Best of design 2021 by Artribune

The great events and the conquest of the metaverse, sustainability and tribute to key figures in the twentieth century. The whole year’s design has just been completed.

From the return of the great events after the hardest phases of the pandemic to the conquest of the metaverse, through sustainability and homage to key figures of the twentieth century, here is 2021 with design. What we are proposing is not a real ranking, but a summary of the last twelve months through keywords, in the hope that 2022 can only inherit the best of the past year and start from there.

– Giulia Marani


Furniture exhibition. Courtesy Salone del Mobile Milano

12 months ago, we hoped that 2021 would be the year of the eradication of the pandemic. It was not really like that, on the other hand, it was the year of the return of fairs and major events present, first and foremost Furniture exhibition of Milan (for this year in version Supersalon), with an “air-breathing” effect for the whole system. Some of the solutions tested on these occasions, from QR codes applied to products to podcasts with narrative content and insights that can also be used externally, could remain with us, even after the emergency is over, and contribute to the renewal of A sector that is traditionally not quite as dynamic as the fair.


ADI Design Museum Compasso d’Oro, Milan

Let’s stay in Milan: In a difficult situation, the city’s geography has been enriched with new places dedicated to design. The most awaited, theADI Design Museum – Compasso d’Oro designed by the Migliore + Servetto Architects studio with Italo Lupi, it opened its doors in May, and during these seven months it has already hosted numerous exhibitions and events that have gathered the community of professionals and enthusiasts around it. In the southwest quadrant, not far from Barona, there was the opening of Superstudio Maxia new large multifunctional space in the Superstudio galaxy, housed in an old steel mill.


Andrés Reisinger, Comlicated Sofa, courtesy Nilufar

The announcement of Facebook’s name change to A half has brought the metaverse to the headlines, a kind of shared virtual reality where one moves and interacts with others as in the “normal” world. A mix of real and digital that already exists in the creative industries. The most visible part of this iceberg is in vogue, but also in the world of collectibles, during the year there have been examples of virtual pieces sold in significant quantities. The collection The shipment by the Argentine designer Andrés Reisingerfor example, consisting of ten NFT-certified tables and chairs that can be placed in different types of digital environments, were sold out in a few days as part of an operation of almost half a million dollars. Physical copies of some of these pieces were then created, also exhibited in Milan by Nilufar. That Complicated sofa, for example, presented in its virtual version as an “anthracite gray wandering star”, it has become a functional sculpture in elastic fabric and recycled polystyrene. Perspective overturning is total: Digital objects are the true originals, and they are the ones that generate their tangible counterparts.


Plastic Studio, Common Sands

On 25 November, the Court of Gorizia issued a historic order requiring a textile company to publicly admit in its communications that it had inflated the ecological performance of one of its products. In doing so, he put pen to paper that “green environmental claims must be clear, true, accurate and not misleading, based on scientific data presented in an understandable way”, Puts the finger on a fairly common problem, namely greenwashing. The fact that poor honest communication risks being punished is excellent news, a step towards greater transparency that will allow truly sustainable projects to stand out.


Carlo Mollino. Iperformali Allusions, exhibition curated by Marco Sammicheli at the Milan Triennial. Photo by Gianluca Di Ioia

These days at the Triennale it is possible to visit the central core of Casa Lana, an apartment designed by Ettore Sottsass around the mid-sixties, perfectly preserved and reconstructed in the museum premises. An operation for the recovery and improvement of the 20th century heritage, which we find worthy, and which is an echo of the restoration of the furniture of the Casa Albonico in Turin, which took place this summer. The pieces, designed by Carlo Mollino, were about to leave when they were “rescued” by the supervisor. The purchase of the Department of Archeology, Visual Arts and Landscape in the ministry made it possible to restore them and then lent for use in the Triennial Design Museum, where all citizens could enjoy it.


Members of the Memphis Group Pose on Masanori Umeda’s Tawaraya Boxing Ring Bed (1981) © Masanori Umeda © Studio Azzurro, Courtesy Memphis, Milan

2021 celebrated the 40th anniversary of the birth of one of the most influential design phenomena in recent history, capable of creating a new aesthetic that will have a profound impact on the following decades: Memphis. Founded, it is said, on the evening of December 11, 1980, the movement presented its first collection in September after, in conjunction with the Salone del Mobile, in the Arc ’74 showroom in Corso Europa in Milan. The numerous tributes – from the exhibition Memphis: 40 years of kitsch and elegance at the Vitra Museum in Weil am Rhein by Nathalie Du Pasquier’s first major solo exhibition at the Macro of Rome, passing through projects inspired by the movement’s work created by eight designers belonging to the millennial generation under the guidance of Giulio Iacchetti and exhibited at the ADI Design Museum – had it merit that they strongly raised the issue of radicalism and its significance in today’s world.


Zeuler R. Lima, The Tired Goddess. Life of Lina Bo Bardi, Johan & Levi, 2021

2021 was also the year of the awarding of the special Golden Lion at the Venice Architecture Biennale in memory of Lina Bo Bardi (1914-1992), one of the most original and inspired designers of the twentieth century, able to scratch beneath the surface of design to rediscover the evocative power of pre-industrial manufacturing as well as create innovative wooden furniture, among which we find the first folding and stackable chairs (made for the MASP Auditorium in Sao Paulo, in 1947). Over the last few months, his first biography in Italian has also been published, The tired goddess by Zeuler R. Lima, published by the art editor Johan & Levi. In the more than three hundred pages of this work, in addition to Bo Bardi’s political commitment, non-conformism and a kind of ante literal feminism, there are also the most intimate aspects of his character: the restlessness, the tension between the desire to be accepted by the good Brazilian society and on the contrary, to assert their authenticity at all costs, taste for provocation (which will lead them, for example, to offer gracefully wrapped pieces of dried manure as a gift to politicians and celebrities who flocked to the opening of his exhibition Repassosin the summer of 1975).


Hybrida, Patricia Urquiola in collaboration with Caselli Real Fabbrica Institute of Capodimonte © Serena Eller

In last year’s “Best of” we had identified, among the most promising trends, the recycling of crafts – from southern Italy in particular – through a dialogue with the demands of modern design, fruitful for both sides. This movement is far from running dry, and again this year we have seen several virtuous examples of collaboration between designers and artisans. There were e.g. worked with Patricia Urquiola with the students of the Rare Address Institute Caselli-Real Fabbrica di Capodimonte born thanks to EDIT Napoli and developed under the MADE IN EDIT brand, which led to the creation of a collection, Hybrids, which revisits the theme of the center of the eighteenth century using decidedly contemporary tools and prototype techniques. We told you about this.

Giulia Marani

Freelance journalist, lives in Milan. He writes for Italian and foreign magazines and deals with the promotion of editorial and cultural projects. After completing his education in communication from the University of Milan, he specializes in publishing at Paris X-Nanterre. The passion for the project’s universe was born in Paris, where he worked on the editorial board of the magazine Architectures à vivre (from 2007 to 2012) and participated in the launch of EcologiK, the first French magazine dedicated to environmentally responsible design. He has collaborated with Artribune since 2013 and coordinated the pages dedicated to design since January 2019.

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