Serena Confalonieri: from the product to the city

The designer is increasingly active in urban graphics projects that bring color to Milan and offer new collective experiences, new uses of spaces

Serena Confalonieri - Photo © Monica Spezia Livinginside
Serena Confalonieri - Photo © Monica Spezia Livinginside

She moves naturally through product, interior and textile design, but her imagination ranges into wider dimensions, all the way to coloring cities and urban spaces. Serena Confalonieri has an inimitable touch: bright, emotional, witty. On the scale of buildings or city squares, these traits are inevitably amplified.

Over the years Confalonieri has produced various urban graphic design projects in Milan – the latest one, Bouquet, was on view during Milano Design Week – supporting various initiatives aimed at assigning value to public spaces as gathering places, improving quality of life in the city and even enhancing existing architecture with a sustainable approach. “I think it is always important to design by responding to what exists: whether it is the background of a company or the history of a neighborhood, we need first of all to understand how to preserve identity while adding innovation.

Celebration of colour and design MDW2023 by Serena Confalonieri, Ceresio 7, Milan - Photo © Serena Eller
Celebration of colour and design MDW2023 by Serena Confalonieri, Ceresio 7, Milan – Photo © Serena Eller

The social value of the works is what pushes her in this direction: “I am fascinated by this area because it permits you to design a collective experience, something that can truly be utilized by anyone, from any social context or level of culture – she says. – Often works in the fields of product and interior design refer only to a certain type of audience: with public space, you have a true reaction on a wide scale, a real improvement of living conditions and usage of space.

Design that is accessible to all, made available to all. “Indubitably the redesign of certain spaces can change not only the type of use, but also the perceptions of people. A parking area repainted in lively colors clarifies the fact that it is no longer a space for cars, but a space for play. So an area that has been left neglected can take on new life, creating new connections: a livable space opens up possibilities of personal interaction, triggering new links and the possibility to make further improvements, also in collaboration with the inhabitants of the zone.”

Quadra by Serena Confalonieri, Milan - Photo © Alice Mantovani
Quadra by Serena Confalonieri, Milan – Photo © Alice Mantovani

Serena Confalonieri approached urban design in 2021, along the lines of the Piazze Aperte project organized by the municipality of Milan, when she volunteered to work as a designer. The result was Quadra, a work of regeneration of a former parking facility on Via Val Lagarina, in the Quarto Oggiaro district, collaborating with volunteers from the association WAU!Milano and the students of the nearby school I.C.S. “Via Val Lagarina.” Formulating a concept that was both educational and playful in nature, Serena proposed a graphic subdivision of the area of 600 sqm by means of a grid, not so different from the patterns on graph paper. The grid was decorated by the students and volunteers themselves, with primary colors and geometric elements. “Quadra represents the reclamation, on the part of the children of Quarto Oggiaro, of the parking lot in front of their school. This gray, neglected space has been transformed into a colorful play area, a cheerful space for gathering, running, playing, gardening. The graphic design is intentionally simple: a big checked page welcoming elementary shapes, primary and secondary colors, things that children learn about in elementary school.”

Città Studi by Serena Confalonieri, Milan - Photo © Wit Design
Città Studi by Serena Confalonieri, Milan – Photo © Wit Design

Then came the project of a mural for Città Studi, specifically at Via Bassini 26, commissioned by the Department of Public Art of the city of Milan, in the context of the initiative “a name for every neighborhood.“I worked on the name, filling its letters with everything that sets the tone of this district: architecture, culture, art, science, nature and sharing. Therefore the two letters T are based on the mosaics of the buildings of old Milan and the friezes of the villas from the 1920s; the A links to the entrance of the School of Architecture, while the first I is a tribute to Giò Ponti, and to the many university departments with facilities in Città Studi. The C suggests an open book seen from above, and the S is the Rod of Asclepius, symbol of Medicine. The A is for Astrophysics, while the U represents the department of Engineering. The remaining T is a chemical molecule. Finally, the flower of the D symbolizes the Botanical Garden of Via Golgi, and the accent becomes a drop of blood for AVIS, whose building physically hosts the work.” The result is a mixture of shadings to convey a young, colorful atmosphere, in an area full of students.

Bouquet by Serena Confalonieri, Milan
Bouquet by Serena Confalonieri, Milan

This year the designer has created Bouquet, a project that brought color to Piazza Schiavone, between the districts of Bovisa, Dergano and Affori, as part of a series of initiatives promoted by RUFA, Scuola Politecnica del Design and Repubblica del Design, carried out with students in the course on Visual Design taught by Confalonieri herself at the Scuola Politecnica di Design. “This was already a pedestrian zone set aside for play, but it was very gray and impersonal. Examining the morphology of the piazza itself, we decided to work on universal symbols that could be recognized by all the inhabitants of the area, apart from their cultural background. Hence the choice of flowers, colorful and vivacious natural elements. In the bouquet each nation has its own floral symbol, representing the nationalities of the people who live in the area of Zone 9. The project emphasizes that even in cultural terms, every unique, different part can contribute to the creation of a shared whole.”

For the future? The designer is already working on various fronts, starting with “some installations inside showrooms in Milan, happening across the summer. The first is for a furniture brand, while another is inside the store of Moroni Gomma on Corso Garibaldi, to celebrate 10 years of the brand’s collaboration with the eyewear maker IziPizi.” Her work with St-Germain continues, along with her focus on product design: “I have also begun to work on products with an eye on next year’s fair. In particular, at the moment I am coming to terms with a lamp, and with some new self-produced items.” We are eagerly awaiting these new developments!