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Beyond the Surface: SolidNature x OMA

Milan, Italy

The Dutch stone company and their collaborators return to Milan with a bang

Last year, SolidNature’s installation at Milan’s Alcova venue drew a crowd. The Dutch stone company, who supply high-profile architectural projects internationally, teamed up with one of its most visible collaborators, Dutch architectural practice OMA, alongside Rotterdam-based designer Sabine Marcelis, to showcase the brand’s characterful natural stones. One arresting archway composed of a rainbow of natural onyx, one monumental pivoting bookcase, one monolithic bed and an all-in-one bathroom suite later… and by its own admission, it had made for itself a very hard act to follow.

SolidNature founder, David Mahyari, however, is not ready to step back from his role as something of an industry disruptor. This year he has taken over the basement and garden of a private residence in Milan’s Brera district to share his newest initiatives – once again with OMA and Marcelis, but also with Iranian artist Bita Fayyazi, Rotterdam-based landscape architects Studio Ossidiana and young Dutch artist Ward Strootman.

Iranian-born, Dutch-raised Mahyari is more than a material supplier. An inquisitive entrepreneurial spirit steers the passion he has for his product – richly pigmented and patterned granites and onyx’s cut from fertile terrains around the world – into creative collaborations with architects and designers that drive forward the materials’ potential. This year he has even forayed into the world of fashion, teaming up with LA cashmere brand Harden to produce knitwear – modelled by staff in Milan – directly inspired by some of his finer marbles.

Round two with OMA sees the virgin Milan venue transformed by at team led by OMA’s Giulio Margheri and practice partner Ellen van Loon into an interactive experience that imaginatively represents the journey of stone across a series of rooms. Entering through a  blue onyx cube at ground level, down rainbow onyx steps (a nod to last year’s arch) you are led through mine-like spaces exuding the multi-sensorial properties of the stone.

Once out the other side, a garden filled with polished pieces of design greets the visitor.  The showpiece is a 7m table designed by Marcelis and activated by food design superstar Laila Gohar. Marcelis’s table features a glass top whose colour graduates from pale yellow to red along its length, the evolving hues matched by each supporting column of stone. The granite blocks appear to traverse the glass and become the platters that the food is laid on. In fact they are separate pieces simply giving the illusion of being at one with the table legs.

Gohar’s food integrates into the stones’ textural and colour palette –  and structurally the spread reflects the blocky, brutal nature of the stone –  chunks of bread and nougat stacked at the paler end and cheese and sausages propped and draped at colour-appropriate points along the length. “It’s been a visual dialogue,” says Marcelis of her and Gohar’s design process. “The whole point for both of us is that everything becomes each other; the legs become the platter which becomes the food. The connections merge.”

Beyond the Surface, Via Cernaia 1, Milan