Harnessing Design to boost tourism – A closer look at Design Weekend

What connections can be drawn between Design and Tourism? More importantly, how does Design play a role in shaping and innovating Tourism? We have gathered insights from Paola Coronel, the mind behind the Design Weekend project.

What exactly is Design Weekend? To put it simply, it is a concept that recognizes, advocates for, and advances the enrichment of the connection between the landscape, businesses, and culture, primarily within the domain of design. It accomplishes this by fostering synergies that might otherwise be difficult to establish, all while utilizing the event as a tool for interaction.

An occasion for industry professionals, design luminaries, companies, and architects to engage in dialogue and exchange ideas, but it goes beyond that. Now in its fourth installment in Courmayeur, this event is about to commence (1-4, February), and this year’s distinguished guest is none other than Patricia Urquiola, who will serve as the keynote speaker for the important conference taking place on Friday, February 2nd, at the Skyway Theater on Mont Blanc.

Design Weekend _ Interview with Paola Coronel _ CDW23_Skyway_ph Giacomo Buzio
Courmayeur Design Weekend 2023, Skyway – ph Giacomo Buzio

Following in the footsteps of previous speakers like Michele De Lucchi, Carlo Ratti, and Piero Lissoni, Patricia Urquiola, a leading figure in the international realms of design and architecture, will take center stage during the event’s most prestigious moment.

We’ve collected insights from the creator of Design Weekend, Paola Coronel, to gain a deeper understanding of this innovative event.

Courmayeur Design Weekend 2023, Skyway, Piero Lissoni – ph Giacomo Buzio

Who is Paola Coronel, and what is the origin of your design journey?

Paola Coronel:

“I work as an architect and began my professional journey at Studio Michele De Lucchi after completing my degree in service design at Politecnico. Shortly thereafter, I had the privilege of also serving as an assistant to Andrea Branzi. For more than a decade, I had the opportunity to refine and evolve my design philosophy and approach while working alongside these two highly influential figures in the design and architectural world.”

Paola Coronel, Founder of Design Weekend

What inspired the creation of a format like Design Week-end?

Paola Coronel:

“I wasn’t just an ordinary teenager when I started attending the Salone del Mobile and the first Fuorisalone parties in the 1980s. My mother worked at Interni Magazine back then, and my father was with ICF DePadova. Design and design-related events were an integral part of my daily life. In 2020, as I realized that the ski race I had created and managed since 2000 was approaching its 20th anniversary, it felt natural to expand the event’s scope, transforming it into something akin to a design week. Ultimately, the idea of a design weekend felt even more significant, especially since it was set against the backdrop of one of the most renowned ski resorts: Courmayeur.”

Courmayeur Design Weekend 2023, Comprensorio sciistico – © Alessi

Exploring the intersection of tourism and design, but outside the context of Milan Design Week, in various locations. What are the fundamental principles linking these two domains?

Paola Coronel:

“Design Week-end brings the experience of Milan design weeks, away from everyday working routine, in a different scenario where nature and landscape meshed up with design exhibitions and creative installations. This unexpected combination, define a prolific ground where people get to know each other so much easily and this grant an effective influence on networking activities. The combination of design contents with local specific point of interest, ensure every time a unique event.”

Design Weekend _ Interview with Paola Coronel _ CDW23_Centro Congressi_ph Giacomo Buzio
Courmayeur Design Weekend 2023, Congress Center – ph Giacomo Buzio

The theme for this year’s Curmayeur Design Week-end is ‘Un passo avanti’ (in English: ‘A Step up’). What is the intended meaning behind this theme?

Paola Coronel:

“The theme this year was suggested by a chronicle event, occurred to a young girl who had been killed by her ex boyfriend. It was so shocking that it was hard to move away from the idea, that as society, we all should do a step up. The more I was thinking about this fact, the more realize that a step up is also what defined architects & designers, that are often considered (or expected to be) sort of trend setters. Design companies themselves have always to be a step up, in order to face the market winningly.”

Courmayeur Design Weekend 2023, Comprensorio sciistico – ph Giacomo Buzio

What do the locations where the format has originated so far, namely Pietrasanta and Courmayeur, have in common? And, if there are any planned future destinations, what will they be and why?

Paola Coronel:

“Courmayeur and Pietrasanta are as first one of the most preferred destinations for people living in Milan. Surely because they are not too far away (Milanese people tent not to spoil time, ever!) but also because, each in its context, are some of most beautiful vacation spots. Courmayeur facing the highest European mountain Mont Blanc, with its valley and slopes; Pietrasanta, set as a precious gemstone, between the Alpi Apuane (where the white Carrara marble comes from) and the marvelous Versilia beaches. As a small, high profile event, Design Weekend is looking for those destinations.”

Courmayeur Design Weekend 2023, Architetti a confronto – ph Giacomo Buzio

Design Week-end gathers renowned figures in architecture and businesses. What unique value is provided to the participants?

Paola Coronel:

“Being part of a queer family. We are a group of professionals, who know each other since long time ago, who meet yearly for a ski race and since 2020 for an out of records design summit. The mood is super chill, informal, but with an outstanding level of professionalism. This makes Design Week-end unique.”


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