Stefano Boeri discusses the “supersalone.” He also talks about the dream team and generosity

Stefano boeri


An event built on imagination, participation and digital innovation, which will turn the Fairgrounds into a multifaceted city. Its curator tells us all about the genesis and the originalities of the “supersalone.” 

The architect Stefano Boeri is the deus ex-macchina to whom the Salone del Mobile.Milano has entrusted an event that, like it or not, will pass into the annals of history. Because, from what we can tell thus far, it will be what one might euphemistically call a revolutionary show. A “supersalone,” in fact. But it will also be  a Salone marked by a great many “Rs” – because it is resilient – in the end, the Italian design system has proved its great ability to react, retrieving its cohesion, its vision of what is really important, and has reorganised itself qualitatively and positively. Because it will reuse and recycle – the entire set-up has been designed with an eye to circularity – the metal joints and wooden components that will be used in the installation are easily assembled and disassembled anywhere, at any time. Because, thanks to the Forestami project, the Rho Fairgrounds will reforest the outer edges of the city – the cluster of 200 trees will not only make the entrance particularly green but will go on to do the same in the surrounding areas. To bring in other letters of the alphabet, “supersalone” will also be open, inclusive, commercial but perhaps more cultural, youthful, independent, tasteful, cinematographic, phygital. Obviously, in this contemporary epic achievement, the hero never stands alone. Stefano Boeri is very aware of this. That’s why he’s told us all about his dream team.  He has had the distinction of dreaming up something entirely new. He has trusted the Salone and entrusted to it, working with everyone to ensure that this “supersalone” demonstrates that it really does possess those special qualities that it curator undoubtedly has in spades.

Design, like architecture, relies on positivity and trust. They are disciplines that find solutions, that don’t retreat when faced with doubts and difficulties. Is this the frame of mind in which you responded to the call from the Salone del Mobile.Milano? What made you take on something that, let’s face it, many peopled feared could not be achieved?

I immediately thought that the challenge of conceiving a 2021 edition of the Salone in an objectively extremely difficult situation such as the post-pandemic, not many months ahead of the 2022 Salone that will mark a major breakthrough, was fantastic. Because it meant that Milan and Italy were flagging up their presence on the international scene. It meant that the design world was giving out a sign of its strength as a powerful public magnet and a powerful link between different worlds. It also meant narrating a different sort of Salone, still retaining its commercial dimension while responding to the demand for intervention, renewal and improvement in furnishing and domestic spaces that emerged during lockdown, at a time marked by introspection, family relationships and proximity. All that fed into the idea for the “supersalone”.

“supersalone” will be something of a Superman (as well as a Wonder Woman). What will the superpowers of this September Salone del Mobile event be?

The first superpower will consist of bringing the entire user public into the Rho Fairgrounds every day, for the first time ever, for an event that will be both cultural and commercial. Super because, again for the first time, everyone will have a chance to reserve and purchase the goods, i.e. the top national and international products showcased at the trade fair: a unique opportunity for those wanting to renew, improve and experiment with spatiality and new materials in their own homes. Super because, along with this powerful commercial dimension, which hinges on both a personal a digital presence, there will be extremely high-powered cultural events. The Compasso d’Oro exhibition layout which, with thirty venues awarded the gold medal and more than seventy mentions, will showcase design’s most iconic object; the more than fifty international design and architecture schools that will feature products and research by the emerging designers; dozens of makers who will stage and sell the their self-production; the best of Italian food design and naturally the focus on the environment with the Forestami project, which will bring an entire forest to the East Gate entrance, which will subsequently be planted in neighbouring areas once the fair is over. All in all, supersalone 2021 will be an unmissable event.

I think “supersalone” is an extremely powerful appellation because, after all the time we’ve spent at home, it puts design firmly onto Milan’s political and social agenda (if not that of the nation as a whole), underscoring the fact that contemporary design isn’t disconnected from real life but is, somehow, its guardian. So, not just a slogan but a designation of responsibility …

We certainly feel this responsibility. We’ve worked furiously over the last few weeks alongside the Salone del Mobile.Milano team, the fitters and the companies that have responded with passion and dedication. In fact, I’d go further: the involvement of the brands has been such that there will be significant returnees. But I’ll leave that as a surprise.

You chose not to take on this challenge single-handed. Who are the five co-designers you decided to work with in professional and human terms?

“supersalone” will be a major event also thanks to the extraordinary team of co-designers working alongside me: Andrea Caputo, one of the architects, is currently the most interesting one on the national and international scene; Maria Cristina Didero, who has been the benchmark for design and fashion critique, curation and publishing over the last few years; Anniina Koivu from ECAL, whose studies and writings have made her a point of reference for anyone involved with industrial design; Lukas Wegwerth who, of the designers, is the most alert to materials and the concept of reusing all the components of the installations, and Giorgio Donà and Stefano Boeri Interiors, the team that has coordinated this entire phase of creativity with me. It’s a dream team: the success of the event will be all down to them.

The Intelligence Unit of the Economist has published its annual list of the world’s most liveable cities. Milan only ranks 41st. What’s it lacking? What step changes and different visions do you hope for?

Milan’s going through a delicate time. It was enjoying a growth period before the lockdown. Now we have to get going again. With the supersalone. With design week, followed by fashion week. It’s an important way of getting back into gear in terms of creativity, invention and generosity. Design and fashion are Milan’s leading media platforms. But they’re only the tip of the iceberg of a collective force of dozens and dozens of companies spread throughout its region. We’ll start from there. I am sure Milan will go back to being one of Europe’s great cultural and financial capitals, in a position to shoot up the various rankings of the world’s most liveable cities.

What will happen after “supersalone”? To posterity the arduous sentence (no offence to Manzoni fans, for the quotation).

1 July 2021