21st Century. Design After Design

The 21st edition of the Triennale di Milano was recognised by the BIE on 26 November 2014 and was held between 2 April and 12 June 2016. Held under the theme “21st Century. Design After Design”, it marked the return of the international exhibition after a 20-year pause.

The theme tackled contemporary issues including the spread of design skills across the world, the increasingly transversal and multidisciplinary nature of design, and the new relationship between different skills in design. Rather than creating a “vision” of future design, the theme instead invited participants and visitors to reflect on what design means in a time of sweeping changes, touching on key issues such as gender, globalisation, the financial crisis and migration.

Compared with previous editions, the scope of the 21st Triennale was broadened, bringing more diversity in terms of exhibits, ideas, innovations and exchanges. In terms of contributions, non-traditional actors such as museums, universities, design centres and non-profit groups were invited to participate.

With over 30 international participants, the Palazzo dell’Arte featured a diverse range of 21st century styles from Europe, Africa, Asia and the Americas. Among the various exhibits, France showcased the living urban laboratory of Saint-Etienne, Iran featured a 3D printer that continually produced objects to fill up the tables of its “bazaar”, and Angola combined traditional objects with furnishings produced from recycled goods.

While still centred around the Palazzo dell’Arte, exhibits from the Triennale were for the first time spread across 19 different venues in and around Milan, bringing a new approach to the fast-changing and expanding urban space. The different contributions covered an exhibition area of 22,000m2, with a further 17,000m2 zone – “City After the City” – located in the former site of Expo 2015 Milan.

Among the thematic exhibits, Kenya Hara and Andrea Branzi curated “Neo Prehistory – 100 Verbs”, tracing the history of tools and instruments from pre-history to the latest nano-technologies. In the Fabbrica del Vapore, Stefano Micelli’s “New Craft” exhibit gave visible form to the encounter between technological innovation and excellence in manufacturing, giving visitors the chance to watch new digital manufacturing tools at work and see how they integrate and supplement the work and skills of people. Elsewhere, in the Pirelli HangarBicocca, Nina Bassoli and Gaia Piccarolo curated the “Architecture as Art” exhibition, which created an “encroachment” to convey the understanding of architecture as an artistic event.

The 2016 edition of the BIE Bulletin, was dedicated to the theme of the 21st Triennale di Milano.