The whirlwind that is Salone del Mobile brought a newcomer to the stage in the form of a multi-sensory presentation. RIOS, the Los Angeles-based studio, came into its own at the international celebration of design and creativity with Superbloom, an interpretation of California’s rare springtime phenomenon of wildflowers awash in the desert. Conceptually, Vanitas was the very antithesis of its setting – super-industrial and often gray and cold Milan. The big idea was to bring a burst of SoCal sunshine, nature and frankly joy to the capital of Lombardy.
That’s part of the why. Underlying the high-impact visuals, however, was RIOS’ main reason for participation. “We wanted to present ourselves to the European market as a multidisciplinary company through the vehicle of a fabulous installation, especially since this was the first Salone for a few years.” Sebastian Salvadó, creative director and principal, presents the project as spokesperson for the team that also includes CarloMaria Ciampoli and Simone Lapenta. Teamwork, in fact, was the name of the game. RIOS held a company-wide competition with its internal judging panel selecting two proposals to consolidate as a final project.
The immersive experience that is Superbloom unfolds through a series of three connected spaces – a foyer, a courtyard and a showroom – within a private building housing the Simposio Design showroom in the Porta Romana area of Milan. , not far from the Fondazione Prada. According to Salvadó, visiting Milan for the first time, it is a typical 19th century building with an arched opening to the street leading to the courtyard and the exhibition area beyond, all totaling 3,750 feet. squares.
Named the Rain, Sprout and Bloom rooms, the spaces sequence the course of flower growth through nature. The Rain Room, blue to indicate water, is an open-air passageway filled with laser-cut vinyl tubes containing beads that release a custom scent. “Salty and earthy,” says Saladó. In the distance, sunlight, as suggested by a painted yellow disc mounted on the 10-foot-high wall of the courtyard, beckons to indicate spreading or sprouting resulting from rain. Design-savvy visitors can enjoy the space seated on custom-made benches designed with Janus et Cie. Finally, comes the piece de resistance. Of course, it’s the Bloom Room where oversized examples of colored translucent plastic, made in-house like all components, stand over 6 feet tall and “are almost anthropomorphic in their intense feel of a field of flowers.” Projected images, light effects and background music composed by RIOS designer Anthony Nitche enhance the almost otherworldly experience. Meanwhile, Salvadó recounts viewings of superflowers in the Anza Borrego desert. “As a child, I was always aware of my surroundings.” Tell that, perhaps, to his father, a scientist combining the disciplines of geophysics, astrophysics, biology and mathematics “to see how the planet works.”
In the wild, super blooms are short-lived, lasting only a few weeks. Their interpretation of the design here is a little less ephemeral. Superbloom, presented during Milan Design Week, is recycled. The objects in the exhibition will be donated to Ai Bi, Associazione Amici dei Bambini, a non-profit organization that fights against childhood neglect in Italy and around the world while supporting Ukrainian mothers and children in Italy.