OMA’s furniture collection for Knoll “turns industry into a fetish”

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Dezeen and MINI World Tour: in our fourth movie recorded at the MINI Paceman Garage in Milan, MINI head of design Anders Warming introduces the workshops that took place in the space and journalist Justin McGuirk explains why he sees OMA’s Tools for Life collection as a nostalgic reaction to the decline of industry in the city.

The MINI Paceman Garage hosted a week-long series of workshops in which students were tasked with coming up with a new product or identity for MINI and pitching it to the car brand.

“The MINI community spreads into the design community, and that’s why we do these workshops with young students,” Warming says. “Sometimes one very straight thought, especially from a younger generation, actually helps nail things and makes them very simple and honest.”

Warming led the first workshop himself. “It’s not just a one-way street, where I might be teaching about how to do design,” he says. “It’s my view on design and what [the students] spontaneously think of that.”

The guest in our Dezeen and MINI World Tour Studio is Justin McGuirk, architecture and design journalist and director of Strelka Press. “The most interesting thing I’ve seen is the OMA furniture for Knoll,” he says of this year’s fair.

But McGuirk doesn’t believe the Tools for Life collection, which includes a motorised table and chair that rise and fall at the press of large red buttons, are meant to be practical pieces of furniture.

“If you look at the way that Knoll is presenting this furniture it’s the standard spiel about adaptable, ergonomic furniture,” he says. “But it’s got nothing to do with that. The whole thing is just a performance and I think it is deeply nostalgic for industry.”

“It’s an interesting time to launch a product like that,” he continues. “Here we are in Milan where the city’s industry and the country’s industry is visibly in decline – it’s almost this message that industry is dead, so now we can turn it into luxury. But also, it turns industry into a fetish.”

Another piece in the Tools for Life collection is a counter made of three swivelling stacked blocks. McGuirk says: “It’s one of those classic designs that purports to solve all of these different problems, but actually solves none of them. So it’s actually completely useless.”

“It comes clearly from an architecture studio, and one that’s not overly concerned with form as well.”

The music featured in this movie is a track called Konika by Italian disco DJ Daniele Baldelli, who played a set at the MINI Paceman Garage. You can listen to more music by Baldelli on Dezeen Music Project.

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