Trip of a Lifetime to Milan

Navan Padayachee won first prize in the 2018 1.618 Education Initiative. His prize, along with his lecturer Sibusiso (Sbu) Sithole, from University of KwaZulu-Natal, was a trip to the 2019 Milan Furniture Fair. The two men had a great time exploring the city and its design offerings. We caught up with them to find out about the experience. 

Sbu says that everything about the Milan trip was amazing, from the urban culture to the buildings, architecture, interiors and exhibitions. “I learned and gained so much from the trip,” he says. “I enjoyed the different exhibitions and interventions happening throughout the whole city. It wasn’t just about the furniture – it was also about the culture, people, architecture, history and various design components being exhibited. I also noticed about the Italians and the people of Milan is their extraordinary attention to detail. Everything produced is design orientated and all the exhibitions have a certain sensual quality that is amazing. Through design, products develop and become more valuable to the consumer. It’s something South Africa can learn from.”

“From the fair alone, I cannot choose my highlights,” Navan says. “There are too many creative things in Milan to pick, however I was fortunate to attend a Banksy art expo as well. Banksy is one of the most famous and controversial artists currently and he is known for working in the shadows and not revealing his identity. He has specialised in artworks that are protest messages or metaphors for the society that we live in. I was also fortunate enough to visit a DBOX expo designed by Novembre. This also happened to be a Lamborghini expo, which shows people the process of making a Lambo, from the concept sketches to upholstery of the vehicle’s seats. There was also a virtual reality simulator to get the feel of driving a Lamborghini.”

Sbu says that something he will implement in his own work and with his students that he saw in Milan is how spaces can be defined using elements like screened planting and transparent elements that define areas while still giving a feeling of openness and remaining aesthetically pleasing. “They help define a space and its uses,” he says, “The Milanese also have an ability to mix and match colours to highlight certain spaces. They create a totally different feel just through colour choice and combinations.”

He says another theme was compact living for urban spaces. “There was a big drive, especially in the furniture division, to highlight folding furniture and multi-use spaces,” he says. “the whole concept of utilitarian spaces is a thing of the past. Now, through densification, people are being forced to live in smaller spaces. I liked the type of furniture on display that actually transforms, evolves and takes on different uses at different times.”

Navan says that Milan was interesting outside of the exhibitions too. “I was really impressed by the number of people that travel on foot and how ordered the city is and how everybody dresses smartly,” he says. “I was also impressed by the modern contemporary buildings of Milan in contrast to the more historic buildings. I thought that I have seen the best in Milan and then on the last day I arrived in Duomo. I was amazed by the Duomo di Milano Cathedral. The scale, architecture and the presence of the structure were completely mind-blowing.”

Both men expressed gratitude to PG Bison and everyone involved in the 1.618 Education Initiative for the opportunity to attend the fair. “There are too many beautiful things to see in Milan, from the architecture to the food,” enthuses Navan. “I would like to thank PG Bison for giving me this opportunity. It also happened to be the first time that I’ve travelled to another country. I’m very grateful for the experience.”

“I am thankful to PG Bison and the organisers of the competition and the trip – especially Lian and her team – for such a worthwhile experience. The students and lecturers alike benefit greatly from the 1.618 experience, and we have benefited from this trip. I would like to thank PG Bison and encourage them to keep up their good work. It has been a truly amazing experience.”