In celebration of this week's design festivities in Milan, Core77's editors speak to some of our favorite designers about their first time showing at the world's biggest furniture fair and what they most look forward to when returning each year.
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David Rockwell is the founding architect and designer of the multidisciplinary Rockwell Group leading offices in New York, Madrid and Shanghai. The industry veteran is best known for his work in hospitality and has been recognized with a Cooper-Hewitt National Design Award, a place in the James Beard Foundation Who's Who of Food and Beverage, Interior Design magazine's Hall of Fame and three Tony Award nominations for his work in Scenic Design. Last year the firm celebrated 30 years of excellence and kicking off the next 30 years, the prolific designer is showing for the first time in Milan with not one, but two separate collections—a full 14-piece collection for Stellar Works and a lighting trio for Gaia & Gino. We chat with Rockwell about the wonder and discovery of the Salone and what shows he's most looking forward to attending.
Core77: What was the first year you attended the shows in Milan and why was it important for you to attend then? Is it still important for the same reasons?
David Rockwell: I've visited Milan several times, but my first trip to the furniture fair was four years ago when Wallpaper* asked us to participate in their Handmade exhibition. We presented "Sliding Sue," a cherry wood and blackened steel table. We wanted to playfully reinterpret the classic Lazy Susan, so we created a row of interchangeable storage compartments that slide across the length of the table.
What I love about Salone is that it is the design industry's version of the World's Fair. Going to the show probably evokes the same emotions that I would have felt if I could have seen Norman Bel Geddes' Futurama exhibit in New York decades ago. At Salone, there is such a sense of wonder and discovery that spills over into the city, which has its own rich history of design.
Pieces from David Rockwell's collection for Stellar Works. Photo by Anders Gramer.
How did you decide that this was the first year for you to show in Milan? How did this year's projects come to be?
Salone del Mobile has been the premiere global showcase for innovative design for more than half a century. This spring we are unveiling product collections with Stellar Works and Gaia&Gino. Since we're collaborating with makers in China, Japan, France, and Turkey, the furniture fair seemed like the perfect showcase. In addition, Wallpaper* invited us again to create products for Wallpaper* Hotel.
Our studio has always admired Stellar Works for both their products and unique cross-cultural approach to design, craftsmanship and manufacturing. We've had informal discussions with them over the years about designing custom pieces and one-offs. But as our interest in product design grew, we thought it would be more interesting to collaborate with them on an entire 14-piece furniture collection.
Twist Lamp by David Rockwell for Gaia & Gino.
Gaya Cevikel, the founder of Gaia & Gino, was interested in broadening her company's presence in the hospitality market so she approached us to design a collection of three lamps. We admired her company's ability to produce energy efficient light fixtures that have a beautiful, sculptural quality, so the collaboration seemed like a perfect match.
What do you most look forward to when you head to Milan each year for the shows?
Salone always presents an incredible mix of established and emerging designers. I'm particularly excited to see Sou Fujimoto's installation and to check out the work of international design students at SaloneSatellite. I'm also really looking forward to catching up with friends and colleagues, including Greg Lynn, who has designed an exhibition for Nike, and the very talented Charlotte Macaux Perelman, the new co-artistic director of Hermes Maison and Rockwell Group alum!
What will you be showing this year?
Valet by David Rockwell for Stellar Works
Valet by David Rockwell, is our first collection for Stellar Works, explores a new furniture typology that supports everyday living, working, and entertaining. With tactile and refined materials and details, including full-grain saddle leather, American walnut, black steel, and brushed brass, each of the 14 pieces from the collection redefines the essentials of modern living and fits seamlessly into home or hospitality environments. Opificio 31 Courtyard, Via Tortona 31.
Our first collection for Gaia&Gino—three high-end LED lighting solutions in beautiful finishes—is the result of a longtime partnership and provides outdoor, floor, and table accents at various scales. Our inspiration for the collection comes from the dialogue that happens when bent and folded organic, lyrical forms meet industrial materials and fabrication processes. Each of our three lights has a dynamic form that keeps the eye moving.
And for Wallpaper* Handmade's 2016 exhibition at Salone, Wallpaper* Hotel, we are presenting a small group of products designed to greatly enhance the guest experience. The Arcade, via San Gregorio 43