Andrea Vaiani in conversation with Laura May Todd

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Supersalone? “It was a challenge,” admits Salone del Mobile’s Exhibitions Director. “But the brands have stepped up. We’ve seen some really creative interpretations of the new format.”

When it was announced that the special 2021 edition of Salone del Mobile.Milano, the ‘supersalone’, would feature an entirely new physical composition within the Rho Fiera, the design community’s collective interest was, understandably, piqued. Instead of the typical stands we are used to seeing lined up one next to the other within the cavernous halls of the Rho, curator Stefano Boeri and his team had devised an entirely different, more sustainable approach. Conventional booths will be traded for a layout described as a “library of design”: rows of recyclable wooden walls where exhibitors will be able to mount their products. While responses from the public were positive, a more environmentally friendly way to deal with the collateral waste of such ephemeral events was obviously welcome, it was mainly up to one person to communicate those changes to the manufacturers, who are used to crafting their own booths each year as an extension of their brands’ communication strategies. “It was a challenge,” admits Andrea Vaiani, Salone del Mobile’s Exhibitions Director, who has been managing the production of the event since 2004. “But the brands have stepped up. We’ve seen some really creative interpretations of the new format.”

Can you describe your role as Exhibitions Director?
My team and I work on communication with brands, on the layout of the events and the construction of the Salone itself. Normally, we make the display and it’s up to the company to create their own booth. This time, the choice was to do something special.
Can you tell us a little bit about how things will be different on the ground in the Fiera?
In a way it’s a first step into the “real” world, finally meeting each other, before April 2022, which is when we will be back to the Salone everybody knows. This is why we called it ‘supersalone’, because this project is a special one. We’re upending the traditional idea of displaying products; this is why we are working with Stefano Boeri and Studio Caputo. Their ideas are ultimately smoother for the companies, quicker to build and still give them a chance to express themselves.

The brands will have a mix of digital and physical, which will be focused on new products and icons from the companies. It’s not everything the company can express, of course, it’s focused on new things that came in the last 18 months and some brand new products. Digital will play a large part of this year’s Salone, we launched the platform on June 30 this year, which will be powering the presence of the companies. One of the major differences will be the presence of the general public. Usually, we only allow the general public on Saturday and Sunday, but this time, because it also has to be a time of celebration, it will be open to everybody.
How have the brands reacted to the changes?
At first it shocked them. Of course they are used to the traditional booth and each brand having their own specific way of communicating their image to the press and buyers. So, it was a challenge at first, but they quickly adapted. These are brands we’ve been working with for many many years, so we know each other well. We encountered many different points of view, but now that we are working on it and seeing the ideas they have come up with, it’s exciting to see the directions they are taking. You will see many different interpretations of the space at the “supersalone”, and it will be very interesting for the visitors to see these different faces of the brands they know well.
Have you seen some pretty creative contributions?
I’ve seen some really interesting ways of interpreting Boeri and Caputo’s vision using the wall, including screens and the different surfaces available to them. It’s been quite amazing to see the creativity of the brands. I think it’s a really great opportunity to see them in a totally different context.
Can you go into detail about the sustainable aspects of this year’s production?
The idea behind this year is circularity, which means that nothing will be wasted. When we start to build the structures in a few weeks, it will be out of only sustainable materials. The surfaces will remain unfinished so when it’s over it will be easy to dismantle and reuse again. We are not planning to use any carpets this year, but if there are carpeted elements they will be recyclable. We are just using the floor of the pavilion as-is without adding any extra material.
Working in the run-up to this special Salone, do you think any of the changes that you’re implementing this year will be carried into the future?
Of course, this is an experiment. We will continue with many elements of this experience. For example, mixing for the first time, in a clear way, what is digital and what is physical. In 2022, I believe that the companies will want to have more control over the design of the booths and how they communicate their products, but for sure the way that we are approaching sustainability will effect that in the future. In the end, it is meeting each other and seeing the products in person that is the main draw of Salone, so everything we do will be geared towards that. It’s something that you can’t duplicate.
20 July 2021