“Nude” or preferably revealing a little less
von Nina C. Müller | Oct 6, 2011

After all, the title of the Newcomer Forum at the Hábitat trade fair, which took place at the end of September in Valencia, was "Nude". Young designers presented forward no-frills proposals that contrasted sharply with the traditional furniture designs to be found in Valencia, a former furniture city, with its propensity to favor the opulent, the spangling and the dramatic. The forum was not overly spacious, but granted visitors a well-organized insight into the latest trends in Spanish design. Moreover, Valencia has more to offer than just the trade fair presentations.

The individual booths for the young designers in the "Nude" section were defined by marble and white semicircular dividing walls adorned with hexagonally shaped carpet elements placed between concrete pillars. While this structure ensured that each exhibit could be clearly assigned its designer, it did however render the exhibition architecture somewhat opaque. The individual booths seemed small, lacking in lighting, colorless, and quite simply a bit too naked. Or perhaps not naked enough? They structured the exhibition but at the same time they set lines dividing the designers from one another, which flew in the face of the advantages of a large exhibition hall, namely that such an open design enables you to forge links between exhibitors and thus enhance communication.

The Valencia trade fair hall is not unappealing but anyone who knows the town with its countless ruptures between historical and contemporary architecture, winding alleys, spacious plazas, port and Santiago Calatrava's City of the Arts and Sciences, will inevitably ask themselves whether there are not perhaps other venues in addition to the trade fair hall, which would be more suited to presenting new designs in the right light. Valencia is famous for its atmospheric light, and in fact some designers and architects did make full use of it.

There was an especially atmospheric presentation by Vondom at Torres de Serrano, a historical 14th-century fortress, the gate to the heart of Valencia. What would seem more obvious for a local manufacturer of outdoor furniture than to present its wares outside? Valencia's balmy summer evenings definitely lend themselves a nocturnal reception, and so Vondom let made use of the contrasts to their full effect: It arranged its bright plastic furniture under the dark night sky, suffused the old halls with the sound of Jazz, and projected refined moving graphics onto the Torres' coarse walls.

Less exclusive, but all the more personal and unpretentious: a group of young international designers whose self-declared goal is to establish a global network. Calling themselves "Someone I met", the 12 young talents who first met at the Domaine de Boisbuchet workshops and were supported by the latter assembled a showcase of their works in a location that you would hardly expect. One of the initiators Sergio Mendoza opened his studio at Barrio Patraix, a typical residential district on the outskirts, too anyone who wanted to come. With untreated floors, flaky walls, old furniture and machines as plinths, this workshop presented an authentic workshop setting converted into an exhibition space. It shows how designers work, where they draw their inspiration from and gives the visitor (over a beer and some homemade tortilla) the feeling that they are simply meeting up with old friends. A good basis for a leisurely chat, and the ideal backdrop to talk about your work and your network.

By contrast, the designers at CuldeSac of course showcased their wares in their own office. A little farther outside town, hidden behind a massive gate between residential tower blocks and allotment gardens you'll find a veritable mini-paradise in their factory building, complete with gigantic vegetables and colorful catering delights. CuldeSac combined market-fair flair with project presentations. The bombastic popcorn jars and decorated choco-lollies, icing and meringues certainly grabbed the eye. Anyone wanting to find out about CuldeSac's latest projects needed only take a glance at the computer presentations or the casual projections on the walls – all set to the sound of live music.

While the trade fair was busy offering visitors a concentrated range of important manufacturers and designers, the city of Valencia itself acted as the backdrop for an inspiring program that contrasted with hectic trade-fair life. Events by Vondom, CuldeSac and the designers of "Someone I met" provided the perfect opportunity for many an informal encounter, as did the estudi{H}ac office with its cocktail reception outside the marvelous ceramics museums and Luzifers with its grand picnic in the countryside. More or less hidden from the outside eye, more cloaked than "nude", they no doubt made a lasting impression on visitors.

To summarize: You need to take a somewhat closer look in order to identify the real gems at the Valencia Design Week. But those who do not let the trade fair hustle and bustle deter them from exploring the city will find that the one or other interesting surprise awaits them.

Newcomer-Forum “Nude“ at the Hábitat fair, photo: Nina Müller
Young talents at the “Nude” area, photo: Nina Müller
Exhibition design in the "Nude" area, estudi{H}ac, photo: Nina Müller
The hexagon as stylistic element in the "Nude" area, photo: Nina Müller
Designer by 3patas in the “Nude” area, photo: Nina Müller
Entrance of the Torres de Serrano, photo: Vondom
“SMP Lamps”, Sergio Mendoza, in the exhibition “Someone I met”, photo: Sergio Mendoza
“SMP Lamps”, Sergio Mendoza, in the exhibition “Someone I met”, photo: Sergio Mendoza
Sweets installation in the office of CuldeSac, photo: CuldeSac
Fun fair flair in the office of CuldeSac, photo: CuldeSac
Colourful sweets, photo: CuldeSac
Plaza Ayuntamento in Valencia, photo: Nina Müller
"Vases”, estudi{H}ac for Vondom, photo: Nina Müller
Installation by Vondom in the Torres de Serrano, Ramón Esteve, photo: Nina Müller
„Jellyfish Lamp”, Paula Benvegnú and Tristan Cochrane, in the exhibition “Someone I met”, photo: Sergio Mendoza
“Joe“ und „Averell“, estudio estres, in der Ausstellung „Someone I met”, photo: Sergio Mendoza
City centre Valencia, photo: Nina Müller