Radical by nature and a rule breaker at heart, Paola Navone has been on an endless self-described “treasure hunt” for the past 50 years. Immediately after graduating from the Polytechnic University of Turin in 1973, she traveled to Africa, where she spent months roaming the continent and taking in its vast beauty and Indigenous architecture. The following year, she published her university thesis as a book, Architettura Radicale, and then went on to join the Italian radical design groups Alchimia and Memphis. From the early 1980s to 2000, she lived between Milan and Hong Kong, seamlessly shuffling between the worlds of European industrial manufacturing and savoir faire and Asian craft and street culture—a path she has continued on to this day. Throughout, she has always been one to push boundaries and search for alternative approaches to design.
In addition to designing products for companies such as Alessi, Baxter, Bisazza, Cappellini, Driade, Exteta, Gervasoni, and Poliform, Paola has also been an inveterate collector of objects, many of which find their ways into her interiors projects, such as the 25Hours Hotel in Florence and the COMO Point Yamu hotel in Phuket, Thailand. Across her life and rich body of work, she has amassed an incredible collection of pieces that have caught her roving eye, from 1950s Sainte-Radegonde ceramics to antique metal spoons.
Organized by The Slowdown and curated by Daniel Rozensztroch, Take It or Leave It presents an eclectic assortment of hundreds of items Paola has collected or designed—the result of decades spent experiencing and seeing the world—and, in yet another radical act, gives them away for free.
OTTO Studio, Via Tortona, 31, Milano
Mon., April 17, 4-8 p.m.
Tues., April 18, 11 a.m. - 7 p.m.
Wed., April 19, 11 a.m. - 7 p.m.
Thurs., April 20, 11 a.m. - 3 p.m.
Fri., April 21, 11 a.m. - 3 p.m.
Mon., April 17, 4-8 p.m.
Thurs., April 20, 3-7 p.m.
Fri., April 21, 3-7 p.m.
*All reservations are now fully booked.
If you would still like to participate in the Take It or Leave It lottery, you can subscribe to The Slowdown’s new membership for a guaranteed drawing, with or without a reservation—just show your subscription confirmation at the exhibition door.
Please note that participation in the lottery is possible only for those who can attend the exhibition in person.
As Milan Design Week returns to some sense of pre-pandemic “normal,” we believe it’s essential to take a moment to pause and ask: What is the role of the designer today? In our whirlwind age of late-stage capitalism—a centuries-long culmination of exploitation and extraction—and reemerging from a global pandemic full of profound loss, economic shocks, and supply-chain breakdowns, we are currently living through what may be the most pivotal moment ever in human history. The decisions we make now, in this decade, will determine the long-term fate of humanity. It is up to us—as citizens of the world—to avert the collapse of our planet and its vital organs.
Now and in the future, the designer will no longer serve the role they have throughout much of the 20th and early 21st centuries. The environmentalist Bill McKibben has said, “The endless return to normal is no longer effective,”* and in the world of design, this is undoubtedly true. The Earth cannot sustain our current pace. As history has shown, endless economic growth isn’t inevitable. If the planet is a building, it is falling apart, full of leaks, and in urgent need of repair. Something has to give. To reach the U.N.’s climate goals of net zero by 2050, a reliance on virgin materials, energy-intensive processes, and a fossil fuel–driven economy—the era of oil—will have to come to an end, and soon. Designers will need to embrace regenerative resources and non-standard materials. Upcycling, recycling, and reuse won’t just be should-dos; they’ll be musts.
Going forward, design is going to need to be a communal quest, driven not by ego but by interconnectedness to everything around us. It will require a redefinition of the shared values of what it means to be a designer at this moment in time. It will be about humility, ingenuity, alternative possibilities, and collective solutions. Rather than looking at our current planetary reality as one of “resource scarcity”—a term largely pushed by Wall Street banks, a spiking stock market, and corporate greed—designers must recognize and act on the fact that we actually live in a world of great abundance, full of incredible potential and beautiful things able to be upcycled, recycled, reused, repurposed, and repaired. The future demands a flipside meaning of “wealth.”
The era of the “citizen designer,” in which the values of community, care, and collaboration are central, is upon us. The clock is ticking. If humanity doesn’t respond to the climate catastrophe before us, the angry weather will eventually force us to. Radical and epic design decisions will be critical in this next epoch. Take It or Leave It represents but one small example of this thinking in action: Why not appreciate and honor the things we already have—in this case, an incredible array of objects collected by Paola Navone—and give them a new life?
*From Ep. 1 of our At a Distance podcast, recorded on March 25, 2020
Why is Paola giving all of these objects away for free?
Paola has always been one for radical acts, and considers this exhibition an opportunity to ask, in this “return-to-normal” moment: Rather than rely on virgin materials and energy-intensive processes, why not appreciate and honor the things we already have, and give them a new life? Reconsidering how we think about “value” and proposing a flipside meaning of “wealth,” the exhibition explores the preconceptions many people have about “high” versus “low” materials.
More than just a provocative exercise, the exhibition is also an effort in upcycling and reuse, with a projective, climate-forward manifesto underpinning it. You can read our exhibition manifesto in the “Manifesto” section above.
What kinds of objects are going to be in the exhibition?
The exhibition will include everything from antique metal spoons from India to rare Alessi prototypes by Paola to fine German porcelain. You can follow @slowdown.tv on Instagram to see a selection of the items in advance of and during Milan Design Week.
How will the lottery system work?
Advance reservations will be required to participate in the lottery. During drawing times, reservation holders will enter the space, where they will have a number pulled. Next, they will be chaperoned into the exhibition room, where they will find the number’s corresponding object arranged within the exhibition. There, they will have the opportunity to literally take or leave the object.
Can I do more than one lottery drawing?
To stay true to the exhibition's name, there will only be one number drawn per reservation holder, with no re-draws.
Where will Take It or Leave It take place?
Via Tortona, 31, Milano
When are the lottery drawings happening?
Mon., April 17, from 4-8 p.m.
Thurs., April 20, 3-7 p.m.
Fri., April 21, 3-7 p.m.
When is the exhibition open for public viewing?
Tues., April 18, from 11 a.m. - 7 p.m.
Wed., April 19, from 11 a.m. - 7 p.m.
Thurs., April 20, from 11 a.m. - 3 p.m.
Fri., April 21, from 11 a.m. - 3 p.m.
The reservations are fully booked. Can I still get in?
Yes. To participate in the Take It or Leave It lottery, you can subscribe to The Slowdown’s new membership for a guaranteed drawing, with or without a reservation—just show your subscription confirmation at the exhibition door. Each member is entitled to one drawing.
Can I attend the exhibition if I don’t have a lottery reservation and/or I’m not a member of The Slowdown?
Yes. The exhibition will be open for public viewing at the public viewing times listed above. During the lottery drawing times, the exhibition will be open only to reservation holders and members of The Slowdown.
Can I bring friends, and can they draw, too?
While you may enter the space with up to three guests, there is only one drawing per reservation holder. If your friends would also like to have a drawing, they can subscribe to The Slowdown’s membership for a guaranteed drawing.
I’m not attending Milan Design Week. Is it still possible to participate?
Unfortunately, this lottery is only available to those who can visit the exhibition in person.
What if the object I win is too large for me to carry out of the exhibition?
The majority of the objects will be small enough to travel with. For any larger items, we will arrange shipments via DHL and FedEx. Lottery winners of these items will be responsible for the shipping costs, by providing us with their credit card information or DHL or FedEx account numbers.
1. Reservation holders must arrive within 30 minutes of their booked time.
2. There will only be one number drawn per reservation holder, with no re-draws.
3. Reservation holders may enter the space individually or with up to three guests. Guests may only participate in the lottery if they also have a reservation.
4. Each reservation holder agrees to be photographed and interviewed at the exhibition. They grant The Slowdown and OTTO Studio the rights to use their name and likeness for any Take It or Leave It–related content and marketing materials.
5. Remember to have fun, and don’t take yourself too seriously!
Click here for a complete list of our legal terms.