Alex Chinneck unzips the façade of a building at the Milan Design Week
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Alex Chinneck unzips the façade of a building at the Milan Design Week

British sculptor Alex Chinneck dramatically unzipped a building's front in Milan to create an illusion of the façade peeling away to reveal a clean wall.

by Palak Maheshwari Jul 27, 2019

British sculptor Alex Chinneck created a breathtaking blend of art, architecture and design as he 'unzipped' the façade of an old building at the Torotona Design District in Milan during Salone del Mobile 2019.

The site-specific project IQOS World Revealed was built for IQOS, the flagship innovation from Philips Morris International’s smoke- free products.

It took Chinneck four weeks to come up with the multi-dimensional installation with open spaces where the zip was used as a metaphor to depict transformation.

  • Unzipping the floor, as revealed by Alex Chinneck| Alex Chinneck| IQOS| Philip Morris International| STIR
    Unzipping the floor, as revealed by Alex Chinneck Image Credit: Mrinalini Ghadiok
  • The exterior of the structure| Alex Chinneck| IQOS| Philip Morris International| STIR
    The exterior of the structure Image Credit: Mrinalini Ghadiok

As the sculptor envisioned the entire building as the protagonist of the installation, one could see the stained façade peeling away to reveal a clear wall.

Portions of an internal wall, as well as a floor of one section of the building were also unzipped as part of the installation. The hole in the floor emitted a white light as Chinneck's had excavated and re-poured the concrete to install his artwork.

  • Unzipping the walls – inside IQOS World| Alex Chinneck| IQOS| Philip Morris International| STIR
    Unzipping the walls – inside IQOS World Image Credit: Mrinalini Ghadiok
  • Instilling the idea of new ‘openings’ through the use of zips| Alex Chinneck| IQOS| Philip Morris International| STIR
    Instilling the idea of new ‘openings’ through the use of zips Image Credit: Mrinalini Ghadiok

The zipper was used repeatedly to open the fabric of a seemingly historic building and reimagine what lies behind its façade, floors and walls. To increase intrigue value, there was a conscious use of highly saturated coloured light, enticing one to wander in and focus on the singular objects in space.

It was also Chinneck’s way of working with familiar materials and architectural forms, and make them behave in extraordinary ways in order to change the visitors’ perception of what is possible.

The design process involved computer modelling, casting and painting, with a diverse material palette including steel, wood, polystyrene, resin, moss, stone and timber.

The main artwork on the façade, spanning 17 m (55.7 ft) in width covered the front of two buildings - Oficina 31 and Spazio Quattrocento. It was not the first time that Alex Chinneck created architectural illusions; he had earlier made a similar installation at a derelict office building in England.

Installation as part of IQOS World Revealed| Alex Chinneck| IQOS| Philip Morris International| STIR
Installation as part of IQOS World Revealed Image Credit: Mrinalini Ghadiok

While it was Philip Morris’s third year at the Milan Design Week, and this installation for IQOS was one of the many fascinating pieces seen across the city, it was definitely one of the most photographed - for its scale, illusion, intrigue and impact.

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About Author

Palak Maheshwari

Palak Maheshwari

As standing on the first step of structuring herself, Palak seeks avenues that can serve as an outlet for her creative energies. A commerce graduate and an avid reader, she has been working as an intern for STIR. Her ‘outside’ approach towards architecture and design reflects as a fresh perspective in her work.

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