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biophilic design: highlights from milan design week 2023

in biophilic design

Walking around fairs and design events is an inspiring experience in many different ways.

Milan Design Week 2023 was no exception and what follows is a review of biophilic design highlights and inspirations encountered during the event…

rich greenery

More than in past editions, greenery was present throughout installations, fair booths and showrooms. And more than in past editions it was designed as a seemingly spontaneous element.

Rich planted areas were created both indoors and outdoors, becoming focal points to direct visitors, seating areas to take a break, or immersive experiences.
In some cases such as at La Manufacture at Casa Manzoni, the pieces on display were nestled inside densely planted patches, inviting visitors to get closer and take in the richness of the vegetation while observing the details of the objects poking through.

A corridor with stools displayed on a bed of flowers.
Credit: La Manufacture – Ph: anooi studio
Planted area inside a showroom.
Credit: Paghera – Ph: Listone Giordano
Pendant lamp displayed in front of a green wall.
Credit: Foscarini – Ph: anooi studio
Outdoor planting.
Credit: Paghera
Outdoor seating area surrounded by plants.
Credit: Temporiuso

water and water mimicking

Water has been a main character in this year’s edition. Several installations have incorporated water either with real instances or with reproductions applying a natural analogues approach to other materials.

Puddle displayed delicate stem flower compositions where the water component was emphasized as much as the flowers. Individual blossoms were resting on thin puddles in an arrangement that seemed to be freezing a moment in time. With apparently precarious (if not impossible) balancing, the flowers stood straight over a water base whose organic form evoked the spontaneous shape water would take when poured.

Shaped by Water created a multi-sensory experience based on water. Shallow pools were brought to life through infrasonic tones, which created ripples and ruffles on the water’s surface while the mirrored vessels amplified the perception of movement. Tones varied in response to people moving around, making visitors an active part of the installation. In the following area of this exhibit, visitors were invited to lie down in a dark room and look up as light reflected water-rippling patterns on the ceiling.

Next to real water were several examples of water mimicking, including rippled glass.

Stem flower compositions.
Credit: YOY – Ph: anooi studio
Pond of rippling water.
Credit: Google Design Studio + Lachlan Turczan – Ph: Lachlan Turczan
Rippling water installation.
Credit: Google Design Studio + Lachlan Turczan – Ph: Lachlan Turczan
Rippled glass table.
Credit: Natisa

explorative experiences

In a design exhibit, the experience is just as important as the products showcased. Some noteworthy installations from Milan Design Week 2023 were able to create an intriguing and mysterious atmosphere, turning the visit into a compelling explorative experience.

Beyond the Surface was a journey in the world of stone: from its origin to the transformation into design finishes. Fittingly, the installation took place right where stone belongs: below ground level. After descending underground through an impressive backlit onyx staircase, the exploration unfolded along several rooms, each with a distinctive atmosphere.

At Shift Craft, the atmosphere was quiet, contemplative, and calming. The space was completely dark except for light beams directing attention to the rich natural textures of the objects on display. Water, calming bells and soft music created a soundscape to confirm the grounding atmosphere, an atmosphere that instinctively made visitors move slowly and quietly, getting close to the pieces to take all the details in.

Backlit stone staircase.
Credit: OMA – Ph: Solid Nature
Underground room covered in shiny stone.
Credit: OMA – Ph: Solid Nature
Intriguing dark installation.
Credit: BCHO Architects – Ph: KCDF
Detail of a cracked ceramic sculpture.
Credit: Kwangwoo Kim – Ph: anooi studio
Detail of a rich ceramic texture.
Credit: Kwangcho Yoon – Ph: anooi studio

From materials to atmospheres, there has been a lot to take in during Milan Design Week 2023. You can find additional biophilic inspiration – from this Milan Design Week, past editions, and beyond – in the Visual Library of Biophilic Design, anooi’s curated archive of biophilic design solutions.

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