Madrid Design Festival

Exploring the Magic of the City through a Design Lens

By Megan Reilly

Madrid, Spain’s capital city of 6.5 million people, paints the picture of a modern and cosmopolitan hub where fashion, culture and entertainment share a thriving space. I hadn’t been there in ages; actually since my days of studying abroad in college which is a lifetime ago. So when I learned that Madrid hosts a city-wide design festival that runs for several weeks, my ears perked up. And soon enough, my flight was booked and bags were packed!

Madrid offers so many opportunities to explore its rich cultural and historical legacy. With over 80 museums and two thousand monuments, from the Prado Museum and the Reina Sofía National Museum, to the Thyssen-Bornemisza Museum and, more recently, CaixaForum, the cultural offerings in painting, sculpture, design, architecture and nature are plentiful!

With that rich cultural mindset, it’s not hard to see how the City could support a festival centered around all things design. Now in its seventh year, the Madrid Design Festival (MDF) turns the city of Madrid into the largest possible showcase for the work of great local, national, and international designers from mid-February through mid-March. With its motto “redesigning the world”, MDF promotes design as a tool capable of providing a new look at the problems and circumstances that mark our daily lives. The thoughtfulness around these exhibitons and the questions posed about how we, as a society, can address today’s most pressing issues were top-of-mind. Two such exhibitions explored the topics of depopulation (including the benefits of shifting focus away from urban, overcrowed cities) and loneliness among young people.

Most of the Madrid Design Festival events were walkable in/around the city. And, it is a very pleasant city for walking with grand boulevards and gorgeous parks, juxtaposed against more quaint neighborhoods with winding, cobblestone streets. With February temperatures in the balmy 60s while I was there, exploring different neighborhoods on foot was the best way for me, personally, to see the most of Madrid.

Here are some of my MDF highlights:

 

Exhibition Miguel Milá

A retrospective exhibition on Miguel Milá, one of Spain’s most influential industrial designers, and dinner with his family was first on the tour. Milá, at the young age of 93, has been influencing design for decades  with iconic pieces such as the Cesta (1962), TMM and TMC (1961) lamps. Milá applied his craft to many household objects, making the ordinary beautiful and more functional.

Espace Tramo

©JUAN BARAJA

One of Madrid’s most talked about new restaurants which just opened last November is Espace TRAMO, and we were treated to a private tour with the owner and architects. This project is the second initiative by Proyectos Conscientes who seeks to redefine the concept of urban recreation and to promote responsible consumption. The owners place equal importance on architecture, design, gastronomy and social responsibility, and what they’ve created is pretty spectacular.

With the circular economy and environmental responsibility all top of mind, much of the design/construction used materials and elements from the pre-existing structure, which was an industrial garage from the 1950s. Recycled wood, for example, has been used to make seat backs, doors or bathroom fronts, and the sand resulting from demolition has been used to make the plates. If you find yourself in Madrid, I highly recommend that you make a point to experience it yourself!

 

Chairs: Icons Of Modern Design

Alexander von Vegesack, the exhibition organizer and co-founder of the Vitra Design Museum, curated this collection of 80 pieces from his own collection. Of all people, he knows his chairs!

“Chairs: Icons of Modern Design” is a tribute to human ingenuity and artistic expression, tracing the metamorphosis of chairs from their humble, handcrafted origins to the iconic designs that today reflect the cultural, social and technological changes of the time. The exhibition offers a journey through the history of industrial design from the 19th century to the present day, through an object as everyday and universal as the chair.

 

Gandia Blasco Showroom

Gandia Blasco Group revealed the winners of the inaugural edition of the International 3D Awards, the first-ever global 3D creation competition aimed at artists and creatives, bringing together a furniture company with a 3D model platform, BoModels. Entrants and winners were on full display with photography that had us mesmerized.

 

Neomatique: The Sound Resonance Exhibition

We have all heard the expression ‘where the rubber meets the road’. But what happens when a tire has reached the end of that road and is past its prime for the originally intended purpose of transportation? Well in this case, the rubber meets fashion, design and state-of-the-art acoustical speakers!

The SIGNUS exhibition designed by Gianluca Pugliese set out to illuminate how tires can be repurposed into beautiful objects, rather than meeting the alternative fate of a landfill.
Rubber was reincarnated, putting the material to creative use through objects that transcend conventional boundaries, from avant-garde jewelry to fashion, design products and cutting-edge acoustic solutions — all possible through 3D printing with the support of the company LOWPOLY.

With over 50 temporary installations and exhibitions around the city just for the Madrid Design Festival, I wish I could have stayed longer! But alas, all good trips must end. I’ll be better prepared to tack a few extra days on to my schedule next year for more inspiring design, shopping, and Madrid culture. And, of course, more tapas! ☐

For details about MDF, visit:

www.madriddesignfestival.lafabrica.com

 

Madrid may just be the most under-rated capital city in Europe. It offers a thrilling mix of centuries-old history and contemporary cool. And, it’s officially the sunniest European capital; the sunshine, blue skies and normal balmy weather (outside of the super hot July/August months) further enhance its vibrant and joyful energy,and make it a wonderful multi-facted travel destination.

 

WHERE TO STAY

Jardines de Sabatini

Edition
Modern design meets glam with this newer property designed by Ian Schrager, complete with rooftop pool.

Jardines de Sabatini
Centrally located by the Royal Palace with amazing rooftop terrance views of the City.

TÓTEM Madrid
A luxury boutique hotel located in a 19th-century building in the Salamanca neighborhood.

 

WHERE TO EAT

Market San Miguel
This food hall is a must-visit destination with stalls from 30+ different vendors—delicious food, wines, vibrant flavors, and a buzzing atmosphere.

TerraCota
Upscale, innovative

seafood & meat dishes, plus its signature sangria, presented in a beautifully designed interior.

Bodegas el Maño
A classic Spanish tapas bar packed with locals and visitors enjoying excellent food and delicious wine.

 

WHERE TO SHOP

Don’t miss Malasaña, a hip neighborhood filled with coffee shops, bakeries, vintage stores and mom-and-pop boutiques.
El Moderno

Fun concept store for home accessories and whimsical art.

Two Hands Madrid

Leather goods designed and manufactured by hand in Madrid, reflecting an ideology that combines design, quality, and craftsmanship with social responsibility and environmental awareness.

Hijo de Epigmenio

Enchanting homegoods store with handcrafted ceramics, fabrics and other table-top accessories.

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