"We dodge the bullet of gentrification by transferring round" say Alcova founders

Milan design week exhibition Alcova takes place in a brand new location yearly. In an unique interview, founders Valentina Ciuffi and Joseph Grima say this nomadic method is vital to supporting radical younger design expertise.

In line with Ciuffi and Grima, recurrently staging an exhibition in the identical place can result in gentrification, which drives up costs and makes it tougher for rising designers to take part.

“By transferring round ceaselessly, we really dodge the bullet of gentrification,” stated Grima.

“We add a certain quantity of visibility to sure neighbourhoods for a short time period, but it surely’s too transient for it to be of significance to their future trajectory.”

Ciuffi (left) and Grima have staged Alcova in varied disused buildings round Milan. Above picture by DSL Studio, high picture by Elisabetta Claudio

The fifth version of flagship design present Alcova is about to happen subsequent week, in a former abattoir in Porta Vittoria.

Earlier editions have been hosted in different disused buildings, together with the previous Fabbrica Sassetti cashmere mill in Isola and an ex-military hospital in Baggio.

The technique, Ciuffi and Grima clarify, is to create a “designed expertise” that’s completely different each time and would not affect negatively on native economics.

Alcova 2023 take place in a former abattoir in Porta Vittoria
The 2023 version takes place in a former abattoir in Porta Vittoria. Picture by Federico Floriani

“Once you change into stationary, you get all types of bizarre hangers-on accumulating round you,” Grima advised Dezeen.

“We do not wish to have an hostile affect on a neighbourhood by permitting speculative different tasks to capitalise on the presence of this cool, energetic, younger design platform and warp the market base.”

A platform for future-facing design

Ciuffi and Grima first launched Alcova in 2018, with a imaginative and prescient to current work by designers that did not match the mould of the Salone del Cell furnishings truthful or any of the pre-existing Fuorisalone group exhibitions.

The earlier 12 months had seen the demise of the Ventura Lambrate design district – as soon as a thriving platform for rising designers – because of rising rents within the space.

Buro Belén's textile-based sunscreens at Alcova 2018
Works on present on the inaugual Alcova in 2018, on the former G Cova & Co panettone manufacturing unit, included Buro Belén’s textile-based sunscreens. Picture by Giulia Piermartiri

“What was actually lacking within the metropolis at that time was a platform for designers who represented the route by which design was extra broadly going,” stated Grima.

The inaugural venue was the previous G Cova & Co panettone manufacturing unit in Nolo, a constructing that was lacking a part of its roof and overun with vegetation.

Right here, Ciuffi and Grima introduced the work of 26 members, together with Buro Belén’s textile-based sunscreens alternate options, a maximalist cupboard by Kostas Lambridis and Lara Bohinc’s celestially impressed furnishings.

Alcova 2019
The previous Fabbrica Sassetti cashmere mill in Isola was one in all two venues in 2019, with members together with Morph Collective. Picture by Giulia Piermartiri

Since then Alcova has grown in scale and ambition. The 2022 present was the largest but, encompassing 20 hectares of exhibition house and attended by 60,000 guests over six days.

Alcova was additionally energetic throughout the pandemic, when it teamed up with Dezeen’s Digital Design Pageant to highlight the work of eight revolutionary designers and studios.

“Some folks assume that Alcova has change into large and extra industrial,” stated Ciuffi.

“It is true that we’re getting greater – a venture that’s profitable must develop, or it dies. However we’ve not modified our mode [of operation]. At the least 70 per cent of our exhibitors are nonetheless very younger.”

“Curating from the abdomen”

Ciuffi and Grima say they solely choose members they imagine are shifting the paradigm of design, relatively than people who mirror their preferences.

Each are in a position to attract on wide-ranging expertise within the design trade.

Alcova 2021
The post-pandemic version, in 2021, took over three buildings on the ex-military hospital in Baggio. Highlights included Future Archeology, a collection of futuristic designs by Objects of Frequent Curiosity. Picture by DSL Studio

Grima is an architect, curator and educator. He’s the founding father of structure and analysis studio Area Caviar, artistic director at Design Academy Eindhoven and a former editor of Domus journal.

Ciuffi was an editor at Italian design journal Abitare for a number of years earlier than launching her artistic consultancy, Studio Vedèt, which works throughout curation, artistic route, graphic design and internet design.

Solidnature at Alcova 2022
In 2022, Alcova expanded throughout all the Baggio hospital web site. Exhibitors included supplies model SolidNature, which debuted marble works by OMA and Sabine Marcelis. Picture by Mattia Parodi

The pair describe their choice course of as “curating from the abdomen relatively than from the mind”.

“We permit very various kinds of analysis and language to be a part of Alcova,” Ciuffi defined.

This 12 months’s version is about to function over 70 tasks, together with a material-focused exhibition by analysis lab Atelier Luma and a large-scale set up by Finnish platform Habitarematerials.

Younger designers exhibiting embrace Kiki Goti, Monstrum Studio, Sangmin Oh and WangyichuWangyichu.

Alcova is “a type of New Babylon”

Short-term cafes and bars are an everyday fixture of Alcova, offering house for pop-up occasions, talks and gatherings. Earlier examples embrace the Lambert & Fils-designed Caffè Populaire in 2019.

This 12 months there might be a meals court docket and two bars, Supplies Bar and Bar Galleria, each designed by Area Caviar.

Grima stated the goal is to create the sensation of a nomadic metropolis within the spirit of radical Sixties proposals such Archigram’s Plug-In Metropolis or Fixed Nieuwenhuys’ New Babylon.

Offcut Bar at Alcova 2022
Alcova all the time has a minimum of one pop-up bar. Offcut Bar was one in all two in 2022, and doubled as a launch venue for ANDlight’s newest lighting. Picture by Mattia Parodi

“One of many inspirations of the entire venture was this picture of a metropolis on the transfer,” stated Grima.

“In a means, I believe that is what Alcova is – it is a type of New Babylon that prompts annually, a cellular nomadic tribe that transfer from one place to the opposite.”

Ciuffi and Grima imagine their nomadic method will permit Alcova to stay inexpensive for rising abilities, serving to it to remain related sooner or later.

Alcova 2022
Alcova 2022 was the largest but, attended by 60,000 guests over six days. Picture by Mattia Parodi

A key benefit is that it permits them to reap the benefits of limited-time rental properties just like the abattoir, a web site that’s set to be quickly redeveloped.

“Alcova has succeeded in doing what others have tried earlier than, however solely achieved episodically,” stated Grima.

“It has proven there’s large potential to current within the Fuorisalone with out sticking to any particular class or limiting your self to any explicit definition of design.”

Alcova 2023 takes place from 17 to 23 April 2023 at Through Molise 62, 20137 Milan, Italy. See our Milan design week 2023 information on Dezeen Occasions Information for details about the various different exhibitions, installations and talks going down all through the week.