As a guest blogger for Philips LightCommunity, I did cover the Milan 2011 Fuorisaloni. That´s what I posted on impressions, trends and the many inspiration sources I found there.

After three posts on the Milan Salone and Euroluce, I thought I could write a bit about the not-so-known, but yet the most exciting, part of the Milan Design Week: the Fuorisalone exhibits. Fuorisalone (meaning in Italian, “outside the Salone”) are a conglomerate of exhibitions, showrooms and installations that happen across all the city of Milan. Those exhibits are mainly organized about four main design “districts”: Zona Tortona – the most renowned and used-to-be hip place, Brera – where big brands and luxury design takes place, Porta Romana and the newest, coolest, Ventura Lambrate – with only two years in the Milan design scene it has established itself already as the must go place if you really want to know what is the newest, trendiest in design.

The Fuorisalone hosts not only young, emerging designers’ exhibits, but also big brands that double their Milan appearance showing time, having the commercial stand in the Salone and their big PR events in the Fuorisalone. Paraphrasing Marcus Fairs from the design blog Dezeen, the Salone should be called Market Research week, as it is there where brands display their new product prototypes to “test the water”, and later decide on which of them they will take to full production depending on the feedback they’ve gotten from the visitors and customers. That’s the reason why the Fuorisalone has become the inspiring place to be, the spot when you can really get a glimpse of what is new, and pulsing, in the design industry. Design professionals even often skip the Salone and get straight into the City, since that’s the stuff they won’t be seeing that easily in design blogs and furniture catalogs.

As an example of brands utilizing the Fuorisalone to generate PR and brand reputation, I was quite struck by Foscarini installation in Zona Tortona. It was no more than a room filled up with their best luminaires, beautifully synchronized to light up and dim, but it created a great atmosphere, a very dramatic background that impressed both professionals and passer-bys.

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Or check out Flos showroom, in collaboration with BMW and with the design name of Paul Cocksedge and its "Poetic Light Installation"

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One of the greatest highlights of Tortona this year was, again, Toshiba. Having already created a big buzz about their latest year’s installation "Luceste", they have continued building themselves a reputation of mastering emotional lighting experiences. The beauty of “Luce, Tempo, Luogo” by DGT architects, the simple but striking light and water experience has been praised in every single Milan review. Having being there myself, I have to say it was quite a magical experience; walking inside the little, darkened room (loved the way they even curated the tastefully presented exterior, with that grey, calm entrance) and find all those drops of water becoming floating sparkles around me was the most inspiring moment I had in Milan. That is actually the most moving side of LEDs: not only they save energy, but they are also capable of creating these magical worlds. And people really love them.

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Light and emotion was also the topic of another of the most celebrated interventions in Fuorisalone, this time by the hand of furniture manufacturer Moroso. In collaboration with Tokujin Yoshioka, known for his delicacy and sophistication when it comes to treating the most subtle, immaterial aspects of design, such as light - “Twilight”, located at Moroso showroom in Brera Design District, was simply beautiful. Picture the area: a naked, white room, with no more decoration that Yoshioka’s chairs for Moroso (also in all ranges of white, from the most snowy to the most pearlescent hue); a bunch of spots lighting the area; and a ubiquitous, floating fog that diffused the space, highlighting the beauty of the light rays coming from the spots, creating a dreamy atmosphere in which I happily sat for around 20 minutes, with no more thoughts or ambitions than enjoying that generous beauty. I very much liked the way they managed to extend that experience to the rest of their showroom too, with a much lighter fog that allowed the contemplation of their product introductions while still drawing the rays of light in the air.

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The last of the big brands’ action that made an impression into the design community was, as I mentioned in my first post, Verbatim. They made a great start into the design world by showing a beautiful, mesmerizing OLED installation that surprised the creative community – only acquainted to their floppy disks and other IT hardware before the Milan Design Week. What it could have been just another technology introduction – colour-changing OLED panels – that might had gone unnoticed by the inspiration seekers, turned out to generate many positive “Oohs!” and “Aahs!” and building a design reputation for Verbatim. Three main OLED installations – I have to reckon that some were more fortunate than others – that were crowned by a wall mirrored room in which two light sculptures created a pulsing, colourful lightscape that left visitors delighted and way more curious about the possibilities of OLED.

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Finally, Alessi picked Milan and the Fuorisalone to show its first incursion in LED lighting: Alessilux. A range of bulbs/luminaires, framed with a statement in which the intention of leading a paradigm change in lighting, complemented with a questionnaire that asked visitors about their impressions on LED lighting: what they would like to have, how much are they willing to pay, what do they think it is. While the products might have not been very deep in terms of product ideation, they definitely got visitors into their vision and made them believe it – quite a good example on how to introduce, test and gather feedback on the new stuff you’re getting into the market.

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