers and phones to watch straps and headphones.

One of the TDC team’s favourite places to visit during Milan Design Week is the Moooi Showroom, an environment designed to engage all the senses. The whole experience was so calming and ethereal, a welcome break after a busy week traversing the city.

Some of our favourite furniture pieces were the Big George Armchair by Cristian Mohaded upholstered in Kvadrat, bathed in a warm light from Bertjan Pot’s Random Light II, as well as the Techno Bee Carpet by Moooi in Champagne. We also saw what can only be described as a dancing wardrobe, filled with beautiful Moooi robes in silk and towel materials.  

Check out TDC’s video highlights and on the ground interviews from Milan design Week on Instagram and LinkedIn.