Now that the dust is settling on NYC after thousands of designers exit back to their respective cities worldwide, it's time to get a bit introspective about the show. Why do we make the trip every year? For the new products? For the networking? For the offsite exhibitions? For the opportunity to get wasted on someone else's dime in a Meatpacking loft? In the spirit of thinking about the "why", fueledbycoffee went undercover to observe NYC Design Week and ICFF in the field. The following field notes aim to reveal the forces that truly drive NYC Design Week. Enjoy.
We told you about InDisposed last week in the ramp up to New York Design Week. Yesterday we were able to catch up with Jen Renzi and Dan Rubinstein who took us through a tour of some of our favorite items. Lots of nice anecdotes here, so if you enjoyed the show the first time, make sure you check out this backstage pass! Here's the pitch:
InDisposed asks 15 thinkers to address the theme of disposability, waste and wastefulness through design. The result is 15 mass-produceable pieces made from sustainable materials with disposability in mind. At the end of the show, each object will be ceremoniously and responsibly disposed of in the manner designed for it.
Kohler's brushed nickel Flipside showerhead, whose shape recalls an old-fashioned radio mic, flips its workings to deliver four different types of sprays. The form is sensual but chunky, designed to be easy to manipulate even with soapy hands.
Their new Reve collection features sleek, geometric lines intended to both please the eye and remain easy to clean. The lavatories come in both pedestal and wall-mounted (shown here), with the latter featuring a hardware-free integrated handle that accesses the pull-out drawer. The one-piece toilet is dual-flush.
Though New York Design Week has mostly wrapped up, there is still some nice work to be seen in longer running shows around town. One of these is Lost & Found, curated by Anna Cosentino at Spring Design & Art in DUMBO, running through July 31st.
The show asks 13 artists and designers to interpret the Lost & Found theme through new or existing work. The result is a range of objects that reflect, among other things, humour, narrative, luxury, comfort and usefulness. For example, Peter Cole responded with a collection of sculptures that transform toy horses into distinct characters through a careful accrual of appendages and costuming made from other found objects. Angel Chang, a fashion designer, worked with a thermochromic ink manufacturer to obscure a map of downtown Manhattan with heat-sensitive orange ink. This map is then revealed in small bits and pieces through the actions of the wearer of the garment.
Other pieces include: I Live Here by Steve Butcher, a set of photographs documenting ways that Yucatan locals mark paths in long stretches of jungle using discarded packaging; Made Out of New York by Gregoire Abrial, a series of furniture pieces made from scavenged material from the streets of different New York neighborhoods and marked with a location ratio; and Bread Sole Shoes by Stijn Ossevoort, a pair of shoes that leave a trail of bread crumbs, functioning as an example of what the designer calls "Placebo Design," an object that is designed to make the user feel psychologically secure over providing a distinct function. Pictured above are Bookscapes by Katya Marritz and L'il Hankie by Peter Cole .
From El Salvador comes the design duo of two Carloses (Lopez and Garcia) called 2CC Arquitectura Diseno. Their fiberglass and leather MUKA object, above, defies single-category description; it's either a bench, a table, a stool, a bookshelf or a magazine rack, depending on which way the user orients it.
Philippe Starck's modular shower system for Axor made its North American debut at the ICFF.
The Axor Starck ShowerCollection offers a designer- and installer-friendly, building-block system for creating a shower from individual elements that can be freely combined, thus allowing complete design flexibility.
The basis of the modular collection is the perfection of the square: All elements of the collection emanate from a simple 5-inch x 5-inch module. Devoid of any curlicues or frills, this basic building block can house any of several functions: thermostat, volume and diverter controls; handshower or showerhead; even lighting, sound and shelving modules.
A shower for the modest this ain't--one of the overhead components, designed to "deliver an exceptionally luxurious showering experience," is called the Axor Starck ShowerHeaven and it dumps water on you from a 28-square-inch fixture. Now you can experience what it feels like to be a winning U.S. football coach.
Among our discoveries in yesterday's wanderings through Brooklyn: a small collection of exclusive furniture pieces commissioned by local design incubator/furniture mainstay The Future Perfect, which has been bringing the work of designers from Brooklyn and beyond into the light for the better part of a decade now.
The tiny exhibition, down in the basement beneath the PBR-grasping crowd in FP's courtyard, included this clever, historically rich piece by Joel Voisard, entitled simply Box Cart. Joel walks us through the (surprisingly functional) operation and construction of the cart in this video. Pay close attention to the hidden internal construction that allows the vintage boxes to be accessed from either side, and the extreme portability afforded by a wheelbarrow-based frame. Lovely stuff, if you've got the space.
London-based designer Min Hoo Park has been showing his Integrated Table concept at the fairs for a few months now, but to truly grasp its awesomeness, you need to see the thing in action.
Here, Min walks us through the various flips, plug-ins, and modulations that make this such a seductive piece of furniture/art: the dishes, cup, vase and candelabra plug neatly into dedicated sockets, and the tray and tabletop remove for greater flexibility. Wait for the end, when he unveils its tall, elegant cousin with integrated champagne bucket and tapas table.
The days of the bare sink in the bathroom are long gone, as designers are now running wild with bathroom furniture intended to hide our toiletry clutter and bring aesthetic sophistication into the loo.
Leading the way is Italy-by-way-of-Chicago company Lacava, which combines furniture made in the U.S. with washbasins and faucets from Italy. As they point out:
Europe is a land of small businesses with a long history of fierce competition....each one tries to distinguish itself from the others by developing original designs. This is true in all fields. Bathroom furnishings are one of them. Nowhere else in the world can you find such a variety of artistically designed bathroom furniture and accessories as in Europe.
This explains Lacava's absolutely staggering amount of products encompassing sinks, cabinets, vanities, and more, in dozens upon hundreds of permutations. Anyone seeking inspiration for matters of the bathroom can spend literally hours browsing their site. Check 'em out here--you're bound to find something you've never seen before.
We ended the weekend rush last night at a few packed events featuring work from local designers.
American Design Club showed pieces in the windows of the Design Within Reach Flatiron location, where we ran into some of the charter members of the organization, including Kiel Mead, Charles Brill, Theo Richardson, Alexander Williams and Annie Lenon. After lots of hi's and bye's and a stop at the phenomenal taco stand on Bedford + North 1st (or thereabouts), we moved over to the shared courtyard of The Future Perfect and A&G Merch in Williamsburg, where we enjoyed the cool air and checked out exclusive work from Jason Miller, Scrapile, Claudia + Harry Washington, and Joel Voisard.
Monday morning at the Metropolis pavilion marked the beginning of the full day conference on Design Entrepreneurs entitled "Innovate." Susan Szenasy, Metropolis Editor and Chief, and Bruce Brigham, President of the American Society of Interior Designers, took on the hosting duties.
The first speaker was James Ludwig, the head of global design at Steelcase, the pioneering green furniture manufacturer and majority owner of IDEO. Speaking rapidfire, the clearly enthusiastic Ludwig explained how his planned three year stint at Steelcase grew into a ten year residency. Accompanied by beautifully designed slides that would make a typesetter proud, Ludwig began by talking about "the language of design," but rapidly morphed into a discussion of usage and production. He drew an illuminating continuum of architectural scale versus user scale showing how large and lasting products needed to be timeless, but small user-scale products could afford to be both timely and personal. From there he discussed Steelcase's design philosophy (smart, desirable, and viable). As a sign of the times, he listed sustainability under the "desirable" category rather than the more obvious smart or viable, but perhaps that befits a company that received the first LEED Certification for a manufacturing plant. After that framework he broke headlong into several illuminating case studies very rich in both process and slides.
A relatively quick and easy way to turn your Danish eyewear shop into a design destination? Locate it in the Meatpacking District, and fill it to a depth of 14" with plastic balls. Guaranteed to generate traffic, some exceptionally playful photos as well (more after the jump), and the best overheard quote of the day: "Ow! Be careful not to step on the balls..."
In all of the discussion about the negative effects of outsourcing, one solution rarely discussed is the hands-on one. John Reeves, founder of a small furniture manufacturing company that bears his name, dealt with the concerns of poor offshore working conditions by moving to Vietnam and starting a fabrication shop in person, building some fantastic, durable furniture along the way. The chairs, tables and benches he produces with his Vietnamese co-workers are cast in aluminum sourced from recycled engine blocks and conduit, and the results are curvaceous, solid and thoroughly modern.
One of the most seductive examples of sustainable manufacturing we've seen at the Javits this year, and the sort of object that might, as John points out, be "dug up from a field 500 years from now," still perfectly serviceable.
Mockett is the type of company an industrial designer would never get bored working for. They make a variety of cool-looking and useful items across seemingly interminable categories (Kitchen, Bath, Closet, Hardware, Cable Management, etc.) and often come up with simple but never-before-seen shapes and form factors. The breadth of their products is staggering--everything from adjustable-height table legs to doorstops to pop-up power outlets, the list goes on and on.
Check out their suh-weet hubless caster, above. I thought the same as you when I first saw it--"Looks cool but must be weaker." (I was wrong; each caster will support up to 150 lbs.) Comb through their site for literally hundreds of other cool products and designs.
Graypants' Scrap Lights are made from used cardboard boxes. The pendant lamps range in diameter (depending on the size of the box from whence they came) and come in three different shapes: disc, bell, and irregular.
Japanese office furniture manufacturer Okamura wants you to get down--low to the ground. Their ergonomic research indicates that a "lower, reclining seating posture" leads to a "well-relaxed yet highly-concentrated condition suitable for intellectual and creative work." Hence their Cruise workstation and Luxos chair, which put the user in a posture that looks less like a desk jockey and more like a racecar driver.
Another Okamura piece of note is their ProUnit FW modular desk, with an "invisible structure" that stretches for three meters yet doesn't require supporting legs, meaning plenty of bodies will fit and no one has to bang their knees.
Lastly, their NT folding table quickly and easily breaks down, rolls out of the way, and nests to make the most out of available space.
Up on the eighth floor of the newly-opened Ace Hotel on 29th Street lurked one of the nicest surprises of Design Week so far: the clever, topical and sweetly presented McMasterpieces show, curated by former ID Magazine editor Monica Khemsurov.
The pretext, noted earlier here on Core, is pretty straightforward. Each of the 13 designers or studios submitted an item or collection constructed entirely from parts sourced from the McMaster-Carr catalog of industrial materials, with some surprisingly artful and functional results. Presentation was in keeping with the down-to-earth premise, with a list of parts used (complete with catalog numbers) in a single hotel room decorated in Ace's humble, comforting style. Todd Bracher's Stick Lamps, pictured above, are constructed from bent aluminum and steel tubing and LEDs hacked from flashlights; more projects and party photos after the jump.
Norway-based Varier Furniture's "intelligent sitting" philosophy is simple and alluring: "If humans can move in a natural way, even when sitting, the body will feel better and possibly also last longer." The company combines Form & Function with Movement & Variation, resulting in beautiful chairs that allow the freedom to sit in a variety of positions and still remain comfortable.
The great thing about attending an exhausting furniture trade show like the ICFF is that you occasionally get to rest your dogs by lounging in pieces like these. As you can guess, once I hit Varier's area, I didn't want to get back up.
Above: The Penguin, Peel Club, and Tok, the latter being the sexiest update on the Eames classic we've yet seen.
After a day of touring some of the offsite events in Manhattan, we headed to the Meatpacking District to check out the string of events revolving around the 414 Gallery on West 14th Street. After stopping there for snow-cones and chocolate biscuits, we visited Studio Dror at Yigal Azrouel, Bond BeLow Tech at the Milk Gallery and the annual after party at Shadi and Company's wedge shaped rooftop studio, where we met the designers behind Playful: Finnish Design.
Stilvoll's beautiful, versatile Crescendo C2 desk uses clever, and nearly invisible, mechanical engineering to provide access to multiple storage compartments, expand in size, adjust in height, and tilt portions of the desktop up into drafting-table angles. Comes in three heights: "School & College," "Secretary" and "Standing-Desk." This is a combination of industrial design and craftsmanship at its finest, and the walnut version is particularly eye-pleasing in person.
Design Week offsites tend to cluster in a handful of neighborhoods: last night most of the action was in SoHo, and Sunday revolves around the urban grunge/over-the-top environs of the Meatpacking District. Extending a trend we noticed last year, truly new design displays were few and far between, with the majority of "events" being simply a bit of music and some plastic cups of wine in an unmodified high-end retail space.
One pleasant exception, and easily the most worthwhile destination in the area for design seekers, is the the Design 09 show at the 414 Gallery (414 West 14th St.). The space acts as a sort of gallery concentrator, gathering together recent work from IDEA/Brasil, IDSA New York members, Iceland Design Center, designboom, LO-TEK, and a number of other design and architecture studios.
A few favorites are shown above, including one of Fernando Prado's brilliant adjustable lamps, and one of the best examples of a chunky wooden screen we've seen in quite a while, part of designboom's show.
A packed crowd filled the Metropolis Pavilion on Sunday afternoon to hear Michele De Lucchi interviewed by Paola Antonelli. With two such luminaries it was anyone's guess who the audience had come to hear. Antonelli, of course, is the senior curator at the MoMA and De Lucchi is a design icon whose trajectory included the Memphis Collective and Alchimia. Upon introducing De Lucchi, Antonelli explained that they had forgone slides in favor of an open discussion since his industrial design was something anyone would recognize upon seeing. Quite an understatement. As the designer of the iconic Tolomeo lamp for Artimide, De Lucchi literally defined the form that most people recognize as an office desk lamp.
Rather than focus on the objects we know so well, Antonelli instead chose to interview De Lucchi about his life and philosophy. Since De Lucchi had been involved with so many pivotal movements, his anecdotes were a virtual who's who of design icons. After introducing him with the quip, "changing the world one chair at a time," Antonelli let him tell his life story. After ostentatiously choosing to arrive at the Milan Triennale in a Napoleon outfit, De Lucchi met Ettore Sottsass, the center of the Memphis Collective, and the rest, as they say, was history. Antonelli and De Lucchi's easy banter filled the rest of the hour with non-stop quotables and a direct connection to the very origins of postmodern design.