Switzerland’s talent for design | Flonator

The stunning exhibition ‘Design Switzerland’s Living Spaces’ organized by the Swiss Arts Council Pro Helvetia at Milan Design Week, summarizes all the themes that currently dominate the research landscape today: inclusivity, concern for the planet and our communities, sustainability, equality and the revival of age-old traditions. The exhibition highlighted nine young Switzerland-based designers and firms, along with their rigorously tested interior design prototypes, which were carefully selected by a jury made up of designer Laetitia De Allegri with an entrepreneur and interior design expert. The Creative Sector, Damon Bonser. A certain symmetry with the principles guiding the selection was also reflected in the staging of the exhibition itself, located on the ground floor of the Casa degli Artisti in Brera and designed by Studio iiode, deliberately made of lightweight materials: modules made of structural cardboard for the sections intended for each project and white tubular coils Inflatable attached to the ceiling, effectively linking together and characterizing the long exhibition hall.

Studio Idola, for example, has delved into the subject of materials with a research piece titled The Articulated Ocean, in which salt and sand from the Swiss Upper Rhine – an area home to prehistoric ocean sediments and glacial erosion – are transformed into a temporary but durable furnishing material. The two raw materials are combined into a recyclable structural mixture, which works by means of simple technology and with only minimal equipment, and can be molded into things like tables and benches, but also tiles, all featuring a rough, unrefined surface with an incredibly natural effect.

Noemi Niederhauser – also inspired by nature, but this time through the lens of food waste – showcased her “Waste Matter” research project: malt residues from Lausanne breweries were combined with organic protein in order to produce a plywood-like material that could be used for upholstery or baseboards. In doing so, I demonstrated how this humble by-product of the food industry could offer an alternative to the use of wood.

Other prototypes seen in Design Switzerland’s living spaces were geared toward a diversity of furnishings, in keeping with the increasingly nomadic lifestyle favored by today’s younger generations. This is the case, for example, with Tricentro: a table base designed by Salienti, a studio founded in Zurich by young designers Walter Toccaceli and Matteo Messinese. The idea is as simple as it is clever and I came up with an intriguing idea: A table is a truly staple in any living space, but it can often be cumbersome and inflexible. So why not make a lightweight, foldable base that’s easy to store, yet sturdy and reconfigurable? Tricentro provides an answer to all of these scorching problems: Three tubular steel elements—connected by a hinge but fully adjustable—act as feet on one side and struts on the other, accommodating any type of tabletop (although preferably heavy). Thanks to the articulated articulation, these three elements can take on different configurations, all while maintaining overall balance, or fold flat to reduce their footprint. Tricentro is durable, portable and practical for issues of limited space in the home and the need for variable configurations, including catering and restaurant settings.

Another piece of matching and fully extendable furniture is the Mingle stool by designer Shizuka Saito, who studied interior architecture at Head-Haute École d’Art et de Design in Geneva, the city where she is now setting up her own company. The Mingle includes an extendable grille attached to tube feet: at its smallest, it’s a single seat bench, but it can also be extended into a seat the size the user wants.

Meanwhile, Vervig—a design operator also based in Geneva and chaired by Luca Gorici—presented at the show Half Forgotten, a prototype room divider made of hand-woven carbon fibres, using one company’s rattan-weaving techniques. The last craftsmen in Switzerland are able to pass them on to future generations. In addition to preserving centuries-old manual techniques, Half Forgotten also addresses the need to create temporary modular dividers in home spaces with a lightweight yet heavy-duty body that is also aesthetically pleasing; Among other things, it can be used to delineate areas of recreation and relaxation, physically separating them from workplaces in the home.

(Antonella Galli)

Captions and credits
The images are from nine projects presented at the exhibition “Design Switzerland’s Living Spaces”, organized by the Swiss Art Council Pro Helvetia at Casa Degli Artisti in Milan’s Brera district during FuoriSalone 2022. Installation by studio iiode. Courtesy of Pro Helvetia.

01 Studio Eidola, Ocean Articulated, a natural material made of salt and sand that can be used to make furniture and throws, photo by Julia Ishak

02, 03, 11 Design of living spaces in Switzerland, photos by Alessandro Salita – Dsl Studio

04 Studio Idola, Articulated Perimeter, Photography by Alessandro Salita – Studio DSL

05 Noemi Niederhauser, Waste Matter, a research project looking at the reuse of waste malt products from breweries.

06 Salienti, Tricentro, foldable table leg system

07 Shizuka Saito, Mingle extendable chair, Photography by Alessandro Salita – Dsl Studio

08 Vevig, Half Forgotten, a prototype of a carbon fiber hand-woven room divider

09 Sébastien El Idrissi, a prototype of the MCR1 coffee roasting machine, developed in collaboration with Mikafi

10 Shizuoka Saito, the multi-purpose extendable chair

12 Renaud Defrancesco Studio, spotlight, floor and table lamp made of recycled aluminum

13 Marc Gerber Design Conti armchair, long-lasting and repairable, made with local materials and by local artisans.

14 Alexandra Gerber’s Untitled Studio Innovative framing system for artwork and photographs

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