Salone Internazionale del Mobile 2011
by Owen Ready    25 Apr 2011
Kartell's displays literally spell out the current trends. Click for larger images
Chic, lightweight Waver chair by Konstantin Grcic for Vitra
Visitor explores 'Sestosenso', a joint art project between BMW and Flos
Red cones reveal BMW 6 Series projection
Google Maps drop pin provided an engaging way to highlight Mini's mobility work

CDN decamped to Milan for the 50th year of the Salone Internazionale del Mobile. For those who know it simply as the 'Milan Furniture Fair', its status as the world's biggest design event will surprise and delight with the breadth and depth of the highlighted disciplines clustered around the beautiful city.

Informal, reconfigurable sofa by Francesco Binfare for Edra
Mini Coupe Concept on display in the Triennale Design Museum

Outside the city center in Rho, the halls of the Fiera fairgrounds bulge with the collected wares of 2,500 exhibitors, including world debuts from the likes of Vitra, Edra and Kartell. Its scale is way beyond any motor show you care to mention and while the sheer volume of displays may be an assault on the synapses, there can be no better place to connect with the latest trends in interiors, color, materials and lighting. As a source of inspiration it's useful for designers in any discipline, but for those working in auto interior design it's essential.

If Fiera is the sun in the Salone galaxy - vast, powerful and overwhelming - to find the stars you must head into the city's center where dazzling constellations of creativity shine from seemingly every doorway. And amongst the pop-up boutiques and champagne receptions glimmered the presence of the auto design industry. Some manufacturers decided to use the event as a straightforward marketing opportunity. Audi, for example had a fleet of A1s nipping around the city's streets with their names proudly emblazoned along their sides. Cynics may suggest that the scores of pristine A1s dotted around Milan's parking spaces perhaps weren't coincidental either. Others simply sponsored events, keen to have their brands associated with the Salone.

BMW took a more involved approach to showcasing its design prowess by working in conjunction with lighting manufacturer, Flos and British designer,  Paul Cocksedge to produce an art installation. A curving white extension to the Italian company's showroom housed a series of low-hanging lamps, formed of a spiral of red polycarbonate. Inspired by the LED light technology used in the new 6 Series, the source of light cannot be seen; only a feint strip of illumination along the edge of the shade provides a direct reference to the carmakers' trademark corona lamps. Stepping into the lamps, a video of the 6 Series reveals itself around the sinuous walls of the space, filtered by the red polycarbonate. According to BMW "[it's] as if accessing a sixth sense, there is a hint of movement in the corner of the eye. Through the light we see the car: through the car, we understand the light." We wouldn't describe it in such life-changing terms, but it's a neat installation nonetheless.

Fellow BMW Group brand, Mini, made a rather bigger splash this year, with three exhibitions. The Triennale Design Museum, beside the magnificent Castello Sforzesco, held host to "Mini La Strada", under the theme of future mobility. While the Coupe Concept and a pair of Scooter Es took up residence in the museum's galleries, it was the non-automotive sculpture outside the front doors that drew most interest. 'LOVE' writ in three meter-high mirrored letters, punctuated by a bright red Google Maps drop pin provided an engaging way to highlight the more experiential side of the brand's continuing work in mobility.

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