Milan’s vast Spazio Krizia on Via Manin 21 was the setting for Studio Formafantasma’s spectacular lighting exhibition during Salone del Mobile. With their first two commercial lighting pieces for Flos on show over at the Rho fairground, the Fuori Salone show – entitled ‘Foundation’ – provided visitors with a peek inside the Amsterdam-based duo’s design process.
‘The main point was to create a show to give to the public a deeper insight into our thinking about lighting, from research to finished product,’ says Andrea Trimarchi, who formed Formafantasma with fellow Design Academy Eindhoven masters graduate Simone Farresin in 2009.
Although it has been out of use for several years, Spazio Krizia has historically been a focal point for the Fuori Salone, hosting shows by designers such as Ingo Maurer and Ron Arad. This year, Formafantasma’s show marks its return to Milan Design Week circuit. ‘In previous shows from other designers, the space was always quite dark,’ recalls Trimarchi. ‘We wanted to have a bright show, so we changed the space quite a lot, adding peripheral walls made of stretched textile in combination with velvet curtains.’
Upon entering, visitors eyes are drawn upwards by a gold-spattered blue fabric disc suspended from the ceiling. The piece is the result of a commission from the TextielMuseum in Tilburg, where Formafantasma will present four new designs in 2018. ‘Conceptually we are exploring the cross-cultural pollination between the Flemish and Italian painters during renaissance,’ says Trimarchi of the upcoming project. ‘Specifically the use of gold and light. The objects will also explore the relationship between light and textile but avoiding the lantern, diffuser cliche.’
Installation view of ‘Foundation’ by Formafantasma. Photography: Masiar Pasquali
Further into the space and the mood of lightness and calm continues with the studio’s elegant luminaries displayed on freestanding white walls. The exhibition pulls together a mix of finished objects from the studio’s Delta collection commissioned by gallery Giustini/Stagetti, as well as experimental studies on light developed within the studio for Peep-Hole, an independent art centre in Milan.
While many pieces appear purely sculptural at first glance, closer inspection reveals a scientific exploration of light in each one. Layered dichroic glass casts brightly-tinted reflections onto the walls in one piece, while in another, a series of crystalline, polycarbonate lenses set within giant brass rings are suspended under LED light sources to cast perfect round reflections onto the floor.
The show acts as a snapshot of the studio’s developing oeuvre at a time when the duo, whose work has often taken a conceptual approach, begin to move in a more industrial direction. ‘Quite some years ago the artist Francesco Vezzoli introduced us to Piero Gandini [CEO of Flos],’ remembers Trimarchi. ‘We haven’t designed anything for them before this because it is only now that we felt ready. Flos is one of the few companies we really wanted to work with.’
‘Lighting feels more experimental and open then other areas of furniture design. It is both technical and expressive,’ Trimarchi adds. 'Over time sofa-making did not change that much. Lighting instead is in constant development.’