During Milan Design Week, a Creative Solution on Where to Stay

This article is part of our Design special report previewing Milan Design Week.

In this city of 1.35 million, a particular ritual happens in the weeks leading up to the Salone del Mobile. Ads start popping up on Facebook and Instagram offering private rooms and entire apartments for a few hundred euros a night. Then, just before the doors open at the Fiera Milano — the exhibition center on the outskirts of Milan — residents pack up and move out of their homes, making way for the more than 300,000 fairgoers who descend on the city each April.

“We were fascinated by this phenomenon of people leaving their home just for the week of Salone,” said Salvatore Peluso, 34, one of the founders of Dopo, a creative space and cultural center in Milan’s southeast Corvetto neighborhood. During Milan Design Week, Dopo is presenting “Runaways,” an exhibition exploring the complicated topic of housing in Milan through a home envisioned by young designers that will also function as a real temporary residence for the duration of the week. This migration is not unique to Milan, or even its design week. Yet the April design festival dwarfs other happenings largely because most of its exhibitions are open to the public. (The four annual Milan fashion weeks, by contrast, are predominantly reserved for industry insiders.)

Similar trends can be observed in cities around the world during large-scale sporting events and concerts. But a sports car race or music festival does not provide a stage from which participants can critique the system. For Mr. Peluso, it was important to use the design week as a tool to discuss these issues, he said.

Members of the Dopo team gathered in the courtyard of the cultural center ahead of Milan Design Week.Credit…Andrea Wyner for The New York Times

Dopo, which takes its name from “dopolavoro,” after-work social clubs organized by companies or unions, is in a former warehouse at the end of a dead-end street in an industrial neighborhood largely populated by building material depots and nightclubs. It was founded in 2022 by a collective of young creative workers and academics. In addition to Mr. Peluso, they are Bianca Felicori, a journalist and researcher; Carlotta Franco, Grazia Mappa and Gabriele Leo, all architects; and three members of the design studio Parasite 2.0 (Luca Marullo, Eugenio Cosentino and Stefano Colombo). During the year, the headquarters operates as a shared studio space that often opens its doors to exhibitions and parties.

The curators said they saw this “design week migration” as a microcosm of the larger problems surrounding housing precarity in Milan. According to Abitare, a real estate company, the short-term rental price of a furnished two-bedroom apartment jumps 245 percent during Design Week. In the Brera neighborhood, where many of the high-end design showrooms are based, an apartment costs an average of 7,000 euros (about $7,500) for the week.

Back to top button