Salone del Mobile: flowers, foie gras and cruelty around the Ventura Lambrate area

Previously: Salone del Mobile: It’s lamp time, everybody! and Salone del Mobile: check in at Hotel RCA.

As i mentioned two days ago, Ventura Lambrate was the new hip area during the Salone del Mobile that ended in Milan last weekend (except for the hundreds of designers stranded there courtesy of everyone’s favourite vulcano.) The landscape stars with swanky renovated buildings, flower wallpaper, silver tree in a courtyard and fresh apple pie with hot butter.


The place is so hip and neat it was the ideal location for the ‘Questions’ exhibition that showed the most recent work of Design Academy Eindhoven graduate students. Each year, the academy showcases its typically Dutch, very beige, very pretty projects. There’s just a bit of edge and provocation but not too much. Each year, the Dutch are the stars of Milan. There’s no reason to change a formula that works great. However, it would be nice to be surprised and see them take a more adventurous direction once in a while. Or maybe i’m spending too much time visiting art exhibitions?

The Question exhibition reminded visitors that the design process often starts with an interrogation (some of the ones in the show were, alas! a bit rhetorical.) The question at the heart of Amélie Onzon‘s From Fable To Table, for example, is “Can cruelty be beautiful?”

Amelie Onzon From Fable to Table.jpgPhoto by Rene van der Hulst

The project explores the double standards that govern out relationship with animals. We profess our love of animals, adopt them as pets and sometimes go to extreme in order to pamper them, yet we eat animals. Once the animal is on our plate, it’s not a cute little lamb or a lovely rabbit anymore, it is just a piece of meat. The animal is abstracted and becomes a functional material.

From Fable To Table is a series of objects that forces us to chose between nurturing an animal or killing it in order to eat it. The protagonist of Onzon’s project is the duck, an animal as easy to domesticate as it is tasty.

She designed two pieces of furniture and let their user decide whether they will use them to produce foie gras, or to give the ducks a more comfortable life.

Ducks force-feed themselves before migration. That’s precisely this behaviour that inspired the foie gras. The bird is force-feed with grain and fat using a funnel until the liver expands to the right size (the organ can swell to up to 10 times its normal size.) Onzon’s (Force) Feeder is a duck feeder that doubles as a force feeding stool. The ducks bowl is also the force-feeding funnel. An irrigation system softens the food to make it edible.


For the foie gras process, the liver has to be blood free. Once the force-feeding period is over the blood vessels in the throat are cut and the duck bleeds to death.

(Blood) Bath is a pond and shower for the duck but also a hook to suspend the animal for its execution. The blood can be collected in the sink.


If you believe that humans in the Western well-fed world wouldn’t have the heart to kill their pet for food, just ask Marcus the sheep to tell you his story.

A few steps away from the Design Academy exhibition, i discovered Maarten Baas‘ Grandfather Clock. Part of his real time collection, this video works as a clock. Or maybe it’s the opposite. Actors were filmed for 12 hours while they were drawing the hands of the clock to indicate the time.

There’s not much more that i feel like highlighting from my visit to the polished side of the Ventura Lambrate area. I stumbled upon quite a few eco-friendly ideas that artists had explored five years ago. Designers seem to have fallen in love with ‘installations’ as well. You don’t design chairs anymore, you do chair installations.

Now the other side of the Ventura Lambrate area had a bit of a Wild Wild West feeling that you certainly don’t get in Tortona…


An area so wild, they had not heard that it is not ‘sustainable’, ‘eco-friendly’ and ‘responsible’ to illuminate the area in broad day light.


Everyone i met asked me “did you see the Lambretto building?”


That’s the area where is saw Hotel RCA.


My pictures on flickr.