Seven totemic designs at Lake Como Design Festival

Sculptural totems in different materials, colors and sizes were exhibited at this year’s Lake Como Design Festival, where the neolithic-informed objects enjoyed a revival.

Among the many designers showing at Italy’s Lake Como Design Festival this year, a notable number drew on totems – traditionally sacred spiritual objects – for their work.

Now in its fourth year, the annual design festival aims to establish a link between architecture, design and art in the region. This year’s theme of neo-nomadism resulted in an array of designs that reference the location’s rich design heritage and history in the form of totems.

Created by Italian artistic director Lorenzo Butti, the event showcased work by designers including Italian architect Fabio Novembre, Australian designer Dean Norton and Como-based duo Draga & Aurel.

“The journey has to start from what history has handed down to us, accompanied by a fundamental awareness of the importance of preserving what we have, while creating anew what has not been seen before and promoting it,” Butti said of the festival.

Read on for our selection of seven of the most exciting totemic designs:


A red totemic sculpture

Red Figure by Min Park

Seoul-based designer Min Park referenced Asian pagodas – tiered towers usually built to have a religious function – for Red Figure, a towering sculpture made from soil and paper pulp and finished in a deep-red glossy varnish.

Park based her design, which was on show within the neoclassical Villa Gallia as part of the emerging design collective Movimento Club’s exhibition, on Korean stone pagodas where people gather to make wishes and stack stones on top of each other.


A beige and red fabric hanging

Metamorphosis by Rikki Peltola

Finnish artist and designer Rikki Peltola created Metamorphosis using what she referred to as a “meditative and organic” technique, hand-crotcheting delicate paper threads to create the textile, which stretches towards the sky similar to a totem pole.

The fabric was designed to echo how plants adapt to their surroundings by expanding their roots outwards in search of nutrients and water, particularly in extreme environments.


Two totems outside a window

Tribu Vases by Verter Turroni for Imperfettolab

Three totemic poles by the founder of Italian design studio Imeperfetto Lab, Verter Turroni, were positioned on a balcony that wraps around Casa Bianca, a historic palazzo overlooking Lake Como.

Shown as part of an exhibition curated by Galerie Philia, the totemic stone structures can also be used as vases. Each column is formed of a wide, rounded base and topped with different cylindrical shapes.


Two totemic pole sculptures at Lake Como Design Festival

A Thrust by Scattered Disc Objects

Made entirely from marble, these two neutral-coloured sculptures are designed to look like primitive devices for storing or hiding valuable objects such as coins.

Design, technology research and architecture studio Scattered Disc Objects created several spare pieces of marble stone that can slot neatly into the gaps in the upper halves.


The interiors of an exhibition hall at Lake Como Design Festival
The photo is by Alice Finney

Fran Lamp by Llot Llov

Shown within the Movimento Club’s exhibition was a floor lamp with natural raffia fringing – also known as Japanese grass – that unfolds to cover 80 centimeters in diameter.

Produced by Berlin-based interior product brand Llot Llov, the natural fibers around the lamp help cast the light in a soft glow while also contributing to its organic shape and totemic feel.


Several sculptural objects on a table at Lake Como Design Festival

The Playful Rover by Christian Schule

Inside the ornate Nobel Hall of the Casartelli Science Museum, designer Christian Schüle exhibited an array of sand-coloured sculptures called The Playful Rover.

Made to be stacked or playfully slotted into one another, Schüle’s tactile items combine pyramidal shapes with spheres in a nod to ancient architectural structures.


Two lights with hemp shades in a bathroom inside Lake Como Design Festival

Presence by Agustina Bottoni

Italian designer Agustina Bottoni draped a thin veil of translucent hemp fabric around these two coordinating floor lamps, giving them an ethereal appearance.

Each lightweight LED lamp, which is called Presenza, has a solid brass foundation finished with satin that has been molded into unusual geometric totem-like shapes.

All images are courtesy of Lake Como Design Festival unless otherwise stated.

Lake Como Design Festival 2022 takes place from 17-25 September 2022. See the Dezeen Events Guide for information about the many other exhibitions, installations and talks taking place throughout the week.

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