Unconvention Center

Eva Hagberg on New York Design Week

New York

Left: The Metropolis party at MoMA on Saturday night. Right: Aamu Song and Johan Olin. (Photos: Megan Doyle)

ICFF weekend, the contemporary-furniture equivalent of the Armory Show, chock full of eager-eyed designers and eagle-eyed press, officially opened with last Saturday night’s party at the Museum of Modern Art, apparently the hottest ticket in town—although, in my humble opinion, not the best. Gaggles of well-dressed girls (and the occasional boy) were turned away while the city’s best-connected and PR-savviest were let through a security ringer that reminded me just a little too much of seventeen-year-old attempts at social jockeying.

Guests were encouraged to mingle—but not smoke!—in the usually serene sculpture garden, while a few blithely sipped champagne in front of Monet’s Water Lilies, the most contentiously placed piece of art in the whole museum, which on this evening acted as pretty wallpaper for the Riesling crowd. Metropolis magazine’s executive editor Martin Pedersen offered his thoughts on Taniguchi’s redesign, which was supposed to be ethereal (but ended up a little clunky). “As uber-public space for two thousand people,” he pointed out, the museum is “pretty good.” Asked for his impressions of this year’s ICFF, he found the Italian Salon del Mobile’s desertion of the Javits Center in favor of an alternative space on Piers 90 and 92 to have adversely affected the fair. “The aisles are a little too wide; they need density,” he explained. No one was quite sure what had happened to prompt Salon de Mobile’s pulling out, but the universal agreement was that this year’s Javits Center ICFF couldn’t hold a candle to recent years’. Indeed, I did find the fair, which I visited on Saturday, emptier—and more disorienting—than I had anticipated.

After declining Bacardi shots from a bottle an intrepid editor had snatched from the closing bar, I headed downtown to the Center for Architecture for the opening of “Value Meal,” the prolific design writer Aric Chen’s first big curating gig (with Laetitia Wolff), and then ended up at the (ostensibly) star-studded Target event, which proved a raucous counterpart to the more decorous MoMA party. The chain had co-opted a SoHo parking lot and filled it with five showrooms outfitted in Target’s best designs. They must have been realistic, as word soon spread of an overly enthusiastic partygoer who mistook a non-working show bathroom for a real one. My sense of surrealism heightened, I chatted with avant-outre artist-designer Tobias Wong, whose black Kevlar rose recently graced the pages of The New York Times’s T style magazine.

Wong reminded us of the night before, when we’d attended the Dutch Village Design show of Design Academy Eindhoven’s student work. The academy, which has departments with names like “Man and Identity,” was showcasing top student work, some of which has been put into production under the watchful eyes of professors like Hella Jongerius. Tabatha Tucker, who runs the Stephen Weiss Studio and acted as hostess for the evening, pointed out the “industrial luxury of the space,” augmented by two students’ exhibition design, in which all the products were displayed on packing crates inlaid with mirrors. The most compelling pieces were a modified chain-link fence and a carved wood table manufactured with a C+C machine, an industrial woodcutting device that seems to always be just barely in vogue.

Left: The “Swedish By Design” booth at ICFF. (Photo: Gregory Carafelli) Right: Jeff Clarke and D. E. Sellers. (Photo: Megan Doyle)

Sunday night, exhausted, I dragged myself to an Umbra event at BED, a gimmicky club on West 27th where I found myself in bed (literally, for once) with one of my editors from The Architect’s Newspaper. Integrity intact, of course. Four kumquat martinis later (and gift pillow in hand), I cabbed (for the twentieth time in three days) with two writer friends down to AvroKo’s party at the Nolita restaurant Public, which the architecture firm designed, owns, and operates—a nice example of architects making (and then lying in) their beds.

There were so many cocktails I could well have forgotten to make it to the fair itself, but a few hours ambling through it on a sunny afternoon proved an interesting enough insight into the current state of the design world. Some highlights were the results of a collaboration between Bernhardt Design and the California Arts Center, a furniture line designed, manufactured, and marketed by CAC students, with the help of Bernhardt’s corporate power. The student work in general was a refreshing counterpart to some of the overly polished kitchens and carpeting systems we had to breeze past to avoid stylized boredom.

The nail in my coffin was Monday’s Metropolis party at Splashlight Studios. Architects, designers, and writers were rocking out on the outdoor terrace while bartenders mixed drinks through gigantic ice blocks that reminded us—just a little bit—of our frat-tastic sophomore year. Come to think of it—considering the rum shots, bedding editors, and plumbing mishaps—so did the entire weekend.