Dezeen and MINI World Tour: in our fourth movie recorded at the MINI Paceman Garage in Milan, MINI head of design Anders Warming introduces the workshops that took place in the space and journalist Justin McGuirk explains why he sees OMA's Tools for Life collection as a nostalgic reaction to the decline of industry in the city.

The MINI Paceman Garage hosted a week-long series of workshops in which students were tasked with coming up with a new product or identity for MINI and pitching it to the car brand.

OMA's furniture collection for Knoll "turns industry into a fetish"
Anders Warming

"The MINI community spreads into the design community, and that's why we do these workshops with young students," Warming says. "Sometimes one very straight thought, especially from a younger generation, actually helps nail things and makes them very simple and honest."

OMA's furniture collection for Knoll "turns industry into a fetish"

Warming led the first workshop himself. "It's not just a one-way street, where I might be teaching about how to do design," he says. "It's my view on design and what [the students] spontaneously think of that."

OMA's furniture collection for Knoll "turns industry into a fetish"
Justin McGuirk

The guest in our Dezeen and MINI World Tour Studio is Justin McGuirk, architecture and design journalist and director of Strelka Press. "The most interesting thing I've seen is the OMA furniture for Knoll," he says of this year's fair.

OMA's furniture collection for Knoll "turns industry into a fetish"
Tools for Life by OMA for Knoll

But McGuirk doesn't believe the Tools for Life collection, which includes a motorised table and chair that rise and fall at the press of large red buttons, are meant to be practical pieces of furniture.

"If you look at the way that Knoll is presenting this furniture it's the standard spiel about adaptable, ergonomic furniture," he says. "But it's got nothing to do with that. The whole thing is just a performance and I think it is deeply nostalgic for industry."

OMA's furniture collection for Knoll "turns industry into a fetish"

"It's an interesting time to launch a product like that," he continues. "Here we are in Milan where the city's industry and the country's industry is visibly in decline - it's almost this message that industry is dead, so now we can turn it into luxury. But also, it turns industry into a fetish."

OMA's furniture collection for Knoll "turns industry into a fetish"

Another piece in the Tools for Life collection is a counter made of three swivelling stacked blocks. McGuirk says: "It's one of those classic designs that purports to solve all of these different problems, but actually solves none of them. So it's actually completely useless."

"It comes clearly from an architecture studio, and one that's not overly concerned with form as well."

OMA's furniture collection for Knoll "turns industry into a fetish"
Our Dezeen and MINI World Tour Studio

See all our stories about Milan 2013.

The music featured in this movie is a track called Konika by Italian disco DJ Daniele Baldelli, who played a set at the MINI Paceman Garage. You can listen to more music by Baldelli on Dezeen Music Project.

  • chinaimport

    Sorry OMA, but even a design student from first grade would have done better.

  • jpo

    Just back from Neocon and saw and tried the OMA pieces – honestly, they are a far-out and risky departure for the company, and will no doubt somehow be rationalised by people like Justin McQuirk.

    However, they are a poor representation of industrial design, or of “good” design, and clearly an opportunity to cash-in on Rem/OMA and their worldwide architectural saturation. Memphis had far more depth and resonance than this…

  • Internautas

    I am very happy that somebody tried to talk about this furniture more seriously. I don’t think industrial design is an important thing in here. I gues with this design OMA just tried to show the problems of contemporary design – vague meaningless hipster play with form.

  • Alex

    You nail it Justin McQuirk!

    Utopian + useless + self-conscious + decadent.

  • Moreorless

    I too saw the pieces at Neocon and are deeply disappointed by Knoll. There are plenty of furniture companies that are using a designer’s name to capitalise on it. Those companies are weak brands. Then there is a handful with a strong identity. Knoll is one of them. OMA’s work is destroying Knoll brand value. That is terrible design management on Knoll’s part. The “furniture” is useless. That can not be said for anything else Knoll has done in the past.