An insider preview of this month's Ventura Lambrate in Milan

Get Fresh

By Anna Carnick

Each April, the design world eagerly descends on Milan for the annual Salone del Mobile. Commonly referred to as “the Olympics of design,” this weeklong fete welcomes established and emerging designers, galleries, brands, schools, and other various institutions to present their latest achievements. It’s an exciting time, to be sure. The sheer number of presenters can be daunting, but for those scouting rising-star talent, the multilayered Lambrate district has emerged as a must-see hotspot, commanding attention amid the flurry of activity.

This year marks the sixth installment of Ventura Lambrate. Situated in the eastern part of Milan, the large-scale exhibition is almost like a small design city all unto itself—a mix of presentations by educational institutions, in-the-know experts, and young designers sharing their wares for the very first time. 2015’s event will feature more schools than ever before (24 at last count), and a variety of shows focused on experimental processes, the merging of industrial and handicraft, and the ongoing intermingling of the creative disciplines, among other investigations. According to Ventura Lambrate co-founder and art director Margriet Vollenberg, “This edition resembles exactly what Ventura Lambrate stands for—we’ve again brought together a great mix of different kinds of exhibitors, and the projects that deepen the most recent developments in design are numerous.”

We had the pleasure of perusing several of this year’s upcoming presenters. Here, we happily share our picks for VL 2015’s don’t-you-dare-miss-this exhibitions. Enjoy!


Fashion-Design Fusion

A handful of shows promise to explore the fading boundaries between fashion and design, honing in on overlapping techniques as well as material and color investigations. Standouts on our radar? Noted trend forecaster Lidewij Edelkoort and co-curator Philip Fimmano will present Gathering: From Domestic Craft to Contemporary Process, an exhibition of 20 chairs by various designers created by “pleating, smocking, folding, wrapping, layering, ribboning, and draping.” The show will merge traditional domestic craft and contemporary practices, and consider the evolving relationship between machine- and man-made methods.

As Edelkoort predicts, “Our future will be hybrid, and we will see disciplines merge. The performing arts and design will drift together as well as fashion and design . . . both are looking for new ways to bridge the ‘made by hand’ with the ‘produced by machine.’ A new generation of smart production systems will allow the machine and the human to go hand in hand.”

Meanwhile, Studio Gutedort will make its Ventura Lambrate debut with Hidden Beauty/Inner Skin. The emerging German textile design studio acquires the key materials for this series—namely, animal innards—at a nearby slaughterhouse, which they use to create ruddy, leather-like jewelry and accessories.

The Gutedort team was originally inspired by a 2012 visit to a South American food market, during which they noted the shapes and structures of animal parts rarely seen at markets in their native Germany. Back home, they devised a plan to repurpose these oft-wasted parts. According to cofounders Eva Schlechte and Jenny Hier, “We asked ourselves if there wasn't a hidden beauty and a higher value lying in those inner skins. . . The project questions whether or not we can overcome stereotypical aesthetics and appreciate uncommon appearances of beauty. We like to invite the audience to examine the objects open-mindedly, so that their unprecedented shapes and uncommon, leathery surface can reveal their hidden value [and perhaps even] contribute to a change of perspective on [a material] that, in former times, was used in many different ways.”


I invite people to realize that dust is a reflection of our daily use of an environment, whether natural or built.

Material Explorations

Speaking of unexpected materials, this year’s fair boasts a variety of intriguing, ingredient-focused presentations, many of which ask viewers to look at the familiar with fresh eyes. With Dust Matters, for example, Brussels-born designer Lucie Libotte challenges us to look beyond domestic dust’s dirty reputation and consider its untapped creative worth. For her VL debut, Libotte applied dust gathered from a number of households to ceramics as a glaze; the resulting, speckled vessels become unique artifacts that Libotte hopes will redefine our perceptions of a generally cast-off, quotidian material.

As Libotte says, “The essence of my project is not primarily the aesthetic of each object, but the way that object is read by people. Each piece offers an element of surprise, driven by the transformation of unwanted grey particles into colors, textures, and structures. No dust [particle] is identical to another. I invite people to realize that dust is a reflection of our daily use of an environment, whether natural or built, [and] a material projection of our passage and the traces we live behind.”

Meanwhile, Colombia-born, Italy-based designer Laura Daza looked to the past for her material path forward. With Burnt Sienna, Daza revives an artisan color technique used during the Renaissance, in which a natural yellow pigment transforms into a reddish-brown color when heated. As Daza explains, “The original pigment is a type of yellow ochre, traditionally known as raw sienna; it takes its name from the [Italian] city from where it was widely extracted. Ochre is considered to be the first-ever color used by humankind. The yellow ochre is rich in goethite minerals that, when heated, change color.”

Citing the impressive color spectrum Renaissance painters were able to achieve using just a few ingredients, Daza hopes that Burnt Sienna will encourage a broader appreciation for and engagement with color alchemy and natural earths. “We live in a world where industrial and synthetic processes are replacing our heritage. I want to share sustainable ways of transforming natural materials into colored pigments in a hands-on approach. [My hope is] to celebrate this ancient technique by exploring the potential application of these color transitions on contemporary objects.”

Finally, the Hague-based studio Handmade Industrials will perform and present Breaking the Mold, a project that reclaims industrial and everyday materials, sculpting objects by using balloons as flexible molds, then filling them with biodegradable thermoplastic granules and heating them to create one-off objects. As cofounder Rutger de Regt tells us, “The inspiration . . . came from my ambition to create a ready-made production process. I didn't want to depend on industrial standards and requirements before a design came to life. [Traditionally], after a mold is made, there is no possibility to change anything, and I wanted to have more freedom during the process.” The studio’s instinctive, hands-on technique achieves just this, enabling them to create unique objects—each marked by the hand of the maker—from a serial technique. “We strive to contradict industrial standards by removing the digital element from the production process. The focus is on capturing and preserving human interaction during production. We hope that people will re-value the human made.” Handmade’s flexible molding technique performances will take place twice daily at 11am and 4pm, and the studio will welcome audience participation.


DESIGN ACADEMY EINDHOVEN_Photo by DAE -1 Eat Shit © Design Academy Eindhoven; courtesy of Ventura Lambrate
Food for Thought

Last but certainly not least, the Design Academy Eindhoven is poised to reveal Eat Shit, the first exhibition organized by the school’s new department, Food Non Food. Through several installations by current and former DAE students as well as an onsite lab, Eat Shit will will examine “how, where, and why we eat,” presenting projects related to contemporary food culture that run the gamut from health (what goes in must come out, a la one’s waste indicates both condition and culture) to political (consider “Eat Shit” as a common protest phrase) focuses, and plenty in between.

Food design is not about making the table look pretty; it is a fundamental approach to how we produce, distribute, and eat food.

Explaining the larger motivation behind both the new department and the exhibition, Vogelzang tells us: “We need a food revolution. Redesigning a lot of how food is produced, distributed, and even consumed can contribute to tackling and maybe even solving many of humanity’s most immediate problems. For this to be realized, people and industry need to better understand that there are alternatives. They also need to be thinking more about the negative implications of the current system. And of course for any of this to work, designers themselves need to be thinking more seriously about food, which is the core goal of my department. The bigger point is that food design is not about making the table look pretty; it is a fundamental approach to how we produce, distribute, and eat food. . . These students really understand that food design is about agriculture, rituals, culture, processes, and industry. I hope that the public also takes that understanding away with them.”

We’re particularly curious to see 2011 grad Marloes van Bennekom’s Outdoor Pharmacy installation, which considers the relationship between nature and disease, and the potential health advantages of incorporating gardens into urban living. As van Bennekom notes, “Nowadays we see plants as mostly aesthetic, but it was just a hundred years ago that we used to go to medical gardens. I hope to make healthcare products more tangible, and to give some old knowledge back.” New department head and Eat Shit co-curator Marije Vogelzang concurs; it’s about “bringing the cure closer to the disease. . . [for instance,] Gingko trees, which improve short-term memory, closer to homes for the elderly; elderberry trees, which are packed with vitamins, close to school playgrounds.” And so on.

In Limbo Embassy by Manon van HoekelPhoto © Manon van Hoekel; courtesy of Ventura Lambrate. In Limbo Embassy. Vogelzang notes: ‘Altering small details in the representation of asylum seekers completely changes perceptions. A blanket folded neatly around a woman's shoulders who holds her chin high looks more regal than desperate.’ Photo © Alexander Popelier; courtesy of Manon van Hoeckel and Ventura Lambrate
On the other end of the spectrum, 2014 grad Manon van Hoeckel’s ongoing protest project, In Limbo Embassy, explores the plight of politically unrepresented Ethiopian and Somali asylum seekers—originally in Amsterdam and, on the occasion of Salone, in Italy. Interestingly, while most asylum seekers are prohibited from working, they are legally permitted to freely express themselves. As van Hoeckel explains: “Refugees whose applications for asylum have been rejected often fall through the cracks. In Limbo Embassy is a neutral meeting place that represents this group. Its ambassadors—themselves refugees—invite and involve officials, neighbors, and passers-by . . . The mobile embassy (a small building on wheels) provides the opportunity for dialogue and cultural exchange on equal footing through different projects to represent refugees in limbo: exhibiti[ons], debates, and events. I want to create an opportunity for . . . direct contact between citizens and asylum seekers. I want people to be aware of the situation refugees are in, because as citizens we should know what is going on in our country.”

It’s plenty to digest, we know. And that’s just the beginning. We’re looking forward to discovering a ton of new, diverse talent across the Ventura Lambrate exhibitions. We're also quite excited to see some of the more tech-focused presentations, like the much-anticipated Programmable Furniture collaboration between MIT’s cross-disciplinary Self-Assembly Lab and Wood-Skin—a furniture collaboration intended to affirmatively answer the question: Can we make things that make themselves? Stay tuned for all our coverage from Milan in the coming weeks. And good luck to all the designers and institutions gearing up for the event; we can’t wait to see all you’ve done!


Ventura Lambrate runs April 14-19th at Via Ventura 5, 20134 Milan, Italy. 

  • Text by

    • Anna Carnick

      Anna Carnick

      Anna is Pamono’s Managing Editor. Her writing has appeared in several arts and culture publications, and she's edited over 20 books. Anna loves celebrating great artists, and seriously enjoys a good picnic.

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