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The Garden of Wonders

20 April 2015

There is nothing more mysterious and at the same time explicit than a perfume. On the one hand, its invisibility lays it open to secret and magical interpretations that try to lock its volatile nature up in a frozen image. On the other, its olfactory appeal plays on the sense most closely linked to our remembrance of the past, to ancestral memories that activate our synapses in a subjective but universal way, permitting very precise leaps in time. These impressions lie at the heart of the project called The Garden of Wonders, coordinated by Ferruccio Laviani for the foundation BE OPEN and presented at the Orto Botanico di Brera in Milan from April 13 to May 24. In the lush spring setting of the botanical garden, Laviani has designed a series of gilded pavilion-greenhouses which Unopiù is using to put on display the prototypes of some leading figures in international design. The crux of the reflections of Tord Boontje, Fernando and Humberto Campana, Dimore Studio, Front, Jaime Hayon, Piero Lissoni, Jean-Marie Massaud and Nendo turns on the position of perfume as a meeting point between the international culture of the industrial product and the artisan one of handcrafted excellence. Scents are always born out of a mixture of ingredients from the most remote corners of the globe, which are measured out on the basis of original formulas, often deeply rooted in the history of a region. Each designer has been assigned a greenhouse in which to interpret the sense of a fragrance of the past that has gone out of production as a result of the levelling out of tastes due to the globalization of markets. The perfumes have then been reinterpreted by Gérald Ghislain, founder of the brand Histoires de Parfums. “The gardens of Brera,” explains Laviani, “resemble the enchanted forests of Alberto Savinio, in which colorful toys are transformed into scented bars of gold which you can enter and get lost in.” Behind the indisputable fascination of the subject—investigated by some in the form of a small alchemical laboratory, by others through a decidedly theatrical presentation—is concealed a far more complex consideration of the difference between the advantages of internationalization, understood as exchange of goods and knowhow, and the limitations of a globalization that negates differences, homogenizing tastes and offerings. One pavilion has been set aside for the history of perfume: A Journey Through Scents comprises an interactive and visual tour, curated by Elena Vosnaki for the historical part and by Gérald Ghislain himself for the section on essences and raw materials. The exploration of the senses is completed by A Vision in a Box, a greenhouse devoted to the packaging of scents, i.e. to the evocative power of the containers for the mix of essences. A project devoted to the package of the fragrance of the future where Werner Aisslinger, Analogia Project, Philippe Bestenheider, GamFratesi, LucidiPevere, Karim Mekhtigian, Mist‐o, Ludovica and Roberto Palomba, Thukral & Tagra and Victor Vasilev have integrated the concept of the perfume that is to come with ideal forms. On this journey from smell to vision and back again, for once it is the latter that has been placed at the service of another sense and let itself be guided by the mental associations that the idea of scent is able to trigger.

Photo: Gionata Xerra.

Photo: Gionata Xerra.

Photo: Adriano Brusaferri.

Photo: Adriano Brusaferri.

Photo: Gionata Xerra.

Photo: Gionata Xerra.

Photo: Adriano Brusaferri.

Photo: Adriano Brusaferri.

Photo: Gionata Xerra.

Photo: Gionata Xerra.

Photo: Adriano Brusaferri.

Photo: Adriano Brusaferri.

Photo: Adriano Brusaferri.

Photo: Adriano Brusaferri.

Photo: Adriano Brusaferri.

Photo: Adriano Brusaferri.

Photo: Gionata Xerra.

Photo: Gionata Xerra.

Photo: Adriano Brusaferri.

Photo: Adriano Brusaferri.


Domitilla Dardi

Torn between the history of art and the history of architecture, she came across design at the end of the last century and has not let go of it since. She loves to deal with everything that entails the use of ingredients, their choice, mixing and transformation: from writing to cooking, from knitting to design, from perfumes to colors. She is curator for design at the MAXXI and professor of the History of Design at the IED.


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