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biophilic design: highlights from milan design week 2023

in biophilic design

Trade shows and design events are occasions to get inspired and find ideas. From my perspective, I always look for insights that resonate with the notion of nourishing spaces, in a combination of biophilic solutions, durability, and conscious design.

Following are my highlights from Milan Design Week 2023

lush vegetation

Lush vegetation was present throughout installations, fair booths, and showrooms. As a common note, planted areas were seemingly uncontrolled and spontaneous, evoking more authentic nature-like atmospheres.

Rich planted areas enriched both interiors and outdoor spaces, serving various purposes: creating focal points, carving secluded seating areas, shaping immersive experiences, or defining backdrops for products to be displayed. 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.

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

water instances

Several installations incorporated water and water-based experiences – either with real instances or through reproductions such as rippled glass.

At Puddle, delicate flower compositions emphasized the water component as much as the flowers. In apparently precarious balance, individual blossoms stood inside shallow water puddles whose organic form reproduced the spontaneous shape water would take when poured. The combination of instability and seemingly uncontrolled forms made the installation feel like a frozen moment in time.

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 the movement of people, making visitors an active part of the installation. In a dark area of the exhibit, visitors were invited to lie down and look up as moving light and shadow plays reflected water-rippling patterns on the ceiling.

Pond of rippling water.
Credit: Google Design Studio + Lachlan Turczan – Ph: Lachlan Turczan
Rippled glass table.
Credit: Natisa
Flowers standing on shallow water puddles.
Credit: YOY – Ph: anooi studio

explorative experiences

Intriguing atmospheres turned exhibits into fascinating explorative experiences.

Beyond the Surface was a journey in the world of stone: from its origin in nature to its transformation into design finishes. Appropriately, the installation took place below ground level, where stone belongs. A colourful backlit onyx staircase brough visitors underground, where the exploration unfolded through several rooms – each with a distinctive atmosphere brought to life by intentional lighting.

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

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