Ventura Lambrate is located on the outskirts of the city; in fact, the nearest metro station, "Lambrate", is a 15-minute walk away. Anyone traveling out here will need to take plenty of time with them, time that one generally doesn't have during Milan Design Week. Yet it is definitely worth it. Almost as soon as you enter Via Ventura, the eponymous central axis of the design district, you are warmly greeted and the exhibiting designers invite you for a coffee at the Luna Café. On the steps up to the café there is a poster by the Milan-based studio "Mammafotogramma" and a graphic designer and a carpenter have spent a fortnight building mobile wooden structures that can be suspended from a building façade, but also serve as a handrail and bench, squeaking and creaking and stirring up sawdust.
Following a successful start last year, more than 60,000 visitors attended the second edition of Ventura Lambrate. In comparison: around 320,000 attended the furniture fair. At the former, 48 exhibitors and a total of 315 designers showcased their projects on an exhibition space measuring 9,000 square meters. In the form of Ventura Lambrate, the Dutch design intermediaries at "Organisation in Design" have established a venue that creates spaces for experimentation, for small labels, graduates and galleries – and all of it far away from the madding crowd of the commercial trade-fair structures and showrooms downtown.
In particular, a great deal of design was on display in a new hall in Via Massimiano, called Collective Location. Not only here, but also in another large hall on the periphery of the design circuit, several new trends were clearly discernible. For instance, evidently random elements and deficiencies are now simply accepted, becoming just as much a part of the product as clean seams and neatly pressed fabrics. Some designs deliberately set out to make certain observers could readily see how they were composed. For example, Dik Scheepers' porcelain series features traces of workmanship on the material and joins between the individual components; likewise, the paint dripping from Malin Bobeck's luminaire forms a pattern on the underlying carpet, and the vases and candleholders by Ondrej Cerveny were cast in bags and after drying show the folds. Or, in instances where the emphasis was less on showing traces of the design process, it was portrayed in stages. Florie Salnot, for example, required only a few centimeters to demonstrate the creative process of her delicate jewelry work "Plastic Gold"; for it, she needed only old plastic bottles she had collected, a few simple tools and hot sand.
Many works on display attested to an exploration of connections, such as those small, oft-neglected screws, wires and adhesives that hold an object together. Back in 2009, Jerszey Seymour presented his "Workshop Chair"; it boasted a backrest, legs and armrests connected by means of blobs of wax. Hardly surprisingly he was involved in the exhibition "Poetry Happens" at Lambrate. In this way, the comparatively small elements of a design become a crucial feature. It has been a long time since a detail was just a detail. Rosemary Anrude, for instance, has exaggerated the details in her design and portrayed them as oversized, colorful nuts into which things screw. And for his "Shrink collection", Nicola Zocca uses a heat shrink tube, like those normally used to protect electric cables in automobile and aircraft construction. Now it serves as a firm connecting element for chairs, shelving units and tables, eliminating the need for screws or nails. And Els Woldhek even makes small pieces of jewelry from joining elements. He winds copper wire, which seems completely divested of its function, around the bases and legs of shelving units by means of electroplating. To give another example, in his chair design Christof Schmidt breaks the wooden parts of the chair and then combines them again using rigid polyurethane foam. And Yoav Reches' design "Rope Stools" boasts more than just extraordinary binding elements for the individual components: his stools can also be folded up flat. The stool is assembled by threading a rope along grooves in the material, which thus forms and decorates the stable seat.
Moreover, many designers are continuing to explore how materials can be recycled or given a different lease of life. The design label Vij5 and Mieke Meijer have developed a "wood" from old newspapers. It is called "Newspaperwood" and can be cut, milled and sanded, i.e., treated like conventional wood. Werner Aisslinger presented his shell chair "Hemp", made from an environmentally-friendly material based on hemp and flax. Tobias Juretzek uses old clothes for his "Rememberme Chair" and Diederik Schneemann, for his "Flip Flop Story", turns old flip flops into vases, candleholders and other sizeable objects.
In short, Ventura Lambrate was jam-packed with ideas for lovers of experimental design. It highlighted young, fresh design – be it in spacious halls, run-down backyards or sleek, modern exposed concrete buildings. It was an entertaining promenade with plenty of opportunities to stop and take a break, whether for homemade apple cake, freshly cooked noodle soup or classic Italian coffee. Guests were made to feel completely comfortable. All these efforts certainly helped slow the pace for a while, before returning to the usual hectic that is Milan Design Week.