Highlights from New York’s Annual Design Week
May in New York City is always quite a special month. It’s the peak of spring and the warm temperatures encourage everyone to shed their winter hibernation habits. For the design community, there’s also no better place to be to take in day after day of packed shows, exhibitions and parties. While NYCxDesign isn’t yet on the same level with Salone del Mobile, it is making strides to be more accessible to the general public while still being a great opportunity for design professionals and fanatics to network.
Summarizing weeks of content into just one gallery wasn’t a quick task, but here’s a rundown of some of the events and objects that stood out.
Over its 16 year run, Brooklyn Designs has been hosted at several sites around the borough. For 2019 it moved to the newly renovated Building 77 at the Brooklyn Navy Yard. The roster of exhibitors included a number of companies designing and manufacturing within the Navy Yard. The show presented a broader representation of design from Brooklyn beyond home furnishings. Tarform’s sinister looking electric motorcycle was on display. Ride With Us Foundation showed off a ’63 Ford Falcon that was to be temporarily graffitied during the run of the show. After that it would become a restoration project for high school students.
A bonus was a chance to tour the almost complete Dock 72 building set to become a massive co-working space. The building was constructed on the end of an original pier and offers panoramic views of Downtown Brooklyn, the East River and Lower Manhattan. There’s also a chance to see the goings on at the still operational ship yard that’s normally hidden from public view.
WantedDesign’s Brooklyn exhibition was once again held at Industry City, a now established hotspot in the borough. Spanning two floors, the focus of the show is typically on schools, international collaborations and Industry City-based designers and makers. Among the exhibitors were a working pottery studio producing pieces for a charity auction and an installation designed by Rodolfo Agrella of colorful paper lights and glassware.
Design Pavilion Times Square
To stage a week long outdoor design exhibition in the middle of Times Square sounds like madness. But this is the second successful year the Design Pavilion occupied the pedestrian corridor spanning several blocks. Virginia Tech exhibited their winning 2018 Solar Decathlon entry FutureHAUS. The American Design Club presented a series of sound installations in individual booths that allowed visitors to create music or circuit jam.
Pratt Design Show Brooklyn
The largest student design show is held annually in the ARC Building on Pratt’s Brooklyn campus. It covers undergraduate and graduate Architecture, Product Design, Graphic Design, Fashion, Illustration and Advertising programs. It’s the show to see to get your architectural model fix.
There’s little like roaming the aisles at Javits, passing stand after stand trying to take it all in. The International Contemporary Furniture Fair is the trade show at the heart of NYCxDesign. It’s a true test of attention stamina and visual editing. It sadly isn’t the most photogenic of environments. I wish more exhibitors would consider how their space photographs since everyone is taking pics with their phones.
There are however some personal favorite areas of the show I make sure not to miss each year. ICFF Studio is set up like a gallery and features the work of student and early career designers. Bernhardt takes over a large swath of floorspace to feature their new collections. I always try to shoot it just after the doors open on an off day to get as many people-free photos as I can.
Raw and gritty describes the atmosphere of the second Next Level designer showcase. Spread over multiple floors of a space that once housed the famed Canal Jeans store, Next Level captures the DIY vibe that used to be a hallmark of a lot of NYC design shows. The main floor was covered in hundreds of pounds of ground up car tires that would later be donated to a local playground as a safety play surface.
The floor below was an installation sponsored by retailer Pearl River of 70 paper lanterns customized by local artists and textile designers. The lanterns were up for sale with proceeds donated to charity.
I’m sure many people missed the small metal stairway that depended in to the basement. Down there was a series of translucent paintings made with repurposed packing materials.
Colony’s loft-like space overlooking Canal Street presented Pas de Deux as a fifth anniversary exhibition. The airy space featured a kinetic ‘cloud’ ceiling and design objects paired with complimentary paintings and sculptures.
Masters of Design / Harley Davidson & Outpost
The first of what looks to be an annual conference, Masters of Design exhibited a couple bikes from sponsor Harley Davidson including their first all-electric production motorcycle, the Livewire. Tucked in the back of the main conference space was the Lightweight Electric Concept, a design study for an urban electric scooter.
Photos and Text: Dave Pinter