It’s been 2 weeks since Aimée de Villiers, our 3rd year graduate from last year who won the 2015 Caesarstone Student Design Competition, and her lecturer, Donna Wills, returned from their trip to Italy to visit the Salon de Mobile in Milan. Now that they are back and settled, we though it time to get a report back on what happened in Italy.
Wow. Where to begin? We had the most incredible experience; saw and did so many awesome things. Let’s start with numbers. 31 hours on a plane. 3 hours on a train. 2 nights in Rome. 4 nights in Milan. 3 days spent at Salone del Mobile. 6 days in Italy. 171764 steps taken, which is equal to 105km (thanks Polar Loop).
We landed in Rome on a Sunday morning and after making our way to the hotel, figuring out the bus system (which turned out to be not so successful) and lots of walking around, we made it to the MAXXI – Italy’s national museum of 21st Century Art and Architecture, designed by Zahah Hadid. We were both really glad we were able to visit the museum, – the architecture is striking and like so many other contemporary buildings we saw in Italy, it is beautifully juxtaposed to the historic buildings which surround it.
After getting lost again that evening on an impromptu Roman walk-a-bout, we were rewarded with a night time view of the Colosseum; and so began our “sight-seeing tour of Rome”. There is just so much history and so many things to see in Rome! On Monday, we tried our best to take in as much as we could on a bus tour before making our way to the Vatican for a tour of the Vatican Museums, the Sistine Chapel and St. Peter’s Basilica. If there is one thing you have to see in Rome (and there are many), it is St Peter’s Basilica. I was lucky enough to be visiting it for the second, time but it still took my breath away.
On Tuesday we made our way by train to Milan. And once again, on arriving in Milan, we were hit with the most amazing history and architecture. We arrived in the afternoon, so decided to get some sight-seeing in that afternoon before hitting the Salon del Mobile the next day. The first stop – Milan’s Duomo. It’s the largest Gothic Cathedral in Europe and looking at the detail on the marble work, you can see why it took many centuries to build. We climbed the 250 steps to the roof of the Duomo and from there we could see the Milan city scape in all directions. We also walked through the Galleria Vittorio Emanuelle, a high-end shopping arcade and past the famous La Scala Opera House.
Our Wednesday morning began with a “packed-like-sardines” metro ride to the Fiera Milano, home of the Salon del Mobile. We didn’t really have a plan when we arrived, other than to see as much as we could. With 24 halls to get through, as well as all the incredible exhibitions, installations, events and spaces to see throughout the city, it proved to be a tough challenge. We spent the next 3 days walking around the halls of the Salon del Mobile as well as the city. Apart from the sheer design sensory overload of the fair itself, these are some of the my highlights from the Milan Design Week:
COS x Sou Fujimoto
For me, I was really excited to see this, having seen Sou Fujimoto speak at the Design Indaba earlier this year. COS and Sou Fujimoto collaborated to create a “Forest of Light” – an installation of multi-sensory experiences.
Japanese designers Nendo, created a series of 50 chairs, inspired by Manga-style comic books. Once again, these contemporary chairs were displayed in a contrasting space – the historic cloister of Chiostro Minore di San Simpliciano.
The Restaurant – Tom Dixon x Caesarstone
Set in Rotonda della Besana, the installation was made up of 4 kitchens with 4 complimenting dining experiences, each one based around the 4 elements of earth, fire, water and air. We were lucky enough to be part of a VIP guided tour with Tom Dixon. It was great to hear his insight into the concept behind the installation. We also got to taste some of the delicious food that was conceptualized by Italian studio Arabeschi di Latte.
Ice Cream Socials
To say I have a slight obsession with ice cream would be an understatement, so when I read about Hem’s collaboration with gelato maker Gelateria Rigoletto to celebrate the launch of their new stool, Splatter, we had to go see what it was all about. We were not disappointed. Along with seeing some great furniture designs, we also got to taste the gelato. Prosecco Gelato with Peach Splatter or Pistachio Gelato with Strawberry White Chocolate. I had both.
I could go on and on, so I will stop there, but not before mentioning some other inspiring stops we made: Moooi – who doesn’t love what they do? Israeli design duo, Raw Edges and their colour experiments; Fondazione Prada and Bar Luce, designed by filmmaker Wes Anderson – the Italians can make a building this gold look this stylish!
We had the most incredible, memorable time. I certainly came back feeling inspired by all the design energy that pulses through Milan and I hope that I will be able to go back to Milan to experience the Design Week again in the near future.
Once again, I would like to say thank you to Caesarstone for running this amazing competition and thereby giving young students and graduates to the opportunity to have an experience like this one.