Highlights from first post-COVID NY Design Week
Stepping into the Javits Center in Manhattan for the first time in two and half years felt both strange and familiar. After being postponed from earlier in the year, ICFF and newly relocated WantedDesign were back, this time offering a smaller sized floor area to explore. Beyond the anchor events at the Javits, a few other in-person exhibitions and showroom tours were held. We tried to get to as many as possible and overall the mood was much quieter with less attendance than the typical May events of the past. Still, it was good to get out and collect some images to share here, all the while staying as safe as possible.
Photos and Text: Dave Pinter
The Chair: form. function. fascination.
Design Pier’s The Chair exhibition presented the work of established and new designers take on this ubiquitous human life accessory. Held at Brooklyn’s Usagi gallery, the exhibition presented eight designs both new and familiar. While the collection was quite edited, the range of shapes and materials included provided for an interesting tour. Take for example the brutalist steel F02 Lounge Chair by ATELIER BARDA next to the Flow chair by lapiegaWD made from what appears to be a single length of bent gold tubing.
Current: Tides of Contemporary Design
Current is both a nod to the evolving aesthetics, processes and technology of contemporary design as well as the adjacent location of the exhibiting designers and studios to NYC’s East River. Temporarily taking over a corner storefront in Brooklyn’s DUMBO neighborhood, the show finely straddles the line between usable and collectible design objects. The show didn’t present a group of designers all chasing the same aesthetic, so there was lots of variety in forms and surface finish. Some very precise and others more artistic. With BKLYN Designs absent from this year’s calendar, Current offered a look at the output from more than a dozen NYC-based designers and studios.
Foscarini Showroom NYC
New York design week isn’t complete without a showroom tour especially around Soho. The Soho Design District typically hosts a Saturday night roster of openings and parties. While 2021 was a much more subdued night out, it was good to do a circuit of the showrooms and spend time in some favorites like Foscarini. The Italian lighting manufacturer had a few new items on display including a 20th anniversary version of Mite by Marc Sadler which won the Compasso d’Oro design prize in 2001. The new edition of Mite features a shade wrapped with black carbon thread that progressively gets closer as it reached the base, creating a subtle gradient effect.
The International Contemporary Furniture Fair (ICFF) is meant to be the headliner event of NYCxDesign. For 2021 it’s normal expansive overtake of the main exhibition hall at the Javits Center was considerable reduced in size. The show shared the floor with a couple other architect and designer trade shows BDNY and LUXE Interiors. Still, there were a number of stands that caught our eyes. Hoek’s clever collapsable tables and desk was a standout. The designs feature removable legs made from recycled plastic milk containers that stow underneath the top. The entire table can be hung on a wall (we already requested a mirror top version).
Bernhardt and Ethnicraft had some of the best stand designs. Large framed out plywood boxes served as vignette spaces for pieces from Bernhardt’s seating collection. Ethnicraft created a series of room vignettes that included many pieces with contrasting shapes and materials but worked well together as a whole.
After ending a long run at the Terminal Stores (formerly the Tunnel nightclub) location in Manhattan, WantedDesign moved to the Javits center for 2021 with a more condensed and trade show-like format. The exhibition only focused on their Launch Pad and Look Book programs that promote design prototypes and the work of North American designers. Among the rows of fairly tightly packed booths were a few standout exhibitors. LA-based Loose Parts makes wood and metal components that can be used to build an almost infinite variety of shelving. The overlapping bar joint eliminates the need for cross bracing.
Hannah Vaughan Studio showed a few tables made from chrome car bumpers, salvaged metal roofing and oil barrels. These pieces recall the crushed metal sculptures of John Chamberlain with a more practical purpose.
The sixth edition of boundary pushing design exhibition Jonalddudd was held inside the Canal Market. The aim of the annual show is to explore the edges where design and art intersect and inject commentary, critique and humor. The small exhibition space was packed with the work of more than 50 designers and artists presenting an array of one-off furniture, lighting and accessory pieces exploring the fringes of contemporary aesthetics.
Brasil: The Best of Contemporary Brazilian Furniture Design
This temporary exhibition in Soho aimed to promote contemporary Brazilian furniture design and manufacturing. The Brazilian Furniture Project is a regular at other design fairs like IMM and Salone del Mobile. Seating mostly caught our eye at the NY show. There were some quite nice examples of simple forms using metal, wood and upholstery.
Allsteel Showroom NYC
Office environments have been a hot topic the past two years as the debate over their relevancy continues. For office furniture manufacturers, the path forward is still very uncertain. Allsteel’s 14th floor showroom in NYC’s Flatiron neighborhood offered a glimpse at how they are adapting to the changes in collective work spaces. The main purpose of this visit was to hear an announcement of a partnership with iconic furniture brand Fritz Hansen to offer their line through the Allsteel sales network. Maybe this will lead to some future product collaborations and we’ll finally get a task chair version of Arne Jacobsen’s Egg Chair.
A wander around Allsteel’s showroom revealed a lot of rethinking about the design of furniture for meeting areas and day stay desks. There’s a new focus on making sure furniture and objects both assist the task and hand as well as offer a complimentary aesthetic to a work at home environment.