Alcova Turned an Abandoned Hospital into Milan’s Design Hot Spot

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Refractory. Photo by Mattia Parodi

By and

August 5, 2022

Read more from Salone del Mobile 2022.

Since its first iteration in 2018, Alcova has grown as a space for independent design during Milan Design Week. Curated by Valentina Ciuffi (founder of Studio Vedèt) and Joseph Grima (founder of Space Caviar), Alcova fills historical, somewhat abandoned locations with exhibitions, installations, and performances that lean towards the more abstract and daring versus the more commercially polished exhibits at Salone del Mobile.

Alcova 2022 occupied an old (creepy) and abandoned military hospital in Baggio, complete with dilapidated psych-wards, forgotten religious memorabilia, and overgrown courtyards.

Established designers and brands showed next to emerging talents, promoting exploration and discourse across the many fields of design. Here are 11 of our favorite, conversation-worthy exhibitions:

1. Offcut Bar / Utopia Island

Utopia Island was designed by Space Caviar and produced by Solid Nature. The exhibit, which also served as the show’s central gathering place and bar, was inspired by Thomas More’s 1516 novel Utopia. The tables were made from offcuts (hence the name). Lighting was presented by ANDlight and showcased the brand’s three new luminaires: Column and Lobe, designed by Lukas Peet, and Iris by Caine Heintzman. The colorful digitally printed drapery installation was created by 4spaces and ZigZagZurich. The wooden seating was crafted by German firm Zeitraum Furniture and the industrial inspired vases by Avoir.

2. SolidNature

Entrance threshold by OMA. Courtesy SolidNature

SolidNature made its Milan design week debut with an exhibition titled “Monumental Wonders,” assembled by architecture studio OMA. The Dutch material brand showed new pieces created by OMA and designer Sabine Marcelis in an immersive experience across five rooms of Alcova’s Lavanderia building.

3. Beni Rugs

Beni Rug’s artistic director and designer stylist Colin King teamed up with artist Amine El Gotaibi to interpret the rugs as a massive rope of yarn drooping from the ceiling and high walls of their Alcova space. The beast of natural wool yarn is the very same as that used to make the rugs, which are handwoven in Morocco.

4. Refractory

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Refractory. Photo by Mattia Parodi

Chicago-based furniture design studio Refractory  made its international debut at Alcova with “Holotype,” a multisensory exhibition in Alcova’s attic and terrace. Refractory’s furnishings found the company of paleontological specimens and frontiers by Sarah Wilson, together sharing the idea of decay and grit as a “comforting antidote to perfection.”

5. Lumio

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Lumio. Photo by Mattia Parodi

Lumio showed their brand new speaker, Teno, in a display designed by Max Gunawan.

6. Laufen with NM3

Courtesy of Laufen

NM3 joined Laufen for “Just Add Water!” The installation includes a video projection of the compositional parts of the collaboration between the two brands, decontextualized in a fictional architectural space. Two monoliths stood in front of the video wall, and accompanying sounds reverberated through a large steel structure.

7. [Array]

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[Array]. Photo by Mattia Parodi

In a sprawling and draping exhibition, [ARRAY] showed off a personal collection of decorative and functional lighting curated, designed, and developed by David Derksen.

8. CIAM / Laila Gohar

Laila Gohar. Photo by Mattia Parodi

Laila Gohar of Gohar World teamed up with CIAM to reimagine the old kitchens in the nuns’ house at the Inganni location. CIAM’s new products connect to a system of reflective stainless steel walls that multiply and complicate the furnishings and Laila Gohar’s resin sculptures.

9. Leilei Wu and The Back Studio, curated by Alcova

Alcova curated several exhibitions this year. “Bonny Tale,” Leilei Wu‘s first solo show, is a neo-gothic fairy tale. Inspired by the materiality of architectural forms, The Back Studio presented a series of sculptural and functional works made of industrial construction pieces and hand-blown neon creations.

10. Otherside Objects

Otherside Objects. Photo by Mattia Parodi

THE GARDEN by OTHERSIDE OBJECTS aims to capture the visceral feeling of the hypnotic jerk—that moment of falling in dreams.

11. The House of Lyria

The House of Lyria. Photo by Mattia Parodi

In their debut exhibition on the top level of Alcova’s E-Space, textile brand The House of Lyria partnered cinematic scenographer Alessia Anfuso to create an immersive installation inviting visitors on a journey into a dream.