Since its inception in 1961, the Milan Design Week has evolved from being a small exhibition by local designers to the most anticipated gathering for furniture and interior design lovers from across the globe. With over 2300 exhibitors vying for attention, the event is a major attraction for industry professionals and tourists alike. Participation is, however, not a private party for specialists and includes meaningful collaborations with creative minds from other fields. Ma Yansong and MAD Architects have been regular participants at the annual event. Despite being a low-key affair due to the prevailing situation, they made their presence felt this year with 3 memorable exhibits.
In April every year, Milan prepares itself to welcome about half a million international visitors. Milan Design Week is one of the more influential platforms concerning discussions regarding the future and upcoming trends in design. As fate would have it, the 2021 edition of design world’s marquee event got swept away with the pandemic wave. After a hopeful wait of 5-months, it finally took place between September 5th -10th, albeit as a shadow of its former self.
The new normal meant that participation was reduced by a substantial 80%. The number of international visitors also took a major hit with most people hoping to make it for the next edition in April. Although the magnitude and grandeur had a significant dip from recent years, there were a few positives to drive home. Many considered the situation to be a blessing in disguise. The restrictions enabled the event to travel back a few decades to the very beginning, when it was more intimate and tranquil by nature. A fewer number of exhibits with a smaller crowd meant that there was more time and space to appreciate each work as it was intended. While this might contain an important message for the organizers, it is also true that nothing can give creators a better feedback than what reflects on the faces of people viewing their work. As designers around the world have acknowledged the new normal, Ma Yansong had a message of hope through his exhibit titled “Freedom”.
Freedom, Cortile d’Onore
After creating iconic exhibits like the “Fifth ring” and “Invisible borders” in recent years, MAD architects entered the 2021 edition with yet another significant contribution. Invited by Interni magazine, Ma Yansong and his team didn’t shy away from addressing the most challenging phase that humanity has had to go through in recent times.
The composition showcased a seabird stepping out from the shaded portico and getting ready to take flight. Made with metal profiles and LED strips, the installation symbolized the freedom that we seem to have lost during these testing times. Among all the uncertainty, it gave hope for a new life that was borderless and inclusive. The pandemic has also taught many valuable lessons that could pave the way for how we collectively live in the future. Designers consider this to be an opportunity to analyze and implement valuable practices that could prove to be vital for the sustenance of the human species. In the words of Ma, to establish the connection we desire with people, it is important to go beyond the physical or invisible space that limits us. Interestingly, the seabird is also a prominent feature of the Fenix Museum of Migration in Rotterdam, Netherlands. Expected to be completed in 2024, the building emphasizes on migration and the absence of borders, much like the composition in Milan.
Design Team: Ma Yansong, Dang Qun, Yosuke Hayano, Andrea D’Antrassi, Alessandro Fisalli, Elena Bellocchio, Francesco Nardacci
Apart from ‘Freedom’, MAD Architects also collaborated with Dior and Sawani & Moroni in re-imagining iconic designs from the past.
With ‘Meteor’, Ma has re-imagined Dior’s classic Medallion chair by giving it a few attributes from nature. Much like the concept of motion blur in photography, the Medallion chair is perceived to be caught in motion. The product is a take on time and space as when associated with design. It attempts to project the values of MAD Architects as a collective, showcasing emotional connection and innovative approach by virtue of combining the physical structure with nature. The piece, 3D printed in polyurethane, was exhibited at the Palazzo Citrio, Milan.
Design Team: Ma Yansong, Dang Qun, Yosuke Hayano, Zeng Hao
Following the successful collaboration that lead to the Gu chair in 2018, Ma Yansong once again joined hands with William Sawaya and Paulo Moroni’s Sawaya & Moroni to create the follow-up Gu table. The word ‘Gu’ means ‘bones’ in Chinese and the table is inspired by the sinuous, fluid structure of the bone. Located at the Sawaya & Moroni gallery in Milan, Ma’s Gu table seamlessly flows and blends, much like a living, growing organism. The natural veining of the wood also adds to the sculptural quality of the form.
Design Team: Ma Yansong, Dang Qun, Yosuke Hayano, Andrea D’Antrassi, Anna Spaggiari.
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