On the seventh floor of the Rinascente shopping building in Milan there is a lovely outside terrace where you can relax, eat, drink or simply admire the spectacular view of the Duomo immediately opposite. A great way to celebrate the Milan Furniture Fair, especially when the generous party hosts were Vittorio Radice, and from the Serpentine Gallery London, Julia Peyton-Jones and Hans-Ulrich Obrist.
The party was to celebrate an intriguing art and craft event taking place along the arcade outside the building, ‘In a State of Repair’. Here, artisans were at working repairing, re-creating and recycling objects ranging from chairs to books brought along by the general public. The concept for the installation-cum-proposition was by designer Martino Gamper, who has another exhibition at the Serpentine currently.
In a country which has been suffering from a crisis of identity as well as suffering economic turmoil, a reminder of its artisan traditions and of an attitude to the longevity rather than transience of ‘things’ was more than welcome. If the Milan Fiera was about conspicuous consumption and even more conspicuous design, here by contrast was a different proposition about economy in an era of austerity, a notion of something being well-made implying use over time, rather than speedy abandonment.
‘Making’ was a theme of another sort of London transplant: dRMM’s ‘Endless Stair’ project, first seen at the London Design Festival but re-created in a courtyard at Milan University as the ‘Scale Infinite’, courtesy of the American Hardwood Export Council and an engineering rethink by Arup. Alex de Rijke was there to discuss his project, which makes such a striking impression on the viewers and users because it takes an interior element and turns it into an exterior object.
This is a project that makes you wonder about the nature of interiors. It prompts the notion that the city is a huge agglomeration of spaces in which buildings and objects become furniture, fixtures and fittings – some of which, of course, have their own interior life.
Paul Finch is director of Inside World Festival of Interiors, insidefestival.com, which takes place 1-3 October in Singapore. Entries for the awards programme are now open.