Mario Cucinella Designs with Nature for Salone del Mobile.Milano 2022

STIR spoke with Mario Cucinella who conceived Design with Nature, the educational, central installation at Salone 2022 with repurposed, recycled elements and sustainability at its core.

by Jincy IypePublished on : Jun 20, 2022

Architecture and design can be an act of continuous revolution, but mostly remains a quagmire of waste and unnecessary material production. There is no doubt that the industry at large is implicit in contributing to the worsening ecological health of the planet, with the alarming rates of construction, producing waste and pollution with abandon. What must we do to improve, to really make a difference?

Aerial view of Design with Nature conceived by Italian architect Mario Cucinella | Design with Nature by Mario Cucinella | STIRworld
Aerial view of Design with Nature conceived by Italian architect Mario Cucinella Image: Giovanni De Sandre

Doubling down on its commitment to sustainable design with nature at the forefront, Salone 2022, on show from June 7-12, 2022, commissioned Italian architect Mario Cucinella to build the fair's central installation, Design with Nature, a designed ecosystem built with repurposed and recycled elements.

A glimpse of Design with Nature conceived at Salone del Mobile.Milano 2022 | Design with Nature by Mario Cucinella | STIRworld
A glimpse of Design with Nature at for Salone del Mobile.Milano 2022 Image: Diego Ravier
Conceived as a built hymn to sustainability, the design installation snaked its way through the heart of S.Project’s Pavilion 15 within the Fiera in Milan, Italy, "informed by many different considerations: ethics, circularity, domestic space, participatory architecture and urban regeneration. It (was) a design and emotive exercise in pursuit of recycling and upcycling, entering into the debate on the importance of sustainable living," elaborates Salone del Mobile.Milano.

  • Cucinella's design installation Design with Nature is a designed ecosystem built of repurposed and recycled elements | Design with Nature by Mario Cucinella | STIRworld
    Cucinella's design installation Design with Nature is a designed ecosystem built of repurposed and recycled elements Image: Diego Ravier
  • Mario Cucinella's designed ecosystem, Design with Nature at Milan Design Week 2022 | Design with Nature by Mario Cucinella | STIRworld
    Mario Cucinella's designed ecosystem, Design with Nature at Milan Design Week 2022
    Image: Diego Ravier

How far has design come with regard to sustainability? Can we accelerate the ushering in of a new era in the way we live (in cities and at home)? Such were some pertinent inquires addressed by the installation, questioning the role of the design and architectural community “as prefigures of future spaces, in a bid to (re)build the difficult equilibrium between territory, city and landscape.”

Design with Nature channeled themes of ecological transition, the home as the first urban building block and the city as a mine | Design with Nature by Mario Cucinella | STIRworld
Design with Nature channeled themes of ecological transition, the home as the first urban building block and the city as a mine Image: Luca Fiammenghi

Also addressing the platitude of sustainability that has taken over the global architectural and design realm, Design with Nature aimed to put the spotlight squarely on the future of the way we live, across its three primary themes of "ecological transition", the "home as the first urban building block" and "the city as a mine".

There is another world and it is in this one, global biomass.
In 2020, the amount of anthropogenic mass exceeded the weight of all global living biomass.
1125 gigatonnes of biomass
1154 gigatonnes of anthropogenic mass

What model of development should we adopt to progress on a finite planet?
What are the endangered resources?
Resources exhausted on 2022
Sand by 2040
Copper by 2044
Gas by 2046
Oil by 2048
Carbon by 2054
Aluminium by 2072
And now?

The 1,400 sqm installation snaked its way within the heart of S.Project's Pavilion 15 within the Fiera in Milan, Italy for Milan Design Week 2022 | Design with Nature by Mario Cucinella | STIRworld
The 1,400 sqm installation snaked its way within the heart of S.Project's Pavilion 15 within the Fiera in Milan, Italy for Milan Design Week 2022 Image: Courtesy of Salone del Mobile.Milano

The installation came alive with flora interspersing curving wooden platforms comprising seating spaces, a restaurant, bar, library and conference area, reminiscent of a modernised Italian piazza. Displays hosting natural and plant materials turned the massive space into a landscape of greens, a space for dialogue, a refuge for discussion, sharing, reading, and reflecting.

The installation was composed of seating spaces, a restaurant, bar, library and conference area | Design with Nature by Mario Cucinella | STIRworld
The installation was composed of seating spaces, a restaurant, bar, library and conference area Image: Diego Ravier

It also explored the leitmotifs of circular economy and reuse culture, propagating the idea that cities could be "possible "reserves" of the future", where most raw materials employed in construction could be sourced, upcycled or recycled. The created sinuous, luxuriant “green” swathe represented the importance of forging a new, fundamental friendship with nature and ecology.

  • Design with Nature by Mario Cucinella came alive as a landscape of greens and a space for dialogue and contemplation | Design with Nature by Mario Cucinella | STIRworld
    Design with Nature by Mario Cucinella came alive as a landscape of greens and a space for dialogue and contemplation
    Image: Giovanni De Sandre
  • The installation was interspersed with material displays and research, as well as a plethora of fruit trees and plants | Design with Nature by Mario Cucinella | STIRworld
    The installation was interspersed with material displays and research, as well as a plethora of fruit trees and plants Image: Diego Ravier

STIR visited the educational installation on display at Salone 2022 and spoke to Cucinella, who stressed the idea of a city as a mine: a shortage of minerals and materials in the next three to five decades is imminent, but the urban realm already contains materials that can be mindfully used (and reused) - concrete, bricks, steel, aluminium, glass, and wood, to name a few – everything is here already, and so much of it. "So maybe we need to consider the city as a material opportunity because the city is sempiternal, always ongoing, where demolition, refurbishment, change, and rebuilding remain perpetual processes. All this material ends up being wasted but can be made useful again, to create new buildings. If this is the rate and systems we keep being part of, in the future, there will be less and less access to material, and by creating new ones, we generate even more waste which is detrimental. Even if we are able to build 50 per cent of a building from these recycled or repurposed materials, we are significantly reducing damage. Think about it,” he proposes.

Two large tables curved its way through the space as a green, educational 'organism' | Design with Nature by Mario Cucinella | STIRworld
Two large tables curved its way through the space as a green, educational 'organism' Image: Giovanni De Sandre
Everybody is aware of the problem, as well as guilty. We need to act now. – Mario Cucinella

Two large tables of 68x22m over 1,400 sqm of space created a green, educational 'organism' that narrated proposed materials for intended ecological transition for cities, where the conceived space became congregational for visitors at Milan Design Week 2022, to pause, mingle and contemplate the impacts of human activities on the planet.

All components and materials used to build the installation will be relocated to new destinations, giving them renewed life once the event gets over | Design with Nature by Mario Cucinella | STIRworld
All components and materials used to build the installation will be relocated to new destinations, giving them renewed life once the event gets over Image: Courtesy of Salone del Mobile.Milano

People are rediscovering the value of controlled yet deliberate, effectual social gatherings after the pandemic-infested years, carrying the potential of forging a new, healthy balance with nature, where we are conscious of the amount of intensity of the spaces we inhabit, as well available resources, which was also one of the key themes tackled at this year's post-pandemic edition of Salone del Mobile.

So maybe we need to consider the city as a material opportunity because the city is sempiternal, always ongoing, where demolition, refurbishment, change, and rebuilding remain perpetual processes. All this material ends up being wasted but can be made useful again, to create new buildings. – Mario Cucinella
Inside Salone's core installation, Design with Nature | Design with Nature by Mario Cucinella | STIRworld
Inside Salone's core installation, Design with Nature Image: Giovanni De Sandre

"A large space mindful of the design and the environment, dedicated to the new sociality. An installation in which the word “ecosystem” is fundamental and with which we aim to show that our vision of the future needs to be “ecosystemic” and capable of bringing knowledge, skills and technologies together for a new generation of materials and design. The final and specific goal of “ecosystemic know how” – if we can call it that – will be to make life better through a rediscovered respect for nature,” informs Cucinella, the founding architect and artistic director of Mario Cucinella Architects (MCA).

A series of totems peppered the scenography, providing visitors with descriptions of the natural, and not so natural materials researched upon and studied by Mario Cucinella Architects | Design with Nature by Mario Cucinella | STIRworld
A series of totems peppered the scenography, providing visitors with descriptions of the natural, and not so natural materials researched upon and studied by Mario Cucinella Architects Image: Diego Ravier

Design with Nature. For new materials. For a new habitat. For a better city.

The design of the entire snaking structure allowed individual attendance, small as well as large groups of people to sit together, which came about rather unintentionally, according to Cucinella – "The idea was to create an organism, an organic setting with an intended purpose that could also function as a conferential space. We created a space where people could sit around the table to discuss books or their impressions of the exhibition, organically inhabiting the ecosystem," says the Italian architect.

All the components will eventually find new uses and destinations when the event is over | Design with Nature by Mario Cucinella | STIRworld
All the components will eventually find new uses and destinations when the event is over Image: Giovanni De Sandre

The virtuous way cycles of nature leave no waste, finding more than one function and one life for itself, the installation's components came about as an intentional assemblage of forms, functions and materials that eventually finds fresh lives and new destinations - a small library for a school, a classroom, a chair for a public space, a table for a laboratory. "The materials in this installation derive from natural supply chains – demonstrating that ecological transition is already ongoing and that businesses can be the catalysts of this change – or from waste products upcycled and recycled. Cities are rich fonts of the latter, veritable reserves of resources and materials recoverable through circular processes,” they continue.

The installation demonstrated how cities can be considered as a material mine | Design with Nature by Mario Cucinella | STIRworld
The installation demonstrated how cities can be considered as a material mine Image: Diego Ravier (top); Luca Fiammenghi (bottom)
Visitors engaging with Design with Nature during Salone del Mobile.Milano 2022 | Design with Nature by Mario Cucinella | STIRworld
Visitors engaging with Design with Nature during Salone del Mobile.Milano 2022 Image: Diego Ravier (top); Luca Fiammenghi (bottom)

Design with Nature was also demonstrative of how waste, vegetable, animal and generated by humans (agricultural, industrial or urban) has the potential of being transformed and used as “something else,” breathing new life and purpose for themselves. This not only encompasses recycling plastic bottles, waste from shoe making and furnishing processes, and sun awnings but the formulation of new fabrics for the fashion and textile industries, from coffee waste to floor coverings, fruit peels turned to leather, mycelium to insulating panels, which were on display as proof for onlookers to ruminate upon.

The design exhibition also addressed the potential of animal, vegetable and human generated waste to be repurposed and given second life | Design with Nature by Mario Cucinella | STIRworld
The design exhibition also addressed the potential of animal, vegetable and human generated waste to be repurposed and given second life Image: Luca Fiammenghi

A series of totems peppered the sustainable design exhibition, providing visitors with descriptions of the natural, and not-so-natural materials researched upon and studied by MCA, with the scientific support of Professor Ingrid Paoletti of the Milan Polytechnic University. Texts and graphics indicating the origin, the transformation and processing stages, the use and the finished product, narrated the new life and potential of the material.

Texts and graphics indicating the origin, transformation and processing stages, as well as the use of a finished product accompanied the displays | Design with Nature by Mario Cucinella | STIRworld
Texts and graphics indicating the origin, transformation and processing stages, as well as the use of a finished product accompanied the displays Image: Giovanni De Sandre

Design with Nature proves that we can come up with a different way of building and creating products in conjunction with nature, without continuing to consume raw materials but by triggering virtuous ecological behaviours,” said Salone, succinctly summarising the core of the installation. Beings of architecture and design can be conduits of re-establishing healthy relationships with the planet, where we give back as much as we take from it, where nurturing takes place simultaneously with borrowing, establishing amity with nature. As Cucinella affirms - "Design is a place of peace".

  • Cucinella's conceptual sketch for the installation imagined as an
    Cucinella's conceptual sketch for the installation imagined as an "organism" Image: Mario Cucinella
  • Conceptual sketches of Design with Nature | Design with Nature by Mario Cucinella | STIRworld
    Conceptual sketches of Design with NatureImage: Mario Cucinella

STIR takes you on a Milanese sojourn! Experience Salone del Mobile and all the design districts - 5vie, Brera, Fuorisalone, Isola, Zona Tortona, and Durini - with us. STIR’s coverage of Milan Design Week 2022, Meanwhile in Milan showcases the best exhibits, moods, studios, events, and folks to look out for. We are also excited to announce our very own STIR press booth at Salone del Mobile - Hall 5/7 S.14, Fiera Milano RHO.

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