Alcova 2024: New Light on Historic Villas Bagatti Valsecchi & Borsani

The exhibition platform, Alcova, platform deliberately avoids repetition in venue locations, adopting a nomadic stance that has seen it metamorphose diverse spaces – from former panettone and cashmere factories to abandoned military hospitals, and even an abattoir – each edition unfurling within a distinct and intriguing setting, typically with some historical interest, maybe forgotten or remote from general access.

While Alcova manifests physically, ADORNO, in contrast, operates within the digital realm with its online gallery platform. Nonetheless, both platforms transcend physical confines; Alcova’s dedication to fluidity in locations breathes life into forgotten spaces, while ADORNO’s virtual infrastructure facilitates the showcasing of emerging designers worldwide. Much like Alcova’s absence of a fixed physical space, ADORNO’s online gallery model embodies a borderless showcase of designers, transcending geographical constraints to foster a dynamic global design community.

In its 7th edition, this year Alcova will embark on a unique journey by hosting its exhibition at two historical Milanese Villas – Villa Borsani and Villa Bagatti Valsecchi – discreetly nestled outside the bustling city center. This unconventional move invites design aficionados to venture beyond the traditional city-center venues of Milan Design Week, promising an immersive and unforgettable experience.

Villa Borsani’s Past

Once a creative hub where design vanguards like Lucio Fontana and Giò Ponti convened to shape ideas, Villa Borsani stands proudly as a model of rationalist, Mid-Century Modern design, celebrated for its clean lines and bespoke furnishings. Villa Borsani also perfectly embodies a balanced spirit of innovation, daring to push boundaries while honoring a storied heritage. Osvaldo Borsani’s journey from his father’s traditional cabinet and furniture atelier to establishing his own cutting-edge design company, Tecno, alongside his brother Fulgenzio, illustrates this ethos.

Following his grandfather’s lead, Tommaso Fantoni-Borsani navigated the helm of Tecno before charting his own course in architecture and design. In this journey, he not only perpetuated the innovative essence of Tecno but also underscored the importance of carving one’s unique trajectory while honoring history and heritage. This trajectory mirrors Alcova’s spirit, dedicated to blending new design sensibilities with the essence of historical spaces, nurturing an ever-evolving exchange between the past and present

Villa Borsani’s Present

Villa Borsani is no stranger to hosting design events. It has participated before in Milan Design Week and in 2022 hosted esteemed fashion brand Stella McCartney, known for its commitment to sustainability and contemporary luxury. This collaboration once again highlights the aligned values of preservation and innovative design shared by Alcova and the Borsani legacy.

With one eye on the past and the other on the present, Villa Borsani exemplifies Alcova’s reinvention of the design exhibition. Just as Borsani forged new paths in his era, Alcova persists in reshaping the landscape of design exhibitions, presenting a new vision for the potential of such gatherings; one that honors the past, present and future.

Villa Borsani, Alcova venue 2024
Photography by Adam Stečh

Villa Bagatti Valsecchi’s Past

Just a stone’s throw from Villa Borsani, Villa Bagatti Valsecchi stands as a testament to resilience and the human resolve to forge ahead. The Bagatti Valsecchi family’s escape to this countryside retreat in 1523 was prompted by the grim circumstances in the city center, brought on by the plague. From this humble beginning, the villa’s storied history unfolds, continually evolving and building upon itself. Originally erected in 1878 atop an 18th-century farmhouse, Villa Bagatti Valsecchi emerges as an enigmatic fusion of architectural styles and ode to adaptation. With its central body preserved and enhanced over time, each layer of its development represents a step forward into the future, while simultaneously honoring its rich historical roots.

Today, Villa Bagatti Valsecchi continues to serve as a space for reflection. Within its grounds lies a poignant reminder of Milan’s tumultuous past—the preserved remainder of the city’s famed Lazzaretto. The Lazzaretto – an integral component of Milan’s ancient health-care infrastructure – provided treatment to those afflicted by the devastating plague outbreaks. Today, as a fragment of this historic structure finds its place within the grounds of Villa Bagatti Valsecchi, it inspires a striking reflection on the villa’s origins; that it is built upon a fragment of the very history that prompted the Bagatti Valsecchi family to first seek refuge in the countryside.

Villa Bagatti Valsecchi’s Present

In 1943, Villa Bagatti Valsecchi faced another temporary challenge to its peaceful existence when a German military command occupied its grounds. This historical footnote adds yet an intriguing layer of complexity to the villa’s story, especially considering its selection as a venue for Alcova’s exhibition in 2024. While Alcova has traditionally favored abandoned, forgotten spaces for its exhibitions, its choice of a preserved, luxurious villa like Villa Bagatti Valsecchi in 2024 may seem like a departure from this norm. However, the villa’s origins as plague refuge, intriguing past as a German-occupied command and the incorporation of the Lazzaretto fragment reveal striking parallels to Alcova’s usual venues, despite their outward differences.

These hidden connections serve to underscore the villa’s significance as a space for storytelling and historical reflection, bridging the gap between seemingly disparate worlds and making it an even more compelling venue for an event that thrives on an expansive variety of storied historical places.

Villa Bagatti Valsecchi, Alcova venue 2024
Villa Bagatti Valsecchi

Alcova 2024

As Alcova readies for its 7th exhibition during Milan Design Week, it embarks on a new frontier, choosing two venues that diverge significantly from its usual norm. However, despite this departure, the selected sites hold tremendous promise as ideal hosts for the upcoming exhibition, and may indeed be less of a deviation than we might realize. While the surface differences between the two villas and Alcova’s previous venues are stark, this juxtaposition reveals a new dimension of Alcova’s commitment to storytelling through space.

These two villas, both closed to the public view at various times throughout their histories, now open their doors to visitors, offering an opportunity to immerse themselves in the intersection of contemporary design and rich cultural heritage. With Alcova’s exhibition, these carefully preserved architectural gems serve as compelling venues that encourage exploration beyond Milan’s bustling city center, inviting attendees to embark on a journey through time and creativity.

Alcova’s choice underscores its dedication to reviving and remembering forgotten spaces while pushing the boundaries of contemporary design. These villas, with their rich histories and stunning surface designs, serve as more than just venues; they are spaces where creative thinking and energy converge to propel us into the future. Despite their luxurious appearances, it’s their storied pasts that make them so fitting for Alcova. By embracing these timeless venues, Alcova not only expands its narrative but also cultivates a deeper appreciation for the intrinsic connection between past, present, and future within the realm of design. It presents a symbiotic opportunity for both the villas and Alcova to enrich their already remarkable narratives.

Practical Information for Visitors

Alcova Milano 2024 will take place from April 15 to 21, 2024, at Villa Borsani and Villa Bagatti Valsecchi in Varedo, MB. Detailed information about the event, including directions, programming, and participating designers, can be found on the official Alcova website:

For those eager to immerse themselves in this unparalleled design experience, reaching Alcova 2024 is a breeze. Visitors can enjoy a simple 25-minute metropolitan railway journey from Milan’s city centre, utilizing the S2 and S4 lines, with trains departing every 15 minutes. For further convenience, transfers to other Metro lines are available at several key stations: Cadorna (M1, M2), Porta Venezia (M2), Porta Garibaldi (M2, 5), Repubblica (M3), and Dateo (M4). This easy connectivity ensures that accessing the historical elegance of Villa Borsani and Villa Bagatti Valsecchi, the main venues of Alcova 2024, is straightforward for all attendees, making the journey an integral part of the Alcova experience.

Experience the 7th Alcova exhibition during Milan Design Week in two historic villas. Explore the intersection of contemporary design and rich cultural heritage.

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