Milan Design Week 2017: Best in Glass

Just over a century ago, Paul Scheerbart noted that “the new glass environment will completely transform mankind, and it remains only to wish that the new glass culture will not find too many opponents.” Captivated by Bruno Taut’s 1914 glass pavilion, the writer painted a utopian picture of a crystalline future, equally panoramic and kaleidoscopic, all thanks to the transparent building material. Suffice it to say that he would have been chagrined to learn that visitors to, say, Massimiliano Fuksas’ formidable Fieramilano spend more time in its hangar-like exhibition halls than they do admiring its soaring glass canopy (ditto I.M. Pei’s ziggurat-like Javits Center).

Architectural applications aside, “glass culture” continues to thrive at the scale of product design and craft. From a breakthrough in 3D-printed glass to a collection of pieces from weekend workshop in Portugal, here are a few noteworthy new glass projects from Milan this year.

The Mediated Matter Group – “Ancient Yet Modern”

Led by Neri Oxman, this research group at MIT’s Media Lab first published its findings in optically transparent 3D-printed glass back in 2015. Now, with G3DP2, the whiz-kids have scaled the technology up, from product scale to that of architecture. To show off their latest efforts, the Mediated Matter Group installed “Ancient Yet Modern,” a series of three freestanding columns embedded with synapse-light pulsing lights, at the Triennale di Milano.


Project Team: Chikara Inamura (project lead), Michael Stern, Daniel Lizardo, Tal Achituv, Tomer Weller, Owen Trueblood, Nassia Inglessis, Giorgia Franchin, Kelly Donovan, Peter Houk (project adviser), Prof. Neri Oxman (project and group director).

Project Associates: Andrea Magdanz, Susan Shapiro, David J. Benyosef, Mary Ann Babula, Forrest Whitcher, Robert Philips, Neils La White, Paula Aguilera, Jonathan Williams, Andy Ryan, Jeremy Flower.

Off Portugal presents Glass Cares

On the other end of the proverbial spectrum, OFF Portugal took the time-honored tack of gathering designers for a weekend workshop — in this case, glass-blowing in Marinha Grande. Two days in the making as opposed to two years, the resulting ten pieces offer a nice capsule collection of Portuguese design today as young designers look to move beyond the nation’s ready association with cork. The glass workshop 

The glass workshop and exhibition in Ventura Lambrate marks the debut of OFF Portugal, a joint effort between Vicara, Arquivo 237, and Cencal; future initiatives will explore other craft and manufacturing techniques.


Participating designers: Diana Medina, Eneida Lombe Tavares, Luis Nascimento, studio ojoaoeamaria, Jorge Carreira, Paulo Sellmayer, Samuel Reis, Vitor Agostinho, Manuel Amaral Netto, and Joana Silva

Salviati presents Decode/Recode

Speaking of long traditions, Venice-based Salviati is among the world’s oldest glass factories, dating back to 1859. For this year’s Milan design week, the Murano specialists presented a pair of installations at the newly minted Ventura Centrale district, a series of cavernous makeshift galleries underneath the train tracks. For Decode/Recode, Salviati invited Luca Nichetto and Ben Gorham to create modular works of glass, “Pyrae” and “Strata.”

Having long collaborated with his fellow Venetians — Salviati produced his first piece — Nichetto developed 25 modules that are combined in different configurations to create the 53 totem-pole-like figures, each illuminated from within. Meanwhile, Gorham, a perfumer by profession, opted for luminous towers to showcase glass tiles in various textures and finishes.

Spektacularis at Matter and Muse

An entirely unexpected joint effort between Filipino industrial designers and Czech master glassblowers, Spektacularis was one of three exhibitors in Matter and Muse, which occupied a modest gallery at the Palazzo Litta. The mutual unfamiliarity yielded expected results, hybrid objets d’art that incorporate elements of both cultures.

Participating designers: Stanley Ruiz, Liliana Manahan, Gabriel Lichauco, Jiri Panicek

“Prism” collection by Tomás Alonso

Atelier Swarovski Home at Palazzo Crespi

The Austrian crystal producer unveiled its latest home decor collections, developed by designers such as 2016 Swarovski Designer of the Future winners Studio Brynjar & Veronika and Tomás Alonso, who extended his collection. Scintillating though the wares may be, the gilded setting stole the show.

“Prism” collection by Tomás Alonso
“Prism” collection by Tomás Alonso
“Currents” collection by Studio Brynjar & Veronika

Other new Swarovski Home collections (not pictured) were designed by Aldo Bakker, Barbara Barry, Andre Kikoski, and Greg Lynn.

Roll & Hill launched Ladies & Gentlemen Studio‘s new “Kazimir” chandelier at Euroluce. Art/design history buffs can probably guess which Suprematist painter inspired the Brooklyn-based duo.

Also noteworthy

Naturally, this is just a selection of works in glass from design week in Milan; here are a few others that also caught our eye at the Salone and beyond. 

The New York-based lighting company also debuted the “Coax” collection by John Hogan
Meanwhile, at SaloneSatellite, Berlin’s Mendelheit Design Lab showed a mix of products, including several glass pieces. Created in a mold made from up to 128 different blocks, the “Tombola” generative vase can take countless forms.
Germans Ermics exhibited three ombre pieces at Rossana Orlandi; the chair, in particular, is an homage to Shiro Kuramata (forgive the awkward photo and check out more on his website)

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