The future can’t come fast enough at the Lexus Design Event at Salone del Mobile
Lexus has been involved in Salone del Mobile since 2005, committing vast resources to an increasingly spectacular series of installations. From 2013 onwards, the company introduced the Lexus Design Awards, an open competitions that has broadened the debate about what design is and who it is for. 2018’s judging panel of Sir David Adjaye, Alice Rawsthorn, Shigeru Ban, Paola Antonelli, Birgit Lohmann and Lexus President Yoshihiro Sawa had to sift through around 1400 entries all submitted under the broad theme of ‘Co-’, implying some form of collaboration or connection. Proposals were both prosaic and elegant, hypothetical and practical and were whittled down to 12, with four finalists mentored and prototypes developed.
The Event itself was part of the ongoing transformation of this globally significant design fair into an adventure playground for brands, leveraging the connection between creativity, innovation and generous marketing budgets. This year, Lexus’s space was shaped by Sota Ichikawa of Tokyo-based dNA (doubleNegatives Architecture). Located behind the elegant Museo Nazionale Scienza e Tecnologia Leonardo da Vinci, Ichikawa and his team transformed a dark room into a shimmering temple of light, using a single laser light source and nearly 12,000 suspended threads to create a breathtaking dynamic experience. The moving laser caught each thread – carefully set out so that none were shadowed – to illuminate a constantly changing landscape above our heads.
Sota Ichikawa for Lexus Design Event
Alongside the Ichikawa room there was an exhibition area dedicated to the finalists, including the four prototypes and a projection-mapping display featuring the company’s newest concept, the L 1 Limitless. As Lexus’s Yoshihiro Sawa explained, the event was about ‘explaining our design philosophy,’ while also acknowledging that Milan has become a competition between car brands. ‘It’s a unique festival – designers and journalists come from all over the world. They’re looking for trends.’
Lexus and its peers might not see it this way, but we’re now in an era where the word ‘design’ has become debased to the point of irrelevance. Instead, Lexus’s involvement at Salone charts our changing relationship with material culture, and how every discipline must now search out new ways of making things to deal with new challenges in our world.
Extrapolation Factory’s kit-like installation ‘Testing Hypotheticals’, developed by Elliott P. Montgomery and Chris Woebken. The design proposed a series of workshops to investigate how we live, right down to the nuts and bolts of how houses, kitchens, bathrooms, can evolve to become more efficient and relevant. The duo were mentored by Andrea Trimarchi and Simone Farresin of Studio Formafantasma
Lexus itself is undergoing the slow but inevitable change into a ‘mobility’ company, as our relationship with desiring, choosing and owning a private car gradually evolves – even at the luxury end of the market (the irony of sitting in choking Milanese traffic during the short trip between hotel and installation was not lost on us).
The Lexus Design Event has evolved into a symbiotic and in-depth relationship with creative culture that Lexus hopes goes beyond just winning or losing. ‘Design is no longer about products, but about thinking,’ David Adjaye told us, ‘this project is about design in a global sense. I’m always looking for ideas beyond what I can imagine, and ways to use technology not for technology’s sake. Design can play a role in helping people navigate the world. It’s not about making more things.’ Ultimately, the car was not the star. For this luxury technology brand, the future can’t come fast enough.