The design scene here in Milan is palpable all year round. Carrying on well after the culmination of Milan Design Week, it spreads beyond the flashy events and districts of Fuorisalone like a creative capillary embedded deep within the urban landscape.
Recounting its physical presence across the metropolis is Marco Sammicheli and Anna Mainoli’s book, from Forma Edizioni. A grand tour of Milan’s creative cityscape, the volume analyzes the territory’s inescapable connection to the craft, peering inside the physical locations that have established the city as the capital of design.
The book is presented as a choral, visual, and autobiographical portrait in which designers themselves talk about their connection to city’s preferred industrial practice.
Their studios—creative hubs within the urban fabric—are examined through the book by Forma Edizioni as enshrined spaces contributing to the collective design scene. To bring these hidden laboratories to light, authors relied on archived materials provided by heirs, foundations, and direct interviews to highlight a vast variety of perspectives linking the city to a cultural system and to Milan Design Week itself.
A 400-page volume to flip through and conserve as an atlas to the metropolis Stefano Boeri labels “small and very dense,” The Design City reveals the Lombard capital as an insatiable laboratory where education, commerce, politics, communication, research, and culture take form through design: a discipline, phenomenon, and reality that has seen both Italy and the world invest in Milan.
The Design City is divided into five sections, which attempt to pass chronologically—from postwar to today—through the designers that have chosen Milan as the home for their creative enterprises. These include the postwar maestros and the architects and designers that trained with them—a generation which accepted the technological challenges of new materials, confronting the transformation of productive systems—and international designers that chose to adopt Milan as their new home. For the last chapter, an essay from Anna Mainoli gives tribute to the Italian designers who have opted for a “constant and conscious” commute to and from Milan.
The volume spans from Piero Portaluppi, the architect of Milan’s bourgeoisie, and the ground floor spaces of casa Portaluppi in Via Morozzo della Rocca to Philippe Tabet, a French designer who was drawn to the city “to uncover the essence of design.”
In between are the studios of Gio Ponti, Osvaldo Borsani, Franco Albini, Achille and Pier Giacomo Castiglioni, Pierluigi Cerri, Michele De Lucchi, Aldo Rossi, Paolo Rizzatto, Alessandro Mendini, Cristina Celestino, Odo Fioravanti, Giulio Iaccetti, Richard Sapper, Marc Sadler, and Patricia Urquiola.
Then there’s the creative spaces of Gae Aulenti, located first in Via Cesariano, then Via dell’Annunciata, and finally in Piazza San Marco, where an open space with connected split-levels features rusted iron stairs and a large communal working desk. Meanwhile, for Mario Bellini, the studio “is like the dilated space of my mind, made from the thousands of people that have come to Milan from other countries around the world and that have circulated around me and my closest collaborators.”