Countdown to Milan: Belgium is Design

At the Milan fair and beyond, the country’s top designers – including Julien de Smedt, Gauthier Poulain and Alain Berteau – will flaunt their talents.

Despite its small size, Belgium has three regional institutions dedicated to fostering and promoting good design. In a collective initiative by 101% Designed in Brussels, WBDM and Design Flanders, two exhibits of products and prototypes will be exhibited in the loggia of Milan’s Pinacoteca di Brera – one of the world’s most prestigious museums, best known for its collection of Renaissance and Baroque paintings by such masters as Raphael, Caravaggio and Tintoretto.

The Belgian show marks the first time that design will be showcased at the palazzo. The presentation will create a link between classical art and modern furnishings and lighting in a scenographic framework of architectural modules by industrial designer Stefan Schöning that’s poised to wow visitors.

Meanwhile, Belgian design will also take over a chunk of Salone Satellite at the Milan fairgrounds as well as the enviable locale of Lake Como’s Isola Comacina – a series of villas actually dedicated to the nurturing of cultural interchange between Belgium and Italy.

At Pinacoteca di Brera

Young designers brimming with promise and innovation are handpicked for the 101% Designed in Brussels annual showcase. This year’s select five – architect Julien de Smedt, furniture designer Benoît Beneufbourg, industrial designers Corentin Dombrecht and Julien Renault and recent ECAL graduate Vanessa Hordies – show their most representative furniture and light fixtures. In honour of the program’s five-year anniversary, a retrospective will show 25 photo portraits of the chosen participants to-date.

Meanwhile, the exhibition Lightness explores such notions as physical lightness and a gentle environmental impact and, in a philosophical sense, the folly of design, expressed as the invention of irreverently flexible or modular furniture, textile and lighting solutions. Featuring the works of 21 designers, the curated collection includes Gauthier Poulain’s Wing pendant, a standout design that’s powered by LEDs and is shaped like a disc whose surfaces are peeling away.

At the show and off-site

You can get another fix of Belgian design at the Salone del Mobile’s Rho fairgrounds. In Salone Satellite, WBDM will showcase eight designers from Wallonia and Brussels, including Raphaël Charles, Stuut and Adeline Beaudry.

Meanwhile, an unprecedented design initiative takes place at Isola Comacina – the only island in Lake Como – in a move that reinforces the Bergo-Italian cultural institution. The recently renovated Belgian-Italian artists residences designed in 1935 by architect Pietro Lingieri have been refurnished with the works of a fortunate few contemporaries, like Mathieu Lehanneur and Alain Berteau, displayed alongside iconic Belgian classics by Maarten Van Severen and Jules Wabbes.

Belgium is Design will be held at FuoriSalone: the Pinacoteca di Brera at Via Brera 28, Milan from April 12 to 17.

(Cross-posted from Azure, a Toronto-based magazine of architecture and design)

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