What more eagerly awaited event for Italian design than the Salone del Mobile-Fuorisalone? Exceptionally scheduled for September 2021, in anticipation of the traditional annual appointment in April, this edition of the design kermesse had a very special flavour for us: VAIA set up its own exhibition stand in its incomparable setting, and presented its second object, VAIA Focus, to the world.
Couldn’t visit us? This post is for you: together we will explore the folds of our installation and of the event that hosted us.
First, a short bit of history. The Salone Internazionale del Mobile was founded in Milan in 1961 by a group of Italian entrepreneurs, inspired by a trade fair held in Cologne. Among them were figures who made the history of Italian furniture, such as Franco Cassina and Angelo Molteni. The event gave a powerful boost to exports, advancing an industry characterised by small companies that made unity their strength. Since 1967, the fair has become international, and over the years has established itself as a world reference point for the furniture and furnishing sector. Today it includes several specialised trade fairs – the biennials Euroluce, EuroCucina and International Bathroom Exhibition, as well as the International Furnishing Accessories Exhibition, Workplace3.0, the S.Project and SaloneSatellite, the latter aimed at emerging talents. The Salone is also present every year in Moscow and Shanghai, with the Salone WorldWide format.
Since the 1980s, a series of collateral events have sprouted up around the Salone, independently organised by companies active in the field of industrial design and scattered all around the city. Known as Fuorisalone or Milano Design Week, this parallel event has been constantly enriched, embracing companies involved in fashion, food, tech and automotive. The 2019 edition counted 1351 happenings, including exhibitions, installations, guided tours, conferences, workshops and parties. Among the central spaces of the 2021 edition we find the brand new ADI Design Museum, a space inaugurated in May that hosts over 2000 projects selected by the famous Compasso d’Oro Design Award, conceived by Gio Ponti in 1954 to enhance the quality of Made in Italy design. It is within these walls steeped in history that the installation VAIA – Face What Matters has found its place.
Many are the attributes that VAIA and the Milanese design event share. The curator of the 2021 edition, starchitect Stefano Boeri, calls it “the Salone of the many R’s“. The Salone is a symbol of resilience, an expression of the desire to start again after the closure forced by the pandemic. Reuse and recycling are fully represented, with stands that can be assembled and disassembled on several occasions, in true circular spirit. A partnership with Forestami has made urban reforestation a small reality, creating a small wood at the fair’s entrance.
The event features several concepts that champion a green approach: from the first recycled acrylic yarn by Raytent, to Pedrali’s recycled plastic chairs, via Reviva, a fabric made from reused plastic bottles. We also find a renewed interest in wood, an “extremely low-impact, natural, renewable” material that gives ever-changing nuances to furniture items. During the Design Week, the spaces of BASE hosted a residency for young designers that chose to focus on the circular economy and urban communities. Moreover, for the first time in its history, the Compasso d’Oro Award has identified a theme of inspiration for its XXVII edition: “design for sustainable and responsible development”. The president of the Italian Association for Industrial Design, Luciano Galimberti, reminded us in an interview that companies in the sector are adapting their production systems to the new environmental challenges, thus becoming active players in the transformation that awaits us.
In short, VAIA has found in the Fuorisalone a perfect context to fully express its history and values. Let us now take a closer look at the installation we pitched to the Milanese public, together with a preview of our new product, VAIA Focus.
Face What Matters
The exposition curated by VAIA at the ADI Design Museum has an unequivocal title: Face What Matters. The installation, designed and crafted by Elisa Mastrofrancesco of Minimolla Design, is light and minimal. The stands are made of valchromat – a wood fibre created from recycled wood panels – and are interlocking to avoid the use of glues.
On the central wall, a cone in a warm yellow colour evokes the concept of “spotlight”, inviting the visitor to shine the spotlight on what really matters. A vertical composition of VAIA Cubes creates a large natural stereo on the right wall, while two white Oculus Quest 2 lay in the middle of the stand.
Thanks to the VR experience created by visual artist Marc Lamanna, it was possible to relive for the first time the most devastating climate event of the last fifty years in Italy, the VAIA storm. Through suggestive interactive scenes and gaming paths, the user could immerse himself in the green mountains of the Dolomites, touching the history and the values of our brand.
The advent of the new: VAIA Focus
VAIA’s presence at the Fuorisalone was an opportunity to present the successor to the VAIA Cube. That is no easy task – not only because of the success gathered by the small passive amplifier, but above all because of the meaning that each product must convey in the founders’ intentions. “Every VAIA object must have a message, a reflection on our times”, say Federico, Giuseppe and Paolo. The idea of VAIA Focus emerges from a simple and direct intent: to be able to distinguish the essential from the superfluous, to focus on what really counts. The result is a visual amplifier for smartphones, entirely analogue and exploiting a technology that is almost two hundred years old, the Fresnel lens.
The object is compact and its profile resembles the circular sections of a tree. Saverio Incombenti, who partnered with Elisa Mastrofrancesco on the design of the object, used VAIA’s recent past as an anchorage point in the design process, arriving at the new form through external contamination.
The thinness of the central fir body is inspired by the circles of the lens, in a path of visual amplification that starts from the device and passes through the lens itself. The product supply chain is entirely Made in Italy. The wood used is certified as material recovered from the uprootings caused by the 2018 storm.
In the words of Luciano Galimberti, VAIA embodies an attitude of Italian design that transforms problems into opportunities and merits. VAIA Focus wants to follow in the wake of this honourable tradition, continuing to promote a specific vision of the world that sees in the sharing of a purpose the catalyst through which we can realise our interest in the health of the planet.