Amid the general chaos and event overload of Milan Design Week, Ventura Centrale’s inaugural show was instantly welcomed to the fray a “must see.” Although the organizers describe it as Ventura Lambrate’s “big sister,” the show is smaller in addition to being newer. And this works to its benefit: In contrast to the sprawling Tortona, Brera, and—with its new mega IKEA pavilion—Lambrate neighborhoods, Ventura Centrale is compact and makes a targeted impact. The show featured Matteo Zorzenoni with MM Lampadari, Nason Moretti and Scapin, Swiss design studio Panter & Tourron, Lee Broom, Maarten Baas with Lensvelt, Salviati with Luca Nichetto and Ben Gorham, and Baars & Bloemhoff. Each “hall” is located in warehouses below Milan’s Central Station that have been closed for 30 years.
Each display was distinct and memorable, with crowds increasing as the week went on. Lee Broom’s rotating musical carousel, the “Time Machine,” drew the longest lines, but each show was cleverly presented and perfectly finished, with very little of the amateurish qualities so often found in inaugural exhibitions.
“Set” featured a series of room vignettes with furniture and blown glass pieces by Italian designer Matteo Zorzenoni with the rounded forms and pastel hues dominating interior design as of late, but rendered beautifully and given a new context in its gritty warehouse location.
“May I Have Your Attention Please?” by Dutch designer Maarten Baas debuted his eponymous 101 chairs for Lensvelt, surrounded by an installation of bull horns emitting indistinguishable voices to dramatic effect.
For Salviati Glass, designer Luca Nichetto and perfumer Ben Gotham created 53 “totem poles” out of some 23,000 sheets of glass, filling the massive terminal and reexamining the potential for classic glasswork.
Baas and Blomhoff also took their materials to new heights by commissioning six up-and-coming designers to create something new with it. Daphna Laurens, a veteran of last year’s Salone Satellite program, crafted a whimsical and serviceable chair, table, and light set; Sabine Marcelis formed modern, circular lights; Klaas Kuiken created an “inside out” cupboard and dresser; Paul Heijnen designed a gridded wall sconce; and rENS made a series of black stools and seats.
While one hopes that Ventura Centrale is popular, we can’t help but wish it will stay true to its inaugural year—a smart, fun installation that doesn’t require hours of wandering or mapping to navigate.