Movie with Max Fraser of London Design Festival on Milan design week

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"Milan design week is incredibly frustrating for visitors to navigate"

Dezeen and MINI World Tour: in our final movie from the MINI Paceman Garage in Milan, MINI head of design Anders Warming talks about the history of the original car and Max Fraser, deputy director of the London Design Festival, explains why he believes Milan needs to improve the visitor experience during its design week. 

"Milan design week is incredibly frustrating for visitors"
The original MINI launched in 1959

The original MINI was designed in the 1950s by Alec Issigonis for the British Motor Corporation and launched in 1959. "Back then it was designed as a mobility concept," says Warming.

"It was such a clever package. It was the first mass-production transverse engine with the cooling on the side of the engine so we had no long front overhangs."

"Milan design week is incredibly frustrating for visitors"
Monte Carlo Rally 1964

The original MINI was not only compact, Warming explains, it also won races. "In 1964 we won the Monte Carlo [Rally] and it was beating much larger cars with six and eight cylinder [engines]," he says.

"That is one side of the brand, the racing heritage: it's such a fun car to drive and it's such an efficient way of putting power to the road."

"Milan design week is incredibly frustrating for visitors"
BMW's new MINI launched in 2001

Warming says that BMW wanted to recreate the design ethos of the original car when it launched the new MINI in 2001. "Entering the new world, we found out that that is exactly what people are looking for," he says.

"[People want] a clever package that makes for a fun driving experience and at the same time is a beautiful car."

"Milan design week is incredibly frustrating for visitors"
Max Fraser

Max Fraser, deputy director of the London Design Fesitval (LDF), is the final guest in our Dezeen and MINI World Tour Studio.

"I now come to Milan with a slightly different hat on," says Fraser, who took up his position at LDF in 2012. "I'm now looking at Milan from a research point of view."

Via Tortona, Milan
Via Tortona, Milan

"Actually one of the most interesting things that I've been observing is the navigation of the city," he says. "I think it's very difficult, and the reason for that is there's no coherence to the week, which is really frustrating."

"Milan is a phenomenon because it's been going for such a long time that it's grown into the most important design event in the year," Fraser continues. "That has created almost a monster in so much as there's so much noise in the city. So I think increasingly there will be a backlash, that there's just too much going on and it's really, really difficult to be heard."

"Milan design week is incredibly frustrating for visitors"
Salone Internazionale del Mobile 2013

Fraser believes that the city should be doing much more to improve transport in the city during design week. "The infrastructure of this week is incredibly frustrating," he says. "The subway system is ever so confusing, it's impossible to flag down a taxi on the street, you sit in traffic the whole time."

"I think where the city can actually help is in trying to regulate that more efficiently. The economic impact of [the design week] for Milan is immense, so I think the least they could do is to try to make it a more pleasurable and easier-to-traverse experience."

"Milan design week is incredibly frustrating for visitors"
Crowds of people visiting the Galleria Vittorio Emanuele II shopping arcade in Milan

Fraser then goes on to say that he believes Milan and London are set apart from many other design weeks around the world because of their strong local design community.

"Design is key to distinguishing a city from another city," he says. "At the last count, there were just shy of 100 design weeks around the world, [but] a lot of [the design] is imported, they fly it in."

"I think it's fair to say that in Milan there's still a very strong community here for design, and London has a strong community for design. And personally, if I fly half way around the world, I want to see design from that place."

"Milan design week is incredibly frustrating for visitors"
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.