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by Jincy IypePublished on : Apr 13, 2023
Do spaces affect behaviour?
Milanese architecture and engineering studio Lombardini22 led with this very enquiry when tasked with curating and redefining the main exhibition space and layout of the upcoming Salone del Mobile.Milano 2023’s four central pavilions, to reappraise its visitor circulation flows, and ensure an increasingly engaging and contemporary business and design universe. In its 61st edition, seven main exhibitions will be held concurrently at Fiera Milano fairgrounds in Rho with Euroluce 2023, the much-awaited lighting biennial making a dominant return, accompanied by multifarious events dazzling guests from April 18–23, 2023 during Milan Design Week this year.
Foregoing its former chequerboard layout, Euroluce’s footprint heralds an evolution in its paradigm, to become smarter and singularly user-friendly, by serving better connections and embodying sustainability, owing itself to the vision of the Salone del Mobile.Milano and Lombardini22. Catering to the biennial’s concept of 'The City of Lights,' the layout designers drew inspiration from the spatiality of Italian urban centres, to turn the biennial itself, into a new city of lights through a fluid and irregular route. “Rather than being stand-centric, the layout will be human-centric and visitor experience-based,” explains Salone del Mobile.Milano.
The Italian architects found themselves facing several challenges—they were tasked with ensuring improved connections between the pavilions, simplifying the visitor path by making it more fluid and easily navigable, in tandem with increasing exhibitor visibility and engagement. “Lombardini22 analysed the trade fair context in its kaleidoscopic entirety and completely rethought the needs of companies and visitors, to come up with a project that would meet everybody’s expectations and create a sympathetic space capable of generating emotions,” they add.
The design team behind the layout also studied the spatial configuration by deeply assessing the perceptual dimension of the pavilions, and valorising their potential uses. Analysing the way in which spaces influence the flows and movements of guests empowered the design studio to create a layout that would "dovetail with people’s natural movements and make for an efficient and intuitive visitor path," augmented by minimal twists and turns.
“Finally, Lombardini22 asked themselves the question of how to illuminate Euroluce. The simple yet brilliant answer was to switch everything off. The new layout is designed to be a sort of dark box in which light, channelling poetry and emotion, shines through from the stands of the exhibiting companies,” elaborates Salone del Mobile.Milano.
Ahead of Salone del Mobile.Milano 2023, STIR caught up with Franco Guidi (CEO and co-founder), Juri Franzosi (director general), Cristian Catania (senior architect), and Andrea Cacaci (lighting architect) of Lombardini22, to discuss their role and vision towards redefining the layout of Euroluce 2023.
Jincy Iype: How did you approach the rethinking of the design fair’s exhibition layout, when tasked with creating an increasingly engaging and contemporary business platform? How does it borrow from the spatiality of Italian urban centres?
Cristian Catania: This year, Lombardini22 were presented with a great opportunity to refresh the layout of Euroluce. Altering the idea of a static fair layout (refer to Diagram 1), we created a fluid circulation (Diagram 2) that facilitates the orientation of visitors. Space affects behaviours. For this reason, simplifying the layout means simplifying the experience of visitors, hence giving greater exposure to exhibitors. The checkerboard booth organisation will be upgraded to an itinerary, in the shape of an irregular ring, turning the fair into an engaging and contemporary business platform, with fluid flows and a spatial layout that will help visitors find their way and increase exhibitors’ visibility.
Jincy: What were some challenges faced while creating the layout and how does it relate to Euroluce 2023’s concept of 'The City of Lights’?
Cristian: As a metaphor, we took the city, abandoning the functional pavilion-centric grid and proceeded to create a veritable ‘City of Lights,’ complete with streets, squares and points of social focus, intended not just for businesses and designers, but also for students and lighting technicians, bringing together the various souls of Italian lighting designs, from the decorative to the technical.
Fairs were invented as places for relationships. But over the years, they have fizzled out, and this concept has been lost. Through the design of spaces, we want to enable relationships, proposals, content and innovation to take place. We want visitors not to feel tired but energised, and inspired, at the end of their visit. – Cristian Catania, senior architect, Lombardini22
Jincy: How will the new layout ensure better connectivity between the pavilions, increased visibility and intuitive engagement, and how “rather than being stand-centric, the layout will be human-centric and visitor experience based”?
Cristian: Today, almost all fairs are stand-centric. The real change is to put the visitors at the centre. A pavilion in the Salone normally contains 12 horizontal streets crossing four vertical ones: a ragged grid that compels visitors to make a lot of choices to find one stand rather than another, because of which, there’s always the risk they’ll miss something. An urban frame of reference makes for a layout that, cognitively, does not force them to make too many choices, where they advance along a varied ring-shaped path made up of streets, alleys and squares. In a virtual simulation, we observed that with the classic layout, you can travel about 1.2 km to see a whole pavilion. With a circular route of about 500 meters, you pass in front of all the stands without the frustration of missing anything. There will be catering places, spaces for exhibitions, which will be curated in different ways, and an area of workshops where companies can express themselves with round tables for illustrating their products, a place devoted to the culture of design with designers, directors and technicians.
Andrea Cacaci: At the fair today, there are a lot of companies that enclose themselves, excluding any connection between the public path and their stands. The main difference for companies is that they will no longer have four free sides, inviting an opening. In this way, the light will flow out like water and expand into the communal aisles, because this year, the only lights we’ll see will be those of the exhibitors, as in a varied museum, with cold, warm, dim or bright lighting.
Juri Franzosi: The Euroluce layout is a great team effort for us, an experimentation. For example, the study of spatial configuration was important: we explored the perceptual dimension of the pavilions, enhancing their potential for use. The analysis of how space influences the flows and movements of visitors allowed the designers to design a layout that would accompany the natural movements of people and allow an efficient, intuitive route with few turns to facilitate orientation. The challenges we took up and the guiding principles of design will turn this event into a model international trade fair for years to come.
Jincy: “Lombardini22 analysed the trade fair context in its kaleidoscopic entirety and completely rethought the needs of companies and visitors, to come up with a project that would meet everybody’s expectations and create a sympathetic space capable of generating emotions.” How so?
Cristian: Starting from a participatory survey conducted by Salone del Mobile.Milano a year back, with questionnaires and round tables involving protagonists of the design world, we felt the urge to design the four Euroluce pavilions around the visitors and their experience of their use. We listened to the voices of the exhibitors, who asked for greater visibility and with them, we learned the need not only to exhibit the product but to make the fair the embodiment of the culture of design in the broadest sense. In our project, the spaces for relationships are fundamental.
Jincy: How will your layout collaborate with Formafantasma’s design of the Aurore arena?
Juri: The city will have a main square, large streets, art installations, book shops, and fine dining areas. Aurore, the main square designed by Formafantasma, will be a meeting point where conferences and meetings will be held. It will also be a home of a sensational experience where light, colours and shapes alter based on different contexts. The involvement of figures such as Formafantasma has meant that two different worlds have come together, the most classic design with experimentation and research. For this reason, the art world will also be involved.
In our project, the spaces for relationships are fundamental. – Cristian Catania, senior architect, Lombardini22
Constellations is curated by Beppe Finessi, and the exhibition project is by Formafantasma. The cultural project is symbolic of the general concept underlying the Euroluce 2023 concept of 'The City of Lights': polycentric, multidisciplinary and plural. 'Constellations' is a widespread exhibition, featuring works by authors from the worlds of contemporary art, architecture, design and photography, and is scientifically supported by original critical contributions, written by different authors, and experts that have cast their sensitive and penetrating eyes on the work of these original artists and designers.
Jincy: What does your approach to illuminating Euroluce this year by 'switching everything off' achieve? What was the idea here?
Andrea: A significant work has been devoted to the clients, who are highly differentiated. The first clients of Salone are the exhibitors. We also wanted to enhance the visibility of lighting designers and architects, embracing students of design, design enthusiasts but also electricians, who are an often out of sight but a very important part of this whole world. The workshops we have devised are above all aimed at them. We focused on light by using shadow. The pavilions will be obscured by closing all sources that provide natural light and by switching off almost all artificial lights. We, lighting designers, have two tools to use: light and shadow. For Euroluce, we used shadow to give importance to light. We transformed the pavilions into black boxes in order to enhance the lighting stands.
Jincy: What can you tell us about your studio name as well as your design philosophy? How are you anticipating visitors interacting with your design at Salone del Mobile.Milano this year?
Franco Guidi: Our studio name is actually our address! It’s the place where we gather all together under one roof. Is the place where our community is working together. Where we learn from each other and where we celebrate our achievements. It’s also the place where we mourn our colleagues who passed away. It’s our place it’s a public space.
This is very much consistent with our design philosophy, very diverse and multi-authorial, based on design thinking. We try to understand our clients and the needs of the future inhabitants of the space we design and our impact on the planet. Every time it’s a different and challenging experience.
STIR’s coverage of Milan Design Week 2023 showcases the best exhibitions, studios, designers, installations, brands, and special projects to look out for. Explore Euroluce 2023 and all the design districts—5Vie Art and Design, Brera Design District, Fuorisalone, Isola Design District, Tortona District, and Milano Design District—with us.
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