Istituto Marangoni’s ‘Expanded Universes’ peers into objects & sceneries of the future


We always seek spaces, people, practices, habits and traditions that bring respite to our souls, offer solace from the tiring conventions of traditional society and allow us to express ourselves freely and differently from the everyday kinesics that our bodies perform. Some find this fantastical arena in workplaces, bazaars or souks, while others discover this unique emotion through the act of writing, painting, designing, cooking or travelling. However different these coliseums of escapism may be for different people, almost everyone recognises the all-pervasive need for variety in one’s life. It was perhaps the suspension of this miscellany – responsible for cheering up our quotidian lives – during the pandemic that triggered an accelerated expansion of the metaverse. Seeking to build virtual communities and spaces that mimic their counterparts in the physical world, web developers and designers build up this virtual universe to fulfil all our higher Maslowian needs. Now, after more than two years since the COVID-19 pandemic first stalled our lives, we have slowly begun to resume our ‘normal’ routines. However, the traces of experiments undertaken during the pandemic continue to manifest their presence firmly.

The echo of the compelling metaverse was heard well at the latest edition of one of the largest design festivals in the world, Milan Design Week. Transcending both the physical realm and the virtual reality, several presenters showcased phygital creations that attempted to envision future lifestyles and systems. Amongst these showcases lay various exhibitions, installations and activities by Istituto Marangoni Milano • The School of Design, as part of Fuorisalone 2022. Ascribing to the common theme of Expanded Universes, the various expositions, designed by students and alumni from the institute, comprised the extrapolation of futuristic research, ideation and imagination onto the virtual realm, highlighting thus the shift of teaching, design and communication towards the digital world. “Expanded Universes are the new designers that Istituto Marangoni forges as true digital leaders, capable of understanding and translating the complexity of reality for a better future,” says Barbara Toscano, School Director at Istituto Marangoni Milano, Milan, Italy.

Exhibition view of ‘Expanded Universes’ | Expanded Universes | STIRworld
Exhibition view of Expanded Universes Image: Courtesy of Istituto Marangoni Milano • The School of Design

Inaugurated by the institute’s Art Director and Brand Ambassador Giulio Cappellini on May 31, 2022, this series of events were presented throughout the Italian design festival. STIR gives an overview of all the main shows by the institute that graced this city of fashion and design.

Explore Cappellini Multiverse

Designed as a tribute to Giulio Cappellini’s eponymous luxury furniture brand and the long-established relationship between the brand and the institute, Explore Cappellini Multiverse comprised a series of dreamy projects encapsulating references from multicultural entities and experiences. Cappellini is famously known for experimenting and designing products that forecast future living conditions. As a consequence of the institute’s association with the furniture brand, Istituto Marangoni has always spearheaded the exploration and investigation of real and imaginary materials, spaces and ideas that can represent our future. The showcase, hence, made up of projects developed by Interior, Product and Visual Design students over the years was dreamy, unrestrained and dynamic, evocative of a future that most of us collectively envision. Since the offerings in this exhibition were invented by designers from various nationalities and cultures, they encase the hopes and desires of a variegated populace.

‘Creative Collective’ by Interior Design students Greta Bisogni and Viktorya Demirtshyan | Expanded Universes | Greta Bisogni and Viktorya Demirtshyan | STIRworld
Creative Collective by Interior Design students Greta Bisogni and Viktorya Demirtshyan Image: Greta Bisogni and Viktorya Demirtshyan

While Reconnect and Floating Escape, projects conceptualised by Interior Design students Alexia Hermelin and Alice Bouriez, and by Federica Di Grazia and Carolina Papais respectively, presented secluded spaces meant for solace and rejuvenation of the soul, Creative Collective, the third Interior Design project presented at the exhibition, proposed a physical space where creatives can congregate and get away from the humdrum that pervades through these uncertain times. All these projects were developed in response to Francesca Lanzavecchia’s brief titled Cappellini Refuge, which lay the need for therapeutic spaces that balance the claustrophobic and stressful quarantine life. Reconnect is designed to serve as a much-needed refuge or getaway protected by a Brutalist-inspired shell, coloured internally in several hues and placed in the rocky plateaus of the Dolomites mountains. Both its placement and architecture are allegories to the human tendency to broadcast a tough facade and shield the most private and colourful side of one’s personality. Floating Escape, on the other hand, is the reinterpretation of the Cappellini refuge concept. Cradled in the lap of nature, it is a space that aims to help humans reconnect with the environment. Greta Bisogni and Viktorya Demirtshyan’s Creative Collective acknowledges the importance of physical interactions over virtual ones. Their project, thus, presents a creative hub for all kinds of creations, discussions and experiential exchanges.

  • Abiogenesis by Alice Ballabio Video: Alice Ballabio

  • Undivided Design by Maryam Soufan and Silvio Pompei Video: Maryam Soufan and Silvio Pompei

Drifting closer to virtual reality, students from the Product Design faction designed NFTs that utilise the possibilities offered by this space. All three projects, namely Abiogenesis by Alice Ballabio, Undivided Design by Maryam Soufan and Silvio Pompei, and Exquisite Corpse by Riccardo Ciofi are dynamic artworks that fluidly move and change with time. Ballabio’s Abiogenesis, inspired by the process of life emerging from non-living matter such as organic compounds, is an algae-like blob that grows and transforms with time. This means that the Abiogenesis NFT at six months will be very different from the one newly acquired. Initially existing like a glob of slimy material, it will evolve into a more structured object resembling an actual living organism. Soufan and Pompei’s Undivided Design and Ciofi’s Exquisite Corpse make good use of the fact that the metaverse is free from the rules of the physical world. While the former comprises a capsule collection of armchairs, shelves, cabinets and love chairs that move, touch and vibrate against each other to produce ASMR sounds, the latter presents a surreal exposition where chairs metamorphose to blow up like balloons.

  • Exquisite Corpse by Riccardo Ciofi Video: Riccardo Ciofi

  • ‘Cappellini Attico’ by Almog Alkalay | Expanded Universes | Almog Alkalay | STIRworld
    Cappellini Attico by Almog Alkalay Image: Almog Alkalay

An exhibition focused on the Cappellini universe would be incomplete without a dedicated vision of the brand’s presence in a city. Visual Design students Almog Alkalay, Elin Storholm, and Ioana Cindea presented the Cappellini Attico, Cappellini Nightclub and Cappellini Ultra, cementing this demand with their ideas and designs. Each of these offers some respite from the mundanity that has permeated everyone’s life. While the Attico is a multifunctional space fulfilling the roles of a library, a cafe, and a terrace, the Nightclub carries a charm often associated with the 1970s, an era of freedom and transgression. Against Nightclub’s retro style stands Cappellini Ultra, a showroom that offers an immersive and interactive experience, meant to stimulate and titillate creative and curious souls.

Layered Transparency

  • Virtual objects visible during the ‘Layered Transparency’ event | Expanded Universes | STIRworld
    Virtual objects visible during the Layered Transparency event Image: Courtesy of Istituto Marangoni Milano • The School of Design

  • Layered Transparency on the streets of Milan Video: Courtesy of Istituto Marangoni Milano • The School of Design

Perhaps the only activity more invigorating than viewing and understanding a visual or verbal futuristic concept is experiencing it in real-time. Istituto Marangoni, during the Italian design fair, launched its first augmented reality exhibition in collaboration with Snapchat, allowing visitors at the event to spot some of the best-designed furniture items – by Product Design students from the institute – on the streets of Milan. Made possible by the usage of the Local Lens technology on the Snapchat application, design enthusiasts and professionals could witness objects geo-located in various iconic locations in the Durini Design District.

1367 • Divining Design Trends

1367 • Divining Design Trends on view Video: Courtesy of Istituto Marangoni Milano • The School of Design

Designed to showcase trend analysis research carried out by the students of the institute, 1367 • Divining Design Trends, a phygital installation, attempts to lay out the findings of this extensive project undertaken during the 2020-2021-2022 academic years. Spotting these emerging trends that redefine our contemporary scenario was a demanding task due to the sheer amount of change that we witness on a daily basis. However, from amongst the various disruptive transformations that have visited the contemporary design scene, five macro drivers of change and fifteen design trends were identified. Some findings from the project include an increasingly evident impact of visualisation and gamification in the design world, the rapid burgeoning of the metaverse, the rise of circularity as well as a constant pursuit for inclusivity and well-being.

These findings, showcased at SuperStudio in via Tortona 27 through an interactive installation, informed visitors about the futuristic trends in a unique and fun manner. Dotted with three totems that resemble monoliths and appear to have been thrust upon this world from an alternate dimension, the gallery space came alive. These non-living entities welcomed guests at the exhibition to put their hands into a labelled fissure in order to know about the design trends.

Chiara Luzzana’s soundtrack for the institute

Sound designer and audio engineer Chiara Luzzana came together with the students of the institute to work on the production of the official soundtrack for the school. Known for single-handedly creating a profession that did not exist before, Luzzana starts from pure noise and turns it into music. With the intention of transforming emotions into music, she creates works that prompt a journey into the soul. She chose the institute to make an official soundtrack because she believes that young students need to understand the various new perspectives on and around sound, and how to use them in future. “There is no communication without listening,” she says, hence focusing on listening first, communicating later. A documentary film covering Luzzana’s journey at the institute, along with a preview of the soundtrack was presented at the school on 24, Via Cerva during Fuorisalone.

Discovering The Future

Just like the austere aesthetics, adopted in the post-war era, were questioned and upturned – in favour of colour and decoration – in the 1980s, the negative impact of the mass pursuit of well-being – now manifesting in the form of global warming, extreme weather conditions, and water and food scarcity – requires us to think about a new design culture. Understanding this need for a reboot, students from Istituto Marangoni designed spaces, objects and concepts that bear the potential to become our new tomorrow. Displayed during the design week as part of the Discovering the Future exhibition, these showcases covered myriad aspects of living and well-being.

  • Sacred Space’ by Marcella Belardi | Expanded Universes | Marcella Belardi | STIRworld
    Sacred Space by Marcella Belardi Image: Marcella Belardi

  • ‘Next House’ by Öykü Varol | Expanded Universes | Öykü Varol | STIRworld
    Next House by Öykü Varol Image: Öykü Varol

Responding to the sub-theme of Smart Homing, Interior Design students Marcella Belardi, Öykü Varol and Sabina Trublova developed Sacred Space, Next House and The House Prototype, respectively. Belardi’s Sacred Space acknowledges the change in the functionality of homes. Apart from serving as spaces of repose, they also now need to fulfil the roles of being a ruminative spot, workspace and leisure space. Hence, her proposal presents two portions within a home: collective and private. While both these spaces are interconnected, they can be segregated with sliding panels, thus making them autonomous. The collective area can be used for seminars, yoga sessions and exhibitions, and the private portion houses the living and sleeping spaces. Against Belardi’s simple design, Varol’s Next House stands exotic. Built as a prototype for Generation Z, it includes convertible elements that can help change the interiors as and when required. While the mechanism of the house is futuristic, its interiors are made out of primal materials, rocky, rough and visually appear like a cave. Built using sustainability principles, the house ensures less wastage of energy, while also providing space for hydrotherapy. The House Prototype by Sabina Trublova, on the other hand, is built to enhance the mental health of its residents. With textures and lights that evoke natural elements, it is built as a haven for relaxation. An indoor garden, multiple pools and a unique technology that can scan human dreams and desires and project them onto the bedroom walls are a few more features that elevate the status of this abode to a private and exclusive refuge.

  • Wisrobo’ robots moving around the corridor | Expanded Universes | Yuqui Ma | STIRworld
    Wisrobo robots moving around the corridor Image: Yuqui Ma

  • Wisrobo’ robots by Yuqui Ma | Expanded Universes | Yuqui Ma | STIRworld
    Wisrobo robots by Yuqui Ma Image: Yuqui Ma

Product Design students Yuqui Ma, Elena Crosilla and Alessandro Di Giusto took cues from the COVID-19 crisis and built objects that can ease daily life. Yuqui Ma’s Wisrobo robot harnesses the availability of artificial intelligence to perform simple everyday tasks that can not only help unburden people from their chores but also help them avoid busy spaces. The robot can easily interact with unmanned delivery vehicles, and thus, perform the task of delivering packages to the owner’s hand without the latter’s movement.

  • H-Salus by Elena Crosilla | Expanded Universes | Elena Crosilla | STIRworld
    H-Salus by Elena Crosilla Image: Elena Crosilla

  • ‘‘The Immateriality of the Material’ by Alessandro Di Giusto | Expanded Universes | Alessandro Di Giusto | STIRworld
    The Immateriality of the Material by Alessandro Di Giusto Image: Alessandro Di Giusto

Crosilla’s unique invention H-Salus uses NASA’s photocatalytic oxidation system housed within a cooker hood, a towel holder and heater, a mirror, a shoe cabinet and a cabinet with a lifting bottles tray, to purify kitchens, bathrooms, bedrooms, closets, entrance halls and living rooms respectively. Alessandro Di Giusto’s The Immateriality of the Material is more emblematic than utilitarian. It contains our extant emotions in objects that can be handed down from generation to generation without getting obsolete.

  • Hana by Manami Galliker Video: Manami Galliker

  • The Aesthetic of Truth by Giacomo De Maggi Video: Giacomo De Maggi

Moving on from realistic conceptualisations of the physical world, Visual Designers Manami Galliker, Marie Von Braun and Giacomo De Maggi designed a game application, a virtual platform and a conceptual exhibition respectively. Galliker’s Hana, a slow game application, promises to offer relaxation from both the physical and digital worlds. It comes with a meditation coach, a digital garden that offers immersive experiences and a relaxing sound mixer that can calm agitated nerves. With options to customise and grow one’s garden, this game with a vintage aesthetic offers both motivation for moving forward and a safe and familiar environment to come back to. Marie Von Braun’s Levity is an online space created to support hyperrealistic artists and designers who create impactful work. Lastly, Giacomo De Maggi’s The Aesthetic of Truth, a conceptual photography exhibition, aims to bring back authentic and raw expressions of beauty through both physical and virtual experiences. It operates on the idea of going back to a genuine and more inclusive representation of people.

Expanded Beauty

At Milan, the Expanded Beauty exhibition hosted a wide range of NFT projects developed by members of the Prisma Project and students from the Masters of Product & Furniture Design at the institute. Designed for the Italian brand Cappellini, the showcases graced the IBM Studios in Piazza Gae Aulenti at the beginning of Fuorisalone 2022. Several showcases presented at the event were in common with presentations made in other events by the institute. These include Abiogenesis by Alice Ballabio, Armchair by Maryam Soufan and Silvio Pompei, and Exquisite Corpse by Riccardo Ciofi. A few other projects that were also showcased at the event include 144Z by Gustavo Martini, Dragonfly by Malika Novi, Exodus by Mariana Prestes, La Veranda su Urano by Silvio Pompei, No Time No Space by Giogia Apreia, La Veranda su Urano by Silvio Pompei, and Rox by Matteo Apreia.

144Z by Gustavo Martini Video: Gustavo Martini

Gustavo Martini’s 144Z picks elements from the metaverse and from unexplored planets to create a desert-like space where voxels dance around to create the desired structure. Built to resemble a marble quarry, the voxels shielded within the cut-out mountain serve as examples of the most primal digital structure that can be used to sculpt out larger objects. Named after the velocity of voxels, that is 144 km/h in the vertical axis (Z), Martini’s idea behind the project was to present a space where the architecture builds around human needs, such as a chair growing out if a person bends their knees, and a table appearing out of nowhere if one decides to lay down a bottle or book.

  • Dragonfly by Malika Novi Video: Malika Novi

  • Exodus by Mariana Prestes Video: Mariana Prestes

Inspired by the anatomy of dragonflies, Malika Novi created an armchair and a coffee table. Her creations touted Dragonfly, mimic the shiny iridescence that one often notices on the translucent wings of this creature. Seated in a secluded Mars-like environment, the furniture pieces, when surrounded by dragonflies, look magical and otherworldly. Mariana Prestes’s Exodus, on the other hand, is inspired by the strange phenomenon under which the earth is asymmetrically growing. While one half of the globe is growing faster, the other half is expanding slower. This imbalance, manifested in the temperature of the earth, is corrected by gravity, which pushes new iron crystals to the side. Investigating this phenomenon, Prestes imagined a space where every object will have different gravity. So, while lamps may stand intact in space, their bulbs can float around mid-air. Sitting in an outer space landscape, the NFT prompts the exploration of a new world, hence the title Exodus.

No Time No Space by Giogia Apreia Video: Giogia Apreia

No Time No Space by Giogia Apreia and Rox by Matteo Apreia are two more NFT artworks that present the scenery of outer space. Complete with furniture and lighting items, No Time No Space depicts a futuristic planet where the environment is scantily populated with retro-futuristic objects. Rox, on the other hand, presents objects that one would require to inhabit new planets in the coming times. Ethereal and sculptural, the stool sitting in a newly built indoor space against the backdrop of an empty land elicits emotions of hope for a future that otherwise appears bleak.

Expanded Universes was showcased by Istituto Marangoni Milano • The School of Design from June 7-June 12, 2022 during Salone del Mobile 2022 at the School on 24, Via Cerva in Durini Design District.

STIR takes you on a Milanese sojourn! Experience Salone del Mobile and all the design districts – 5vie, Brera, Fuorisalone, Isola, Zona Tortona, and Durini – with us. STIR’s coverage of Milan Design Week 2022, Meanwhile in Milan showcases the best exhibits, moods, studios, events, and folks to look out for. We are also excited to announce our very own STIR press booth at Salone del Mobile – Hall 5/7 S.14, Fiera Milano RHO.


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