Thanks to the project “The Tokyo Toilet” – one of the many in this Salone and Fuorisalone – the Duomo stop in the Milan underground will have new, well-designed and maintained public toilets. An operation behind the Japanese clothing brand Uniqlo.
Design Week is an economic boon for the city, but the quotient of volatile operations hosted by Milan is almost total. Pedestrian areas, new green areas, benches, flower beds, fittings, facades. Everything is assembled and then, within a week, disassembled. Nothing is meant to stay and spread benefits too after. However, the little story of public toilets, which remain and will continue to provide their service even after the Salon ends, tells us that something more structural, stable and solid is absolutely possible.
Major events such as Expo 2015 have shown that the true value lies not so much in the great event itself – which of course is also important – but in its heritage and in the bourgeois heritage that can be deduced from it. So why not try to set it as an administrative, cultural and institutional goal? Every year ask yourself the question: what will he leave out firm this salon? What company can we ask to invest not only in amazing scenographies that expire after 7 days, but also in something that will remain for a long time with mutual benefit for the city and the company image?
The design city is not intended with the design approach
With a similar spirit, a paradox could be cured, among other things. Which one? One who sees Milan as the global design capital and nonetheless endowed with a largely disappointing, approximate, uncoordinated, unidentified, unrecognizable street furniture. Not devised in an organic way. When I talk about street furniture, I am referring to the thousands of items that we commonly find on the street, in the squares, in public parks. Newspaper stalls, street vendor stalls, bike racks, bollards to prevent cars from getting on the sidewalks, tourist signs, road signs (permanent and temporary), billboards, temporary work indications corso, restaurants’ outdoor areas, fountains, benches, materials used on construction sites, totems, electrical transformations , the street lamps and the public toilets. Everything can be dramatically improved in the direction of design.
Milan’s delay in urban design
However, by agreeing on what “design” really is. Design is not necessarily to suggest something new, strange, different, special and bizarre. In Italy, we tend to define something as “design” when it has these characteristics there. Well, maybe the design is exactly the opposite, the design is science which is used to solve a problem, to make an action easier and more intelligent. In this sense, we understand how important it is to apply a design-oriented approach (in a functional and aesthetic sense together) to street furniture. Milan is staggering behind other European cities from this point of view. When noting this objective delay, however, it should not trivially aim to adapt to these, but serve as a guide and an example. Be an inspiration inside and outside Italy.
This can be done by trying to assign a theme to one (or a section) of the next issues of Salone del Mobile. To launch the challenge to companies, planners, designers and architects on the rational redesign of the public space in the name of authentic intended design that produces a ‘furniture catalog’ as advanced as possible.
As you say, does it take huge investments to bring high-level planning into the public space? Very true. But it also takes large investments to fill the public space with incongruent elements, as is often the case today. Moreover, while Milan undoubtedly needs investment in a similar project, Milan itself has the ability to convince dozens of international companies to participate in the cost by making part of the cost. And then we must not forget it design it also means saving: achieving results by optimizing resources and eliminating waste and superficiality. With the ambitious horizon to return the most efficient and innovative European city from the point of view of a public space design. To avoid in the near future that “Milano è design” billboards are conveyed through advertising totems that have very little design.