milan design week highlights: designboom's guide to the 2021 event

Sep 02, 2021

we’re building up to milan design week 2021, which, after a year of absence due to the pandemic, will be taking place from september 5-10. MDW encompasses the programs of salone del mobile, which is planning a new fair concept called ‘supersalone’ at rho fiera, as well as a series of exhibitions and events distributed across various areas of the city. curious about this year’s highlights?

designboom’s ultimate guide to milan design week 2021 rounds up the must-see installations and exhibitions to satisfy your planning needs in the run up to this exciting design event. also this year, THE DESIGN PRIZE – designboom’s annual design awards – will take part in the special edition of milan design week and celebrate the lifetime achievement award.

many art shows in town complete the exceptional cultural offer of the milan design week 2021 – get ready!

discover designboom’s extensive coverage of past milan design week editions here, and keep an eye out! we will be updating this guide as we receive the latest news.

what: supersalone when: milan design week 2021, september 5–10, 10 am – 7 pm (friday: 10 am – 4 pm) where: milan fairgrounds, rho

‘supersalone’, the 2021 salone del mobile.milano special event, introduces a new fair concept curated by stefano boeri in collaboration with a team of internationally renowned architects and design professionals. boeri and his collaborators — andrea caputo, maria cristina didero, anniina koivu, lukas wegwerth, and marco ferrari and elisa pasqual of studio folder — are planning a smaller, curated, and less commercial show that follows the format of a ‘large design library’. ‘supersalone’ will be open every day to both professionals and the general public, and will include a digital platform for buying furniture, a flexible wall instead of stands, a ‘lost graduation show’, thematic talks and conversations. a food court has been conceived as an integral part of the visitor experience and an opportunity to savour the original recipes of some of the greatest italian chefs. read more on designboom here.

what: THE DESIGN PRIZE ‘s lifetime achievement award ceremony

when: milan design week 2021, september 6, 5PM – 7PM, SAWAYA & MORONI showroom in via clerici 1.

event open to the public, limited access and management of the flow of people in and around the venue.

this year designboom will host a special event to celebrate the fourth edition of THE DESIGN PRIZE, the annual award recognizing design excellence on a global scale. initiated in 2017 and curated by designboom, with patronage by the milan city council, THE DESIGN PRIZE recognizes both the extraordinary achievements and little sparks of beauty and delight that have emerged over the past 12 months.

what: sawaya & moroni new showroom preview

when: milan design week 2021, monday – friday (9am – 6pm)

where: via clerici 1

the new sawaya & moroni showroom near cordusio, in via clerici 1, milan, opened recently with a retrospective covering key collaborations from the last three decades. the exhibition includes pieces by michael graves, zaha hadid, jean nouvel, david adjaye, snøhetta, and many more.  william sawaya and paolo moroni have been announced as the recipients of the golden madonnina ‘lifetime achievement’ trophy 2021 of milan’s THE DESIGN PRIZE. read more here!

what: fornasetti. contemporary antiquity when: milan design week 2021, 4–11 september where: corso venezia 21A

fornasetti presents ‘contemporary antiquity’, a series of furniture and accessories that unite past with present. transformed into a journey through time, the new creations combine decorations that evoke ancient eras with the unmistakable lines of the atelier’s products.

what: alcova 2021 when: milan design week 2021, 4–12 september where: via simone saint bon 1

alcova, the platform for independent design developed by space caviar and studio vedèt, returns for 2021 with a new spectacular site just a few steps away from the inganni metro station. the project’s team (valentina ciuffi, joseph grima, martina muzi, marco de amicis, matilde losi, and andrea guarinoni) has selected three historical buildings immersed in a large urban park, with approximately 3500 sqm of indoor and outdoor spaces. these spaces will be activated for the event’s duration with performances, talks, screenings, and over 40 exhibitors including independent designers, innovative brands, galleries, cultural institutions and companies.

what: schemata architects / jo nagasaka. SENBAN

when: milan design week 2021, september 4 – september 12

where: alcova outdoor area A3 | via simone saint bon 1 milano

as part of alcova, schemata architects / jo nagasaka will present ‘SENBAN’, a new method of lathe processing to carve out any form, regardless of the shape of each object. ‘SENBAN’ is a joint project between long-time collaborators schemata architects, who designed the method and the objects created by it, and narutake fukumoto / TANK, a construction company that created a processing machine to realize it and produced the objects. read more here.

what: a beach in the baroque / una spiaggia nel barocco | part of 5VIE design week when: milan design week 2021, 4–10 september where: palazzo litta, corso magenta 24

the main courtyard of palazzo litta will host ‘a beach in the baroque’, an installation designed by the portuguese studio aires mateus, that celebrates the reunification of people after the isolation of the pandemic. part of the design variations 2021 event, curated by mosca partners, the project underlines both the need for a renewed state of cohesion and the need to simply have some fun. the temporary pop-up nature of the site-specific work contrasts with the permanence of the courtyard and the palazzo, while its bright colours clash with the sobriety of the architectural materials. the exhibition proceeds with a selection of companies, designers, schools and institutions from all over the world, including mircea anghel (portugal), emmanuel babled (portugal), east china normal university (china), edelgrund (germany), dejana kabiljo (austria), korea craft and design foundation (korea), supermama (singapore), wogg (switzerland), orografie (italy), casarialto atelier (italy) and tensoforma (italy).

what: masterly – the dutch in milano | part of 5VIE design week

when: milan design week 2021, september 5–10

where: palazzo francesco turati

for the fifth time, the fully restored palazzo francesco turati opens its doors with ‘masterly – the dutch in milano’. curated by nicole uniquole, the exhibition presents the best design and artisan craftsmanship the netherlands has to offer. uniquole’s open call attracted more than 80 entries: pieces of dutch design, art, craft, fashion and photography will be on display, ranging from presentations by well-known companies of the sector to established designers and new emerging talents, as well as a schedule of events open to the public including a lecture by visionary artist daan roosegaarde and the customary architect’s breakfast with francine houben, co-founder and creative director of mecanoo architecten.

image courtesy of rossana orlandi gallery

what: rossana orlandi gallery

when: milan design week 2021, september 4–12

where: via matteo bandello 14

one of the best-known addresses among design addicts, rossana orlandi gallery at via matteo bandello 14 will be open to the public from 4 to 12 september.

what: michael anastassiades. cheerfully optimistic about the future

when: milan design week 2021, september 8, 2021–january 6, 2022

where: via orobia 26

fondazione ICA milano announces the exhibition ‘cheerfully optimistic about the future’, the first solo show in italy dedicated to michael anastassiades. the ideation of the show, curated by alberto salvadori and developed by anastassiades and his studio during the last year, has been accompanied by the desire to build a project characterized from the strong ‘hand – made’ feature for the realization of the works, involving in first person the artist and his collaborators.

hans ulrich obrist | image via kaleidoscope magazine

what: OFFICE GOALS: hans ulrich obrist in conversation with valerio olgiati

when: september 5 at 4.30pm

where: spazio maiocchi, via maiocchi 7

kaleidoscope magazine presents office goals, a public event at spazio maiocchi exploring contemporary methodologies of working. stepping out of the magazine’s front cover, curator hans ulrich obrist hosts a public conversation with swiss architect valerio olgiati on sunday, september 5th at 4.30pm, followed by a music performance. attendance by pre-registration only.

what: flos

when: milan design week 2021, monday – friday (10am – 7pm)

where: corso monforte 9

flos celebrates the fiftieth anniversary of ‘parentesi’, designed by achille castiglioni and pio manzù in 1971, with an installation by calvi brambilla. additionaly, it presents the new oplight lamp, a synthesis of simple form and sophisticated technology, designed by jasper morrison.

what: foscarini

when: milan design week 2021, monday – friday (10am – 1pm, 2pm – 7pm)

where: corso monforte 19

foscarini will present two exceptional collaborations within a set up by ferruccio laviani. first, the collaboration with rodolfo dordoni is back, and another is inaugurated with alberto meda and his son francesco.

what: boffi | de padova, up to you anthology

when: milan design week 2021, 5-10 september

where: boffi solferino (via solferino 11), de padova santa cecilia (via santa cecilia 7)

the boffi solferino and de padova santa cecilia showrooms present all the 2020-21 novelties from boffi, de padova, adl, ma/u studio and time & style ēdition. additionally, the innovative brand of bags ‘up to you anthology’ – launched by nicolò gavazzi –  presents its latest offerings in a remarkable installation space in boffi solferino to consolidate its partnership with boffi|de padova. the collection rewards creativity, transforming projects into high quality pieces of fashion and design.

what: ARCHIVIOUNIFOR when: milan design week 2021, september 5 – 10 where: unifor showroom | corso matteotti 14

unifor has reconfirmed its close ties with the world of architecture with ARCHIVIOUNIFOR, a project of re-editions developed on the historic archives and the original designs by the great architects that have worked with the company over the years. the starting point of the project is aldo rossi, with four of the most symbolic furnishings he designed for unifor between the end of the 1980s and the beginning of the 90s. these will be showcased within an evocative installation by ron gilad at the historic unifor showroom on corso matteotti.

what: ‘am I open-minded?’ at LAUFEN space milano when: milan design week 2021, september 4 – 10 where: unifor showroom | via manzoni 23

LAUFEN returns to milan with a new space located on the second floor of an elegant building in via manzoni. for the opening week, LAUFEN space milano, designed by matteo fiorini with studio LYS, will host a temporary installation  created by the same designers titled ‘am I open-minded?’ a suspended installation, where LAUFEN products are scattered throughout the space, just like sculptures in an art gallery, marked by hanging iridescent elements that reflect the light on the walls and ceiling in a play of colors and transparencies.

what: florim flagship store and spazio CEDIT

when: milan design week 2021, september 4 – 10, 10am – 7pm

where: foro buonaparte 14 and 14/a

the space adjoining the display windows of the florim flagship store and spazio CEDIT at foro buonaparte will house two temporary installations: ‘sensi pigmenti’ by matteo thun & antonio rodriguez; and ‘hotel chimera’ by elena salmistraro. the installations recount two original projects created around our ceramic surfaces, reinterpreted with an approach that highlights the themes of sustainability and color for florim, and solidarity and art for CEDIT. two actions, open to the city, perfectly in keeping with the 2021 edition of the fuorisalone, with its focus on sustainable development.

what: D studio milano – the new design destination when: milan design week 2021, september 5-10, 10am-9pm / september 9, 10am-10pm where: via durini 14, milan

during milan design week, the iconic design heritage brands – B&B italia, maxalto, azucena, arclinea, flos and louis poulsen – announce the arrival of D studio in milano. the new design retail destination and new multi-brand experience will offer a place where design lovers, professionals and private customers can be inspired, meet, collaborate and connect with the very best of contemporary design culture, as well as to enjoy a unique design journey through the best selection of design furniture and lighting.

what: UNIMATIC x FAI aperitivo when: september 8, 7 pm 
where: palazzina appiani, arena civica/ parco sempione

UNIMATIC x FAI marks the start of the partnership between milan-based watch brand UNIMATIC and FAI, the national trust of italy, in support of the foundation. all of UNIMATIC’s timepieces are produced with a keen eye toward combining performance and aesthetics, adding a unique, design-minded approach to watchmaking. the event will showcase a preview of the upcoming charitable collaboration watch UNIMATIC x FAI, whose aim is to protect and enhance italy’s historical, artistic and landscape heritage.

superstudio gets to the appointment of rebirth on the occasion of milan design week with two major events in two different locations. the first, ‘R/evolution’, is a new exhibition format based on many curatorial exhibitions on current topics and two spectacular interactive pavilions at the well-known superstudio più. the second one is ‘design beyond design’, an event includng five inauguration days in the new superstudio maxi exhibition center with many multidisciplinary activities, from photo exhibitions to design, talks, videos, performance, charity sale of love objects.

what: R/evolution at superstudio più

when: milan design week 2021, 4-10 september, 2021

where: via tortona 27

what: superstudio maxi

when: milan design week 2021, 4-10 september, 2021

where: via moncucco 35

what: marcin rusak studio. unnatural practice

when: milan design week 2021, september 5 – 10, 2021 (10am – 7pm daily)

where: ordet, via adige 17, 20135, milan

marcin rusak studio makes its milan debut with ‘unnatural practice’, a solo show curated by federica sala. presented in the premises of ordet, the exhibition showcases rusak’s most recent works together with archival and ‘in progress’ pieces that inform the studio’s permanent research.

what: ECAL x MUJI: compact life

when: milan design week 2021, 5 – 10 september, 11am – 7pm

where: MUJI milan store, via torino 22

MUJI presents a collection of clever household furniture and accessories to help tidy up our daily life, designed in collaboration with bachelor industrial design students of ECAL.

what: tom dixon at valextra

when: milan design week 2021, september 5 – 7, 2021

where: via manzoni 3

tom dixon studio will stage a ‘black light’ exhibition at valextra, the iconic italian luxury leather goods brand. inspired by the archives of the milanese masters of the milanese masters gio ponti, ettore sottsass and achille castiglioni, the exhibition displays 10 monumental LED light forms by tom dixon and austrian lighting specialists prolicht.

what: jorge penadés. look like magic! | part of 5VIE design week

when: milan design week 2021, september 4 – 10, 2021

where: 5VIE headquarters, via cesare correnti 14

curator maria cristina didero presents the exhibition-performance ‘looks like magic!’ by spanish designer jorge penadés at the 5VIE headquarters. penadés will use textile waste to give life to a new material, showing all the phases of the process in a pop-up laboratory set up for the occasion.

what: sara ricciardi | part of 5VIE design week

when: milan design week 2021, september 4 – 10, 2021

where: 5VIE district

italian designer sara ricciardi presents an itinerant installation-performance that reinterprets the figure of the travelling salesman. a mobile workshop will go through the streets of the 5VIE district delivering flowers, poems and baroque sandwiches to visitors, celebrating the joy of meeting and living on the street. ricciardi will also design the exchange currency with which visitors can buy products from the salesman and which will be available at the 5VIE info points.

what: glass utopia for craft ACT: craft + design center | part of 5VIE design week

when: milan design week 2021, september 4 – 10, 2021

where: 5VIE district

part of 5VIE design week, ‘glass utopia’ will be presented in the historical library. this exhibition is curated by mr. lawrence for craft ACT: craft + design center, an organisation which develops the relationship between australia and italy by focusing on the paths on which contemporary glass production treads. it will present the work of six italian and six australian designers (elizabeth kelly, federico peri, gala fernandez, jenni kemarre martiniello, liam fleming, matteo zorzenoni, mel douglas, peter bowles, stories of italy, tom skeehan, federica biasi, zanellato/bortotto) who have developed their products in collaboration with the historic furnaces of murano.

what: richard yasmine | part of 5VIE design week

when: milan design week 2021, september 4 – 10, 2021

where: SIAM, via santa marta 18

despite the impossibility of being physically in milan, lebanese interior architect and product designer richard yasmine will be connected via streaming from his studio for the entire duration of the event. a large LED wall will show the designer life-size, virtually taking us into his design world at the crossroads between physical and digital. the performance will be accessible at all times, during the entire duration of the event and throughout the opening hours of the locations, subject to booking via the platform and in compliance with current safety regulations.

what: INTERNI creative connections | orto botanico di brera

when: milan design week 2021, september, 4 – 11, 10am – 10pm | september 12, 10am – 6pm

where: via fiori oscuri 4, via f.lli gabba 10

INTERNI creative connections, the great event produced by INTERNI, will take place at the university of milan (università degli studi di milano), the audi city lab and the brera botanical gardens (orto botanico di brera). the exhibition revolves around three themes. care: sustainability in design, production processes, the use of materials and the circular economy applied to them; sustainability: conscious doing is an indication of method, a creative and productive attitude, necessary for those who design, do business, invent, experiment; and mobility / speed: referring to peoples, thought, space, means of transport and technologies. among the exhibits on view is CRA-carlo ratti associati and eni’s ‘natural capital’ installation at brera’s botanical gardens. read more about it here.

what: INTERNI creative connections | università degli studi di milano

when: 4 –19 settember

where: via festa del perdono 7

participants at INTERNI’s università degli studi di milano location: davide angeli – AMDL circle, mario cucinella, stefano giovannoni, kengo kuma, , josé roberto moreira do valle, noa* – lukas rungger, stefan rier and andreas profanter, peter pichler, italo rota, marco nereo rotelli, mac stopa, vince stroop, ma yansong and andrea d’antrassi, alessandro zambelli, cino zucchi.

what: nanda vigo. incontri ravvicinati – close encounters art, architecture, design

when: september 5 – november 1 (10.30am – 7.30pm) | special opening milan design week 2021, 5 – 10 september (10.30 am – 9.00 pm)

where: fondazione sozzani, corso como 10

fondazione sozzani at corso como 10 presents the exhibition ‘nanda vigo, incontri ravvicinati – close encounters art, architecture, design’ curated by marco meneguzzo and allegra ravizza, archivio nanda vigo, in collaboration with luca preti. lively and curious, nanda vigo (milan, 1936 – 2020) was an architect, artist and designer: a leading figure of the milanese and european cultural context in the 1960s, yet her own vision clearly aimed at the future – almost a spatial future, even in the 2000s.

isola will welcome milan design week 2021 on its lands in several locations, presenting a rich program of exhibitions, installations, talks and workshops. among those, spazio gamma in via pastrengo 7, will host ‘materialized’, an exhibition to celebrate biomaterials and sustainable designs; stecca 3 will host ‘play, young, design’ – an experience designed to involve young families in a setting made of colorful, multifunctional and modular furnishings; and sassetti factory will host two exhibitions entitled: ‘the stage four’ and ‘isola design gallery’.

what: materialized – an exhibition exploring natural raw materials, biomaterials and sustainable design

when: milan design week 2021, september 5 – 10, 2021

where: spazio gamma, via pastrengo 7

what: play, young, design – an experience designed to involve young families in a setting made of colorful, multifunctional and modular furnishings

when: milan design week 2021, september 5 – 10, 2021

where: stecca 3, via de castilla 26

‘biggy orange’ armchair, from the sponge series collection, by aaron chai, the stage four exhibition, fabbrica sassetti

what: sassetti factory – home to two exhibitions entitled: ‘the stage four’ and ‘isola design gallery’

when: milan design week 2021, september 5 – 10, 2021

where: via filippo sassetti 31

what: dimoregallery. past present future

when: milan design week 2021, september 5 – 10, 2021

where: via solferino 11

dimoregallery will present ‘past present future’ during milan design week. the gallery will host ‘italian rationalism’ and a claudio salocchi retrospective, while dimoremilano will present its new furniture collection.

what: nilufar gallery when: milan design week 2021, 5 -11 september (10 am – 7.30 pm) where: depot: viale lancetti, 34, milano | gallery: via della spiga, 32, milano

nina yashar of nilufar gallery has selected a special group of works by designers who have played a central role in the gallery’s history, together with new special collaborations. nilufar depot will present ‘matacubi’ by pietro consagra, ‘odyssey’ by andrés reisinger, ‘jungle’ by khaled el mays, a site-specific project by federica perazzoli, ‘sun-ra’ collection by nanda vigo, new contemporary projects by nir meiri and federico peri, and an homage to lina bo bardi – special golden lion for lifetime achievement in memoriam.

meanwhile, nilufar gallery in via della spiga 32 will host ‘ornate,’ a solo show celebrating 10 years with bethan laura wood, ‘some vibrant things’ by audrey large, ‘arcoiris’ by analogia project, and new contemporary projects by linee studio.


when: september 9, 2021 – january 22, 2022

where: osservatorio fondazione prada | galleria vittorio emanuele II

the exhibition project STURM & DRANG, a collaboration between fondazione prada and GTA exhibitions, ETH zurich, will take place at osservatorio fondazione prada from september 9 2021, to 22 january 2022. curated by luigi alberto cippini (armature globale), fredi fischli and niels olsen (GTA exhibitions, ETH zurich department of architecture), the exhibition explores computer-generated imagery (CGI) practices, experiences, and environments.

what: who the bær exhibition by simon fujiwara

when: 29 april – 27 september 2021 / 10:00 – 18:00 / closed on tuesday

where: fondazione prada, milan headquarters

fondazione prada’s milan headquarters is presenting who the bær, a new site-specific project by the berlin-based, japanese/british artist simon fujiwara. taking over the ground floor of the podium, the mixed-media installation introduces who the bær, a cartoon character that inhabits a fictional universe.

what: enzo mari curated by hans ulrich obrist with francesca giacomelli when: october, 2020–september, 2021 (extended hours from 4 to 12 september, open from 11.00 to 22.00)  where: triennale di milano, viale alemagna 6

one of the most anticipated exhibitions of the year, ‘enzo mari curated by hans ulrich obrist with francesca giacomelli’, takes place at triennale milano. the show is devoted to one of the most important designers, artists, critics and theorist of our time, the brilliant enzo mari. composed of projects, models, drawings and materials, some which have never seen the light before, the exhibition gives visitors an opportunity to examine mari’s long career. read our interview with hans ulrich obrist here.

what: vico magistretti. architetto milanese when: may 11–september 12 (extended hours from 4 to 12 september, open from 11.00 to 22.00) where: triennale di milano, viale alemagna 6

the triennale design museum is hosting ‘vico magistretti. architetto milanese’, a show dedicated to the work of world-renowned designer vico magistretti. designed by architecture firm binocle, the exhibition brings together a series of urban planning, landscape, architecture and design projects, from an archive of 30,000 drawings, 7,000 photographs and 3,000 documents. the bright red display structures -a large table, a long shelf/wall and a gigantic hood- are formed as blow-ups of domestic archetypes, organize the exhibition space and allude to a place in which to work, design, think, stay and live. more on designboom here.

what: fittile. italian craftsmanship in contemporary ceramics

when: september 4–october 31

where: triennale milano, viale alemagna 6

curated by ugo la pietra, ‘fittile’ offers a fascinating journey through italian artistic ceramics. this extraordinary selection of works comes from the great expertise of ugo la pietra, artist, architect and designer, historical reference for the italian applied arts and for ceramics in particular: a territory that has always loved and frequented, enhancing the different areas of excellence, working side by side with artisans and creating memorable collections. the exhibition is part of triennale milano and fondazione cologni dei mestieri d’arte’s annual collaboration, aimed at presenting in the space of the quadreria the cycle of exhibitions mestieri d’arte & design. crafts culture: four exhibitions that propose a new point of view on contemporary applied arts.

what: ADI design museum

when: tue – sun, 10.30 -20.00 (last entrance 19.15)

where: piazza compasso d’oro 1

ADI design museum showcases the entire repertoire of projects in the historical collection of the compasso d’oro award. along with its permanent collection, ‘the spoon and the city’,  curated by beppe finessi and designed by migliore+servetto architects and italo lupi, the museum presents a series of temporary exhibitions, including ‘supersuperfici – the spirit of memphis reloaded’, an exhibition by abet laminati and its design curators, giulio iacchetti and matteo ragni, that celebrates the forty years of memphis (september 4-24, 2021).

what: maurizio cattelan. breath ghosts blind when: 15 july 2021–20 february 2022 where: pirelli hangarbicocca, via chiese 2

maurizio cattelan returns to milan after more than a decade with the solo show ‘breath ghosts blind’ at pirelli hangarbicocca. the exhibition is conceived as a dramaturgy in three acts following the spaces of the building. its title encompasses the three works on display, from the new sculpture ‘breath’ (2021) to the reconfiguration of the artist’s historic intervention featuring pigeons at the 1997 venice biennale, which is now presented under the title ‘ghosts’ (2021), and the monumental installation ‘blind’, produced for this occasion (2021). read more about it on our recent interview with the artist here.

what: mario sironi. synthesis and grandeur when: july 23, 2021–march 27, 2022 where: museo del novecento, piazza duomo 8

museo del novecento presents a large and in-depth retrospective that retraces the work of italian artist mario sironi, sixty years after his death. the 110 works on display reconstruct sironi’s entire artistic career: from the youthful symbolist season to adherence to futurism; from his original interpretation of metaphysics in 1919 to the classical moment of the italian twentieth century; from the expressionist crisis of 1929-30 to the monumental painting of the 1930s; until the second world war and the apocalypse painted shortly before his death. read more on designboom here.