Zona Tortona
during the Salone del Mobile

Zona Tortona Map

If you live in Milan, you know the double life of the Zona Tortona. There is the “normal” look of the area with the morning bustle of the people coming to the neighborhood to work. Men with neckties and dark suits and women in their impeccable professional clothes working in the business, finance and marketing offices and the creative crowd of workers in their more informal attire, by no means less “design oriented”, just more individualist.

During the week of the Milan Furniture Fair – the Salone del Mobile , an amazing thing happens: the whole area transforms itself into a sort of theatrical “stage” where performances are played at all hours of the day.

Riding down Via Tortona
Those of you who come to Milan in this week only, will have a distorted idea of what actually goes on in this area the other 51 weeks of the year (less those 5 or 6 Fashion weeks, where the area takes on yet another “guise”).

The My-Milan.Com Team was out in the Zona Tortona to report on what was new and inspiring. Although it is difficult to sum up the more than 1500 exhibitors, design groups, exhibits, street shows, and Pop-Up stores (those open for the days of the show only), we will try to give you a sense of what happened.

Just trying to get over the old green iron bridge at Porta Genova was a major feat. It took more than 15 minutes to get to the other side of the bridge in Via Tortona. Just look at the photos and you’ll see what we mean.

One of the first surprises we found were the new “look” of the shops. Pop-up Stores had replaced the usual shops and the entire street was very international. If you passed by, for example, you probably noticed the beautiful white ceramic gramophone in the shop by Science & Sons.

Phonofone II, transforms any personal music player and ear buds into a sculptural audio console. No external power or batteries needed, it simply exploits the virtues of horn acoustics and the ceramic material to boost the audio output to roughly 55 decibels , the volume of laptop speakers.

In Forcella 5, purples and grays seemed to be pretty dominant for interiors, and Paola Lenti’s showroom area was a wonderful array of textural fabrics and woven materials both on the floors and on the furniture pieces.

The Ex-Ansaldo, as always, hosts a huge number of exhibitors. You could not have missed the two prefab houses near one of the entranceways. Designed by Hangar Design Group and built by HHD Holiday Home Design, they are really dream vacation houses, and not bad for everyday use either. I’d love to find a way to get one into my courtyard in Milan!

HHD Holiday Home Design

Hangar DEsign Group

That’s Design –The New Creative Generation - was an area dedicated to fresh new ideas from universities and design schools from around the world. Just walking through and speaking to the students and their professors was a great experience, good for making new contacts and renewing old ones too.

Along with the universities several partners and sponsors were present in the space. Floor to Heaven, a German carpet company, had some amazing pieces that looked more like works of art rather than carpets. They just attracted you saying “touch me”! The patterns were both classical and natural with soft and colorful designs.

In another exhibition space across the way we found Piet Boon Design, a Dutch company which produces furniture and lighting which is truly timeless, robust and elegant at the same time. Designer Piet Boon manages to create “Modern-Classical” lines that you can actually envisage putting into your home.

Across the street from this is the huge multifunctional space called “Superstudio Più”. Our eyes were particularly attracted to the Poliform “My House of Dreams” by Marcel Wanders. Walking from one room to the other the “aahs” and “oohs” of the visitors as one dream room after another unfolded.

One of our favorites was the baby’s room.

MOOOI a must see every year, didn’t disappoint us. Carved Chair by Marcel Wanders is a wonderful example of classical-whimsical style, which is intricately carved in wood like an old wood printing block. Surprise and humor are always present and visitors come out with smiles on their faces!

Time for a break and light lunch? Even restaurants are ephemeral. The temporary Elle Décor Caffé was designed and set up just for the week! A quick snack or a slow lunch break, with seating at tables or at counters, choosing from a menu or picking up pre-packed food: you could select your meal.

In Via Savona 56, at Swarovski Crystal Palace the sparkle of light reflecting on the crystals made the space “glow”.

We had a chance to meet two of the design teams who participated in this year’s event: Marcus Tremonto an Italian painter and designer who lives in New York City, and two of the four-woman team called Front Design from Sweeden.

The Front Design Team explained how they experimented with combining blown glass with big Swarovski “gemstones”, overcoming a series of technical challenges, but with a remarkable outcome.

Marcus Tremonto described his work in creating a new kind of “painting” with specially made crystals which were strung and illuminated on a double-faced frame.

Next stop, Spazio Herno Via Savona 19a – ABC Authentic Belgium Creativity. From a new kind of guitar, to fine jewelry, to tableware, to carpets, and a new idea for a “paper” coffin to be used for cremation, an infinite array of designed and crafted products.

A small shop with exquisite jewelry – Niessing designed and manufactured in Germany. The most unusual piece was a modular necklace in laser-cut polymer which came with its own special molded carrying case.

Stainless steel and synthetic gemstones made for a dazzling but simple "Tension Ring".

Going into the courtyard and through the Design Library in Via Savona, you could get to the exhibit called: BLOCK – Turkish Marble Meets Design. The curator of the exhibit, Murat Patavi, did an excellent job of creating an emotional setting of lights and sounds to accompany the strong and powerful marble objects. Two of or favorites, the sofa by Paola Navone in marble, which you would swear was in soft fabric, and the wall elements by Marcio Kogan which again transformed the cold hard material into something lightweight and transparent.

Time for a coffee to give you a boost, expresso of course! Enjoy the Design Library Café and rest for a few minutes. This is Zona Tortona.

AM May 08

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