There was a quiet, structural beauty, and a sustainable one, located inside the courtyard of Milan’s Palazzo Isimbardi during this year’s Fuorisalone. French architect Arthur Mamou-Mani was commissioned by COS, the fashion brand known for its minimalist, simple and timeless designs, to create this edition’s design piece.
Under the helm of creative director Karin Gustafsson, the collections of COS reflect, as do its artistic commissions, otherworldly grandeur through simplistic visual manifestations. The brand made its debut during Salone del Mobile in 2012, working with set designer Gary Card. This year, Mamou-Mani’s creation was all about using research and technology to create a large installation of utmost beauty.
“The main idea behind Conifera was to showcase how, with renewable materials, an algorithmic approach and distributed 3D printing, we can create the building blocks of the future,” says Mamou-Mani. “We wanted to create a sense of poetic ‘dissolution’ that echoed the circular nature of the compostable material and take people on a journey through the Palazzo, from the courtyard to the garden, going from architecture to nature.”
Left: Karin Gustafsson, COS Creative Director and Arthur Mamou-Mani. Image Courtesy of COS, Photography by Mark Cocksedge
Last autumn, Mamou-Mani designed Galaxia, a sacrificial temple-like edifice that was displayed during the Burning Man Festival in Nevada. At the festival’s ending, the temporary structure culminated in a fire. It found life again in a mood board the architect did for COS – it was the first step in the creation of Conifera.
The structures copper-coloured interlocking modular form is part-structure and part-pavilion. The brand offered Mamou-Mani the freedom to experiment. And so the architect decided to go beyond current technology and mixed polyactic acid (PLA), which is a renewable polymer made from starch vinegar and glycerine, together with pulp from Douglas fir in order to create a base filament for the 3-D printers. “Conifera merges the digital and physical worlds while addressing sustainability, using compostable bio-plastic which is produced, and 3D printed locally,” says the architect.
“It is a dialogue between technology and craft, monumentality and lightness and the manmade and natural. It is futuristic and high-tech but also deeply poetic and human.” The grand size of Palazzo Isimbardi provided the ideal space for a piece of great impact. The lattice-structure of Conifera is unforgettable, it undulates between high-tech design and an aesthetic object that is in seemingly perfect dialogue with its surroundings – even those, like Palazzo Ismibardi, that exude a heightened sense of the past.