In a New Milan Exhibition, These Elemental Materials are Anything But Basic

Wood and metal — often used interchangeably for the same purposes, known as symbols of strength, both are innately rigid, while also malleable and capable of being crafted into almost any shape imaginable. As part of the recent Makers 1 exhibition in Milan, these two materials, which dominate the construction and furniture industries, were investigated in their many weird and wonderful guises by no less than 28 designers.

The exhibition took place earlier this year at the Caselli 11-12 exhibition space in the city’s Porta Nuova, which opened last year following a renovation of its Neoclassical toll booths, led by architecture studio Oltrefrontiera Progetti. Participants presented contemporary designs that challenge preconceptions of wood and metal, through geometry, weight, texture, and the general “feeling” of the works.

Take Bram Vanderbeke, who showed a pair of tall sculptures; a wooden tower made from intersecting, industrial-looking flat planes, alongside a cast aluminum piece organically shaped with foam molds as if grown, or hand-carved, flipping the conventional ideas of these two materials. Similarly, Studioutte’s Nastro Chair is made from delicate, slender lines of heavy iron, while its Ert chair comprises much thicker, lighter wooden boards.

Some designers concentrated on a single material and demonstrated unusual applications. Lewis Kemmenoe’s Patchwork Cabinet and Screen are built from cherry frames and feature panels of inlaid wood patches with various colors and grains. The Old House Chair and accompanying stools created by Katy Brett are based on the shapes of foraged porcelain shards, recreated larger in plywood, oak and pine with blackened finishes, and assembled into abstract seating designs. Bureau Barbier Bouvet, on the other hand, contributed pieces from its Stupid Bending Series that are all made from simple steel tubes that are bent in ways that give them function.

Arnaud Eubelen

Matteo Guarnaccia

The Back Studio (light); NM3 (bench)

Arnaud Eubelen

Bureau Barbier Bouvet

Jaclyn Pappalardo

Lewis Kemmenoe

Katy Brett

Jaclyn Pappalardo

Raphael Kadid

Lewis Kemmenoe

Chris Fusaro

Bram Vanderbeke

Levent Ozruh


Antonio Barone

Marc Morro