ILLUMINAZIONI and emerging Design

Last week, speaking about Design Antidoto, City Eden, we mentioned Illuminazioni collective, who curated the exhibition and, with the support of architecture practice Baustudio, regenerated the greenhouse used as location. The recent event is just one of the latest in a series between the cities of Milan and Bologna. An interesting format that is mainly focused on young people, with the aim of creating bridges between emerging designers and the real world. Here below you can find an interview to better understand who the protagonists of this collective are and how they operate.

Illuminazioni organized its first exhibition in 2017, during Bologna Design Week. How was your collective born?

Illuminazioni was born in 2017 from an idea of us, founders, Virginia Alluzzi and Caterina Capelli. We were at university and we realized that, despite their value, young designers had very little chances to emerge. Illuminazioni (illuminations) was born connected to the theme of light, to which the name refers and on which, we said to ourselves, the world of design will always have something to tell. The first edition took place during Bologna Design Week, in collaboration with Adiacenze exhibition space. The main selection comprised newly emerging students and designers, with projects related to lighting design. Above all, we wanted to collect unpublished design contributions and listen to the voices of “a new generation of designers”. However, this is a theme that we continue to pursue today.

What was your path up to the first Design Antidoto, at Fabbrica del Vapore, in Milan?

After the first experience in Bologna, we shifted our focus to Milan, placing ourselves within the frame of Fuorisalone. It seemed to us – we had confirmations – a favorable context for designers, both from visibility and commercial point of view. We are very happy that some of the projects exhibited during these Illuminazioni editions have managed to be produced. As well as virtuous encounters have been generated between young designers and companies. In these two pre-Covid years we have collaborated with two Design Districts (Zona Sant’Ambrogio and in particular with DOS- Design Open’s Spaces). During Milan Design Week, they hosted us in their respective headquarters.

In 2020 we had to face the advent of the pandemic and we chose to radically rethink our work. It was a nonsense to continue to offer products on a saturated and, at that time, freezed market. We also think that Design has a much deeper value for society and culture, and therefore in moments like this (and the one we were experiencing then) it has the duty to be at the service of the community.

For this reason, during the quarantine of the first pandemic, we launched a Call for Designers – named Design Antidoto – which invited everyone from anywhere in the world (we were working remotely) to propose its own “antidote” through Design, providing projects contributions of any kind. This is how we left the world of lighting and the Design Antidoto experience began. We exhibited a selection of these projects during Milan Design City 2020 at Fabbrica del Vapore, in collaboration with DOS-Design Open ‘Spaces. Albeit with many restrictions, it was the first live event that we were able to organize after the lockdown. It’s important to mention that the birth of Design Antidoto coincided with the arrival of new team members (Caterina Lenzi, Gabriele Bruno, Bianca Nannini), and that we built the project together in remote during isolation.

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How did your approach change due to the pandemic? What has changed for your work?

Everything: we have begun to ask ourselves many questions about the value and role that our work, as designers and curators, should assume in this difficult period. We began to focus on a typology of Design that would bring virtuous proposals or reflections, selecting projects with a different perspective than in the past. For example, if our fundamental objective was to create opportunities between designers and companies, now we are more focused on the community: we design events to make people – even the “laymen” – realize the importance of Design as an innovation tool and a collective resource. We have seen that opportunities can be found but now, for us, it’s important to convey that Design can be good for everyone and that there is plenty of talents in this field.

Your exhibitions are characterized by very low participation costs and a small but curated selection of young designers and startups. Why this choice?

Since the birth of the project, Illuminazioni worked to give space to young people, the target that has more difficulty in accessing official events, but at the same time, in our opinion, has the greatest innovative potential. Many young designers are not able to invest such high sums to participate in events such as Fuorisalone (for a personal space costs start from 1000 euros per 1sqm). Therefore, we believe that this is not only a problem for designers, but the whole community, unable to learn about new important ideas and contributions.

We always try to work with the aim of bringing to light the work of emerging designers and startups, without having to force compromising economic sacrifices. For us, Illuminazioni has never represented a source of income, but we can say that the relationships that have been established between and with participants and partners involved over the years are really precious to us.

Another interesting aspect, visible during the latest event, Design Antidoto, City Eden, is the creation of connections and the revaluation of spaces. Can you tell us what happened at the Serre dei Giardini Margherita?

For the second edition of Design Antidoto we have chosen to bring the project to Bologna, which is our city and the place where we met. We made this choice out of a sense of belonging, but above all to start talking again about Design in Bologna, a city that has a lot to say in this field but which, after the end of the Bologna Design Week experience (missing already for two years), has a bit fallen asleep. Here, we had the luck to meet Kilowatt association that manages the Serre dei Giardini Margherita, former greenhouses surrounded by gardens, a few steps from the center: in our opinion, the most beautiful place in the city. Within the spaces of the Greenhouses we have identified an abandoned one: this greenhouse, thanks to the design help of Baustudio, became the location of the Design Antidoto 2021 exhibition.

It was a much more intense curating experience than usual because we involved a greater number of partners. We also physically worked on the creation and renovation of our location, using only waste material that otherwise we would have thrown away. In a way, we closed the circle, because in addition to the projects hosted by Design Antidoto, we also this experience as an “antidote”, an enabling tool to create a pleasant space. During the 4 days of the exhibition, the greenhouse was not only the showcase of amazing projects, but also a very populated meeting place, for discussions and meetings, and it was exactly what we hoped it would happen.

What are your future challenges?

Our dream would be also to build longer lasting paths with the designers, helping them to affirm their project on an ongoing basis. It’s already something we are trying to do, encouraging relationships between designers and possible useful partners, and trying to give everyone as much visibility as possible. We strongly believe in this project and its usefulness for the community, and we hope to see it evolving. At the moment, we are already thinking about the next exhibition format (I can’t say anything yet!) and the creation of our website – which we currently lack.

Follow Illuminazioni on Instagram and stay updated with their upcoming events!
Photography by Caterina Lenzi unless stated otherwise.

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