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Milan’s Creative
Playground.

The Mercedes-Benz Interior Designers Chiara Pleterski and
Francesca Sangalli from the Mercedes-Benz Advanced Design
Studio in Italy present their impressions at Milan Design Week.

Autor: Mila Lacedra / Credits: Chiara Pleterski

Zona Tortona counts among the world’s key creative hubs.

If you think Milan is a city, think again. Among its local population, this northern Italian metropolis is better known as a huge office. Those who settle in the city tend to come and stay for work, not play. Nevertheless, change is afoot: while artistic endeavours have long had a toehold in the city, their latest incarnations are slowly emerging from behind the closed doors of Milan’s design and fashion elite. With accessible events like Design Week’s Fuorisalone, the open-air offshoot of Milan’s eminent furniture trade fair Salone del Mobile, public access and opinion is about to change. At home in Milan’s Zona Tortona, an old industrial quarter in the south-western quadrant and near the city’s Porta Genova, the Fuorisalone has become a firm favourite and fixture in Milan’s social and cultural calendar.

Up and running for almost a decade, last year’s public offshoot of the pro fair encouraged more than 110,000 design fans to explore the urban segment bordered by the Via Tortona, Via Savona and Via Solari between 13 and 17 April 2011.

Daring ideas seasoned
with a touch of irony.

For the featured designers, artists, architects and photographers – and, naturally, the associated galleries and sponsors – Design Week remains the undisputed highlight of the city’s annual schedule.

In their intense dash between exhibits, locations, projects and people, design aficionados make the most of this visual feast to soak up inspirations, meet new contacts and collaborators, get media exposure and – last but by no means least – showcase their creations to the public, seasoned with inspiring ideas and, possibly, a pinch of irony. During Design Week, the Zona Tortona tears down the invisible boundaries between public and private space to create a gigantic playground for novel exhibits and a wealth of new ideas. For a few days only, every square inch of street, pavement or flowerbed becomes a substrate for the expression of a creative mind while private homes open their generous terraces for a brief stint of sunbathing. 

 
 
 
 

In this spirit of reappropriation, three balconies served as the stage for a gig by Italian electro band Motel Connection while two young advertisers on Via Tortona transformed their flat into an impromptu art space "My Place", for a spontaneous show of photographs, paintings and another live performance that rocked the stage. Well, so much for the condensed flurry and excitement of Design Week, but what happens after Fuorisalone?

Once the last remnants are swept away, life inside the "case a ringhiera", i. e. the zone’s characteristic two- or three-storied housing, returns to normal.

A fresh start for
Zona Tortona.

In this case, however, normal means plenty of special events aiming to rival the Design Week’s thrill-packed schedule. Think Fashion Week, Bicycle Film Festival, live painting at Via Forcella’s Spazio Concept, myriads of temporary design shops, vintage clothing stores (e. g. local favourite Nana’s), art openings at boutique gallery Pasticceria, the Affordable Art Fair as well as designer meet-ups at the quarter’s Design Library Café – there is no doubt: Milan’s creatives have claimed the Zona Tortona for themselves.

A resident of this district myself, I relish the new Milanese way of life. With the city’s eminent cathedral, the Duomo, seemingly relegated to the periphery, style and substance have found a new focus.

So, don’t forget to look sharp on the street: in this recently reinvigorated quarter you are more than likely to cross paths with fashion heavyweights like Giorgio Armani, Ermenegildo Zegna or Mr. Diesel. And a final word of caution – don’t hang the washing out on the balcony during Fuorisalone: it might be taken for a live performance.

Mercedes-Benz interior designers Chiara Pleterski and Francesca Sangalli, of Italy’s Advanced Design Studios, explore the Milan Design Week.

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