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Milano Design Award 2016: Winning Installations

Innovative and immersive, six of the best experiences at the fair

by Paolo Ferrarini
on 20 April 2016

Now in its sixth year, the Milan Design Award has become one of the most anticipated moments of Milan Design Week. Dedicated to the most interesting installations of the week, the award (whose physical prize is a sculpture of a little horse, the mythical Sleipnir Troll Mini, made by Italian artist and architect Duilio Forte) goes to a designer or team whose work combines design, performance, technology and entertainment. In 2016–as with previous years—the winners conjured up fascinating creations that were much more than just installations; instead they were exciting experiences for anybody lucky enough to take a wander.

This year's winner was "The Shit Evolution—Il Museo della Merda," a highly innovative project that combines design, art and sustainability, all set in the picturesque cellars of SIAM (Historical Society for the Encouragement of Arts and Crafts). The exhibition was conceived by Luca Cipelletti, curated by Massimo Torrigiani, and co-produced by 5Vie Art+Design. It displayed several objects made of “merdacotta”—a terracotta derived from cow dung. Photographs by Henrik Blomqvist projected around the installation depicted the cows in farms where the raw material is collected. Roberto Coda Zabetta's paintings were made using poop and pigments. The mysterious “Giga Shit Brick” opened the exploration, while fossilized feces from some 200 million years ago ended the journey. Strange, interesting and of course a little humorous at times, the installation was a wild ride for festival attendees.

Scooping up the Best Concept Award was “The Boring Collection” by Lensvelt Contract, who presented their new affordable office furniture collection in a large loft. Visitors were given a balled-up press release, to throw in wastepaper baskets spread all over the space—playing off stereotypical boring office life. The result was a delightful mess.

Poetry and data were combined in Jelle Mastenbroek's “Data Orchestra” for which the emerging designer wanted to make people think a little deeper about big data and the organizations that collect it. Wining the Best Tech Award, the installation posed plenty of questions about privacy. Visitors could swipe a credit card—or any sort of chip we carry with us—and data was turned into sound created by everyday objects such as dishes, pens, glasses and cutlery.

Nike’s “The Nature of Motion” (awarded Best Storytelling) was a spectacular installation—and was rumored to be the most expensive in the history of Milan Design Week. Between walls made of white shoeboxes, visitors experienced spaces within a former factory—all surrounded by design experiments, colorful projections, and prototypes from the company’s R&D division.

Aisin (collaborating with Masaru Suzuki, Hideki Yoshimoto, Setsu and Shinobu Ito) created “Imagine New Days” which manifested lifestyles of the future, when high-technology (the core activity of the Japanese company that was awarded Best Engagement) meets common activities—such as expressing our creativity. After experiencing a dark hi-tech hall, visitors entered a white environment made of transparent strips of fabric, where they could play with sewing machines.

Yet another standout was Panasonic's “Kukan—The Invention of Space," the first winner of the new People's Choice Award, chosen by the users of the official app of Fuorisalone. Seven pillars made of 140 HD monitors created a dramatic and almost overwhelming atmosphere. The screens showed imagery of Japan—from classic paintings to bustling current-day cities—and the constant movement made the entire installation buzz with energy.

Final image by Paolo Ferrarini, all others courtesy of Milano Design Award

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