Where the World Comes for Inspiration
The Event: Milan Design Week and Salone del Mobile Milano, 2019
When: 9 - 14 April
Where: Milan! Where else?
Why: The coolest week of the year for furniture, interior design, and overindulgence to carbohydrates and Prosecco
Please Note: We’re still catching our breath after this incredible event! Come back often for updates, video interviews, and a full image gallery!
Not of This World: Markus Benesch Discovers a Long-Forgotten Laboratory in the Heart of Milan
From 1953 to 1964 a man named Severin Munch-Prokorny plotted from his cramped workshop in central Milan to leave this planet for another thought to be capable of supporting human life.
Munch-Prokorny had many details about the conditions and the organisms thought to inhabit this planet, known as MP-4753Y, although how he got this information was a mystery. The man himself was a mystery, mostly forgotten, until his long-shuttered workshop was discovered by German-born designer and furniture builder Markus Benesch whilst scouting locations for his exhibit for Milan Design Week.
“He was a little like the Elon Musk of his time,” says Benesch. “He was loaded with money, horrified by the aftermath WWII, and just wanted to get off this planet. He gathered a group of 150 scientists, artists, craftsmen, and this was the space where they developed ideas for furniture, and food, for life a different planet.”
The space still had calendars from the 1950s on the walls, vintage decks of playing cards, and a record collection that had to be eclectic even for that time.
“When we opened the doors here last December, I don’t think the place had been touched in 60 years. We found all these plans for furniture pieces that they were going to dematerialize for transport, and rematerialize when they arrived. We didn’t find any actual furniture – maybe they actually did get off the planet – so we built new pieces from the original plans.”
Benesch is a digital design pioneer I profiled five years ago for Interiors + Sources magazine. He once worked for the leading Italian laminate maker Abet Laminati, consults for HP, creates products for major wallcovering companies, and runs his brand Curious Boy.
And, it turns out, he’s a masterful storyteller. The interstellar cookbook he showed me should have been a clue. Or the mysterious symbols found throughout his space that looked eerily like his design style.
“Okay, I invented this whole story,” he told me after a piece-by-piece tour of his space (including the perfectly symmetrical wooded bowl that had been distorted during teleportation). “People were offering us these nice spaces, galleries, white cubes, very boring. When we saw this space it was just too good. We had to build a story around it.”
Right down to drawings of the Trisdom tree, which could grow in zero gravity and produce fruit from its roots, which were also its branches.
Using specialized pigments he channeled and layered vibrant resins into walnut, ash and particleboard.
“Particleboard is one of my favorite hard-to-work-with materials, because it’s the poorest and the cheapest, but when you treat it like this it becomes the most precious. When you work with it, it’s more about the idea and the execution than the material. We built these in our workshop in Munich, next to our design studio. It was a lot of manual work, 200 hours alone just in the putting in the resins. I like these layers, they’re like jelly. This is exactly the opposite of digital printing!
“For the last 30 years I’ve designed all of my pieces so they don’t have to go against a wall, because there’s no ugly side.”
And with that I left him to his absolutely beautiful, entirely fabricated world.
Benesch made his mark twice more during design week, with his “Golden Fleece” light at the Museo Bagatti Valsecchi, and with the Leonardo Horse Project.
When not traveling through space and time, Benesch lives between Munich, Milan and New York and holds lectures and workshops as a guest professor at L´ESAD Reims, NABA Milano, IED Milano and Politecnico di Milano, in the field of interior, product and innovative design.
See more of Markus’s imagination in the gallery below.
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