Design Alcova Moves the Masses (Even in Varedo)
Designmilano design week 2024

Alcova Moves the Masses (Even in Varedo)

Anna Frattini

When we stepped off the train in Varedo on Sunday morning, we knew everyone would be there to see the seventh edition of Alcova, the international platform for contemporary design. After a few minutes of walking from the station, we reached Villa Bagatti Valsecchi. Here, we were immediately captivated by the majestic humility of a place that seems to still live in the past, a dormant Lombard baroque, inhabited on this occasion by objects of future design. If last year it was the turn of the Ex Macello di Porta Vittoria, in this new edition, the site-specific approach is stimulated by the strongly characterized contexts of both the first and second locations, Villa Borsani – but we’ll get there later.

Courtesy Piergiorgio Sorgetti

The first act of Alcova at Villa Bagatti Valsecchi

Immediately upon entering, the installation by Objects of Common Interest calls us towards the beginning of this visit. In the myriad rooms of Villa Bagatti Valsecchi – once a happy hunting ground for noble owners – among servant’s rooms, ballrooms, and an extensive English garden, two things struck us the most: the ice house designed by Japanese architect Junya Ishigami and – with a diametrically opposite pop approach – the Minigolf Extravaganza by Diego Faivre, Pierre Castignola, and Hugo Béhérégaray, three guys who don’t take themselves too seriously, waiting for someone to play a game with them.

In their installation, the pieces of design they have created are nothing but obstacles for the golf ball. There are also Pierre’s chairs and stools, which we talked about last year. The world they present – seemingly dissonant from Alcova’s modus operandi – clearly demonstrates a versatility and a mode of communication that brings a smile to your face in the face of the seriousness of this Design Week, but above all, it arouses curiosity. The vibrant colors and objects are all to be discovered along the path of this Minigolf, which I heard someone call a playground as they pointed into the distance – towards the park – where Pierre, Diego, and Hugo sought shelter from the sun under a beach umbrella.


The kitchen and bathroom on the second floor of Villa Borsani

Valentina Ciuffi and Joseph Grima, this year, didn’t limit themselves to just one location. After scouring every corner of Villa Bagatti Valsecchi, we then headed – through the small and tranquil Varedo – towards Villa Borsani, the villa designed by Osvaldo Borsani and completed in 1943. A place where twentieth-century architectural suggestions reign supreme. The building houses pieces by Gio Ponti, Lucio Fontana, and Fausto Melotti, ready to converse with the emerging design world highlighted by Alcova, always the right medium for such operations.

During this visit, many lingered to admire the details of Natalia Criado‘s tableware, a Colombian designer inspired by pre-Columbian artifacts. The setup – in our opinion, brilliant – staged a post-evening at home, with glasses in the sink and coffee makers for the next day’s coffee. The surreal and somewhat Bauhaus game of these objects intrigued us greatly, making us stay a little longer to observe the details of natural stones and the various sandblasted and silver-plated brass objects.

The kitchen sink of Villa Borsani and Natalia Criado’s glasses, at the top you can also see some of the metal cutlery and details in natural stones. Courtesy

The wonderful bathroom on the second floor of Villa Borsani – where everyone wanted to close themselves off to admire Non Conformist Garden, the installation recreated by Sema Topaloglu Studio – was one of the most exciting stops during this visit. A wave of glass flowers spills out from the tub in an explosion of color that lets the imagination run wild for those in the small space, enveloped by the aesthetic taste of Topaloglu, the Turkish designer to whom this space was dedicated.

A photo we took with our phone, strictly against the mirror behind the bathroom door – the favorite vantage point for editors and journalist browsing through Alcova during Sunday’s press preview. Courtesy

The Alcova that will come

Alcova’s luck this year is to have found two very different locations but united by the domestic sense of two homes from the past, not far from each other and very easy to reach. As always, the attention to everything Alcova does is very high, and if the founders had the courage to shift the focus to the heart of the working Brianza, who knows where they will take us next year.

Designmilano design week 2024
Written by Anna Frattini
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