Dezeen Magazine

IKEA creates interactive maze at Milan design week to explore "mixed emotions" of leaving home

Swedish retailer IKEA is focussing on the experience of leaving home for the first time in its Milan design week exhibition called 1st, which was designed by architect Midori Hasuike and spatial designer Emerzon.

Milan's Padiglione Visconti venue has been "transformed into an IKEA playground" showcasing products and experiences that address leaving home for the first time.

1st exhibition at Milan design week
IKEA has created an exhibition called 1st for Milan design week

"With the current social and economic climate it's maybe harder than ever to make that move," said the brand's creative director Marcus Engman.

"For 1st, we wanted to more deeply explore the challenges and emotions that come with this special time in life," he told Dezeen.

Interactive maze
It features an interactive maze

Visitors enter the exhibition through a large-scale illuminated maze designed by Hasuike to symbolise the disorientating feelings that can come with new experiences.

The architect chose rentable and recyclable materials for the installation, which were selected for their accessibility, she explained.

"The materials reflect the reality of having to adapt and adjust to what you have and can afford when moving into your first home," said Hasuike.

Open stage
The maze leads to an open, illuminated stage

Deliberately disorientating paths make up the maze, decorated with objects such as photo frames and packing boxes.

"This represents the shared hope we all feel when facing new adventures – it's a reminder of the mixed emotions that come with first experiences," added Hasuike.

Visitors eventually make their way to a "welcoming" central space anchored by a large geometric stage featuring different furniture-filled "rooms" on each of its open levels. The stage's lighting was designed by Anders Heberling.

The rest of the exhibition is separated into individual spaces, showing old and new IKEA pieces.

Among the displays is the Brännboll collection of gaming furniture, which features the brand's first successful attempt at an inflatable chair.

IKEA exhibition
Padiglione Visconti has been transformed into an "IKEA playground"

Klippan – IKEA's first flat-packed sofa by the late product designer Noburu Nakamuru – has also been redesigned for the exhibition.

"It's one product that exemplifies 'first' more than anything else," said Engman.

"There's an excitement in testing the beds and sofas, imagining your life in one of our kitchens – and that's what we have tried to emulate in our space."

IKEA is also hosting a "hotdog extravaganza" as part of the exhibition. The food stall is serving playful takes on the brand's recognisable hot dog, including one made from ice cream.

At last year's Milan design week, IKEA marked its 80th anniversary with an exhibition charting the brand's history. IKEA recently launched a collaboration with Dutch studio Raw Color in which no item features less than two colours to explore how our perception of a hue can change based on its context.

The photography and video are courtesy of IKEA.

1st is on show from 15 to 21 April 2024 at Padiglione Visconti, Via Tortona 58, Milan. See our Milan design week 2024 guide on Dezeen Events Guide for information about the many other exhibitions, installations and talks taking place throughout the week.