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MAD installs reflective ETFE cube at Milan design week


Chinese architecture studio MAD has inserted a 12.5-metre-tall cube, named Momentum, into the courtyard of the University of Milan during Milan design week.

The cube measures eight metres along each of its edges and is anchored to the grassy lawn of the university’s courtyard at a 45-degree angle.

Photo of Momentum
The installation is titled Momentum. Photo is by Andrea D’Antrassi

It was created in collaboration with lighting company L&L Luce&Light and commissioned by investment company AXA IM Alts for the Interni Design Re-Evolution exhibition, which takes place at the University of Milan.

It was constructed using ETFE – a plastic polymer that is often used as an alternative to glass, which was fixed across the surface of the iron frame and used to conceal the interior of the structure.

Photo of the installation
It was installed at the University of Milan

Given the reflective material quality of the ETFE polymer used, during the daytime its surface reflects its surroundings. At night it become a light beacon as a result of an artificial light source by L&L Luce&Light situated within the cube structure.

The artificial lighting was created with nine lights, which were set to pulse at intervals to create a beating heart-like rhythm. The placement of the ETFE across the iron structure means light is able to glow between each of the long strips.

“In the daytime, Momentum’s skin reflects the surrounding environment of the courtyard of Statale University, becoming a forever-changing art form of its own,” said MAD.

“As night falls, and the installation turns transparent and ethereal, the lighting inside illuminates a new character.”

Photo of a person with the Momentum installation
It was constructed using iron and ETFE. Photo is by Andrea D’Antrassi

The installation was designed to “freeze the moment of art creation” according to MAD, which explained the structure aims to represent different forms of art.

“Momentum seeks to freeze the moment of art creation, with the simplest cube is used as a carrier to undertake different forms of art expression,” said the architecture studio.

“Momentum, exhibited during the Salone del Mobile, hopes to evoke the solidification and refinement of time with this form,” it continued.

Photo of Momentum reflecting light
The installation has reflective surfaces

Momentum also includes an AR experience whereby viewers can scan a QR code and access filters that enhance and alter the look of the installation.

“At a time when everything is immediate, and everything can be replicated digitally, Momentum is, on the one hand, the spark, the original idea; on the other, it is the study, complexity and care behind creative development,” said L&L Luce&Light.

In China, MAD’s founder Ma Yansong decorated an abandoned building with colourful fishing nets and reflective film that aim to blur the facade of the building with its surroundings. Elsewhere at Milan design week, Natural Material Studio and designer Zuzanna Skurka created an installation from bio textiles made using surplus bricks.

The photography is by Moreno Maggi unless stated otherwise.

Momentum takes place from 17 to 23 April 2023 at Via Festa del Perdono, 7, 20122 Milan, Italy. See our Milan design week 2023 guide on Dezeen Events Guide for information about the many other exhibitions, installations and talks taking place throughout the week.


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