The works of 11 Australian designers are being exhibited together within a 12th-century church courtyard and oratory during Milan design week. Produced by Australian online store Local Design, the Local Milan show is on at the Oratorio della Passione, which sits beside one of the Italian city’s oldest churches, the Basilica di Sant’Ambrogio. The small room, lined with restored fragments of frescos, has been filled with 8,000 white bricks that provide a platform for the display of furniture, lighting and objects. Designs range from thin metal chairs created for Australia’s booming hospitality market to body-swallowing leather armchairs more at home on a colonial ranch.
“The thing about Australian design is that it’s made up of a million different influences, so shows like this really allow the public to see what the Australian aesthetic overall is,” stylist and Local Milan curator Emma Elizabeth told Dezeen. The exhibition starts in the oratory courtyard, where there are new Hurdle chairs and benches from Dowel Jones. With frames made of white powder-coated tubular steel, the Hurdle collection includes bar stool variants that have a silhouette similar to an umpire’s chair.
Inside, a number of designs reference Australia’s natural environment and climate. Tom Fereday’s wire chair was created for new furniture brand SP01, whose unique selling point is that its furniture can withstand the Australian outdoors, while Adam Goodrum’s upholstered Bilgola lounge chair, is said to be inspired by the modernist architecture of Sydney’s Northern Beaches. A larger piece is Jon Goulder’s Settlers Chair, which the designer handcrafted using an original leather-moulding process. Made of old-growth blackwood from Tasmania and local leather, it is meant to age “like an old saddle”.
Lighting comes from Kate Banazi and Ryan McGoldrick, whose sculptural Umbra lighting is made from overlapping steel elements; Tom Skeehan, whose oak Holo floor lamp is topped with an LED-rimmed hoop; and Ross Gardam, who’s presenting the gold-domed Ora desk lamp. Also on show is Charles Wilson’s aluminium La Nîna side table, designed to cantilever over an armchair, and Christopher Boots’ crystal-lined wall sconces. ACV Studio is presenting a series of slender brass vases designed to hold single blooms, while curator Emma Elizabeth’s own contribution is a rug whose print is based on the wings of butterflies.
Elizabeth said that the exhibition comes at a time when interest in Australian design from overseas is growing. “The Australian design scene is quite exciting to people at the moment, because we are so far away, and people are really interested in the food culture, the Australian lifestyle, and I think design’s a big part of that,” said Elizabeth. “It just needs to be explored and celebrated more so that people understand it a bit better.”
The major hurdle for Australian designers? “The big issue is the shipping – it’s a nightmare,” said Elizabeth. Local Milan is on from April 4 to 9 at the Oratorio della Passione at Piazza Sant’Ambrogio 15, in the 5 Vie district. Australia is not the only country to have brought several of its designers together under one roof during Milan design week – the Everything Is Connected exhibition in Ventura Lambrate focuses on the work of 30 young Norwegians, and the journey their products take to get from maker to market.
Design: Local Design