In Milan, Alcova’s Freethinking Spirit Captivates

The roving showcase champions unorthodox ideas in unexpected locations, cementing it as one of Milan Design Week’s most vital incubators for emerging talents bullish on breaking the mold.

Ex Macello, a former abattoir and the site of Alcova 2023. Photography by Federico Floriani

Valentina Ciuffi and Joseph Grima founded Alcova five years ago to champion emerging designers who don’t quite fit the mold of Salone del Mobile or the innumerable satellite exhibitions that pop up during Fuorisalone. The duo’s mission became more urgent when the Ventura Lambrate design district, long a stronghold for up-and-comers, shut down due to the area’s rising rents. What was missing during Milan Design Week, they realized, was a platform for rising talents who wielded an experimental edge in an often slow-moving profession—designers bullish on breaking barriers and bucking conventions.

Alcova’s inaugural edition united 26 designers in a disused panettone factory—a roofless, ramshackle building overrun with plants. Since then, the itinerant showcase has gravitated toward unexpected settings off the beaten path. Previous outings took over a cashmere mill and an ex-military hospital complex. That strategy, they say, is meant to keep things exciting. “When you become stationary, you get all sorts of weird hangers-on accumulating around you,” Grima told Dezeen. “We don’t want to have an adverse impact on a neighborhood by allowing speculative other projects to capitalize on the presence of this cool, energetic, young design platform and distort the market base.”

This year, the show lands at the dilapidated former Porta Vittoria abattoir on Via Molise. The ideas on offer are no less groundbreaking. One major headliner is Lindsey Adelman, design’s reigning queen of sculptural lighting, who debuts studio-within-a-studio LaLAB for experimental, not-to-market concepts. The innovators behind PROWL Studio are unveiling the hemp-based Peel Chair, the first injection-molded chair that can be composted. Art + Loom’s founder Samantha Gallacher teamed up with Miami interior designer Bea Pernia to plumb the depths of geological formations. The handmade rugs and one-of-a-kind furniture speak to nature’s untouched beauty—not unlike Alcova’s jaunts to unexpected venues around Milan.

“The Art of Formation” by Art + Loom and Bea Pernia
Lindsey Adelman’s LaLAB
Stone Archive by Studio Davidpompa
Cor by Tom Fereday for Agglomerati. Photography by Nicola Gnesi
Peel Chair by Prowl Studio. Photography by Noah Webb

Alcova 2023 will be on view at Ex Macello (Viale Molise 62, Milan) from April 17–23.  

All Stories