Door: Buzzispace  11-03-2009

ZonaTortona Design announces projects for the 2009 edition will launch its new e-coustical (ecologic/acoustical) products all made in ecofelt out of recycled plastic bottles.. Design by the Antwerp (B) designer Sas Adriaenssens.
Innovative projects of great quality will be the protagonists from 22 to 27 April. They include: That's Design!, a showcase for young talents selected from international design schools, as well as independent designers (starting this year); Surfacin'
Materials - Innovation, an interactive exhibition on materials and surfaces, in collaboration with Material ConneXion Milano; Design Lounge, a place to meet and relax, with a bookshop and a selection of the best international design magazines, in collaboration with Veuve Cliquot Ponsardin, with a design by Adam D. Tihany; Zona Tortona Tv + DeTnk, day-by-day coverage of the Zone, also on-line at, and youtube. The facts for 2008: 90 locations, 35,000 sq meters of displays, 200 clients, over 1000 journalists, 88,000 visitors. The outlook for 2009 is for similar or improved results. 

The very finest work of the international schools of design and from emerging young professionals comes together in one large exhitition space. The name is That’s Design!, the showcase organised by ZonaTortona, Domus Academy and (the Consortium of the Politecnico di Milano), featuring CampariSoda as the main sponsor. Held with the patronage of the City of Milan, That’s Design! has now reached its third edition, confirming its stature as the biggest exhibition platform for universities, academies and young talents and for the first time also hosting freelance designers.

That’s Design! is based on values of innovation, interactivity, creativity, research and sustainability and constitutes an authentic cosmopolitan stage where academies and young designers can present their work and catch the eye of an International audience: about 60% of the visitors come from abroad, in particular from Spain, Russia, Turkey, Germany and South-East Asia.

An opportunity for young professionals to meet and compare, That’s Design! is also a place where business meets designers: a way to generate opportunities, synergies and new forms of enterprise.

Contributing to making That’s Design! so successful are also the statistics recorded for the last edition:

14 participating schools, eight partner firms, 1.800 sqm of display space, 350 Italian and International journalists and a record influx of visitors: 50.000 designers, architects, students, prefessional practitioners and creatives.

Zona Tortona recorded the following figures during the 2008 edition:
88.000 visitors during the 7-day event
60 different locations
160 exhibiting companies
6 special events
35.000 m2 of exhibiting space
1050 registered journalists

Maurizio Ribotti, MD of DesignPartners, gives Wallpaper* an exclusive preview into his plans for this year’s Zona Tortona event held during the upcoming Salone del Mobile


In the year 2000, during the Salone del Mobile, four furniture companies, including the ingenius Cappellini, decided to break with tradition and rather than show in either the fairground itself or their own showrooms, they found a new space in which to exhibit their latest wares. The space in question was the Superstudio – an industrial venue that ordinarily hosted photo shoots – located on the up-and-coming via Tortona.


Cut forward to today, and it’s hard to believe this was only nine years ago. Not only is the Superstudio on a par with the Feria as a must-visit destination during the Milan Furniture Fair, but as a design event has grown to now encompass over 90 locations, 35,000 sq m of exhibition space and over 200 exhibitiors. In 2008, in the five days of the fair, the area attracted over 1,000 journalists, 88,000 visitors and the businesses in the area made over 50% of their entire annual income.


This year, ZonaTortona, promises to be even more successful. With a vigorous marketing campaign behind it, 2009 sees a new corporate identity, new venues, expansion of the area (even moving into new parts of the city), improved accessibility (with bicycles to rent and shuttle services), a marked concern to look after journalists and visitors (with a new Design lounge, media suite and The Private Club – an after-hours members bar) as well as bigger and better curated projects. There’s even a TV and radio studio from which Tortona will broadcast to the world what goes on in this most remarkable of weeks. And to top it off, Cappellini is returning to the event after 4 years of absence.

All this is in no small part thanks to one man and his very driven team.

Maurizio Ribotti, who ran his own marketing and communications company, merged with ZonaTortona and its president Luca Fois in 2006 to create DesignPartners. As well as ZonaTortona, the company run several successful design initiatives whose aim is offer marketing, communication and media services to international firms that make design into a strategic asset. Fois, who set up Tortona all those years ago is still very much involved, taking a particular interest in That’s Design, the showcase for emerging talent, but it is Ribotti, who over the last three years has steered ZonaTortona to become not only the largest - both in size and visitors - design event of its kind but it is the only design week in the world that actually makes a profit.
Q&A with Maurizio Ribotti, CEO of ZonaTortona
W*:You say ZonaTortona is going to expand into new areas, can you explain a bit more about this?
MR: 2009 sees the launch of ZonaRomana, an area east of ZonaTortona, which will have two new venues for exhibitors to show their wares. The first is the Franco Parenti theatre - a beautiful recently rennovated venue made up of a large central space and several auditoriums that can be cleared. Secondly is Spazio Botta - a typical Milanese townhouse complete with an inner courtyard that has 12 contemporary style lofts. We will organize some kind of ‘bridge’ to take people between the Tortona and Romana, be it a mini-bus, taxis or bicycles.

W*: How do you intend to keep the balance between established global brands that pay good money and promoting emerging, cutting edge designers for which ZonaTortona has become famous?
MR: The balance is very hard but we are very strict about keeping what I call the DNA of ZonaTortona. Sometimes we do turn companies away that don’t fit with our message, not so much based on aesthetic judgments but more in terms of values, creativity, development etc. Equally we do try and promote younger companies. That’s Design is in its 3rd edition and this year will promote not only design students but also freelance designers.

W*: Do you see yourself as a Trade Fair?
MR: No, certainly not. We are an open-air event. Yes, people register and we monitor our visitors but it’s open to anyone.

W*: Apart from accessability, how else is ZonaTortona different to a trade fair?
MR: A trade fair does one thing: provide exhibitors with a venue. We communicate in several different ways. We work like lasagne, we offer one complete package but with several different layers like organize parties, event media, brand launches etc.

W*: Who are your new exhibitors this year?
MR: We’re still booking of course, but along with the return of Cappellini, IKEA are showing with us. Plus lots of curated ‘one-country collections’ such as Svensk Form, Portugese design, a show of Dutch Design and a group show from Taiwan. We also have a technological project this year that Toshiba are doing, plus non-furniture design companies like Lavazza and a packaging company are using our event to promote their design.

W*: Do you think ZonaTortona is in competition with Cosmit, the organizers of the Feria?
MR: We are definitely not in competition - we are complimentary. We initially grew out of Cosmit but now I think the visitor dedicates their time to both events. Plus Cosmit is very different from us: they are a traditional exhibition, we present a lifestyle. Cosmit is purely about furniture, we are about product design in a more general sense.