New York City is bold and resilient, and in large measure because design and creativity are part of the city’s DNA. Through all the challenges of the past year, NYC’s designers have never stopped. Turning inward, they doubled down on the inspirations and ideals that drive them. Reaching out, many of them have touched the lives of small businesses and struggling communities.
At the start of this year, the NYCxDESIGN team asked them to share the things that keep them going—whether it’s the beautiful objects that inspire them or the tools that help them turn ideas into reality. We also tuned in to the stories of two groups that have taken very different pathways—through technology and through culture—to ensure that the creative spirit of this city never wanes. Welcome to the second online edition of NYCxDESIGN: The Magazine!
The greatest designs are built one idea at a time. This is why designers come up with ingenious ways to record and compose the things that spark new concepts or emotions. Here’s how some of New York’s designers have fed their creativity with inspiration this past year.
Creativity needs a conduit into the real world—whether that’s through a pen applied to paper or a saw applied to wood. We asked designers working in New York City to show us what they rely on to get the job done.
SEE THEIR FAVORITE TOOLS
With a new 20,000-square-foot hub for custom fabrication and robotics in Long Island City, Queens, and an iconic team of designers, engineers, and fabricators, Eventscape builds for New York’s best.
Marcelo Pontes | Architect
Remote collaboration has always been a big part of the way that Cactus works and stays inspired. One tool for staying inspired that’s always been there—and that we’ve been turning to more and more—is sketching. While many of us are not artists, everyone at Cactus is empowered to bring their ideas to life visually.
Kickie Chudikova | Product Designer
Kickie Chudikova Design Studio
Brooklyn Navy Yard, Brooklyn
Combining materials with objects, arranging colors and different structures, contrasting organic with synthetic—these are things I find inspiring when I start to think of any new project. It is a quick way to haptically visualize design directions that are then translated into 3D software.
Jessica Corr | Creative Director
This is how we dream. This board holds experiments in processes and materials to find new ways to lower our ecological footprint while providing beauty and quality for the home. Color, texture, and unique materials are put together in a new way—this is what brings us joy!—but each of these materials is also renewable, regenerative, or produced in a way that reduces material waste and energy.
Fashion and Architectural Designer
Inspiration often hits me at unexpected times as fleeting moments, which have lately been in the form of shadows, textures, contrasts, and beautifully mundane moments like watching water boil, or butter melt. I create digitally printed textiles derived from photographs, so some of these digital captures will end up as tangible garments.
Bethany Gale | Interior Designer
In lieu of travel this past year, Instagram is where I’ve gone looking for most of my inspiration. I enjoy discovering and following emerging artists— sometimes I find myself going down deep rabbit holes to find someone new and exciting. I find it incredibly inspiring to scroll through my saved folders!
Alan Calixto | Interior Designer
Upper East Side, Manhattan
Growing up in New York, I've experienced the long and grim winters the city brings. This winter was made particularly worse by the pandemic. But like the spring, these bright, cheerful colors and textures inspire a sense of renewal, hope, and play—something that’s been missing in our lives for far too long.
Kat McCord | Creative Director
On Friday March 13, 2020—a year ago today—I walked out of our studio on the Bowery for what we thought would be two weeks. I returned to pick up a few things recently and took this photo. It’s a freezeframe of our creative inspirations: colors we love, typefaces we are obsessing about, our travels, our interests, our works in progress, our inside jokes. What inspires us is always changing and evolving and I am grateful we have this snapshot in time of early 2020’s joyous optimism. Now onto our future!
Jessica Shaw | Interior Designer
The Turett Collaborative
Because our team is constantly finding new images and ideas that spark our creativity, we have a few methods of keeping everything organized so that it can be referenced when needed. While our team was working in the studio, we would curate boards using samples of textiles, finishes, paint chips, magazine clippings, and printouts that we felt may fit a project. This method allows us to substitute in different materials, reorganize the samples, and see which ones agree visually and physically.
Objects speak to us—they tell stories and evoke emotions. This is why so many designers are also avid collectors. We asked the city’s creative leaders to give us a peek into their precious hoards, and here’s what we found.
The idea for Articolo’s Fizi Ball collection came from my grandmother’s paperweight collection. She was a great traveler and loved mouth-blown glass. I remember being enchanted by her collection as a child—some with color and others with suspended bubbles. They were tactile and sculptural art glass. I don’t know where my grandmother’s paperweights went after she died. I was still young then, but I have never forgotten them in my mind’s eye—the enchantment continues:
Nicci Green | Creative Director
Nomad, Manhattan | articololighting.com
Whenever I encounter reclaimed wood, be it beams, flooring, or even Coney Island Boardwalk wood, I put a few of the pulled-out nails in this old coffee can. The nails here represent dozens of demolitions and deconstructions throughout NYC. I treasure this collection because as it grew it became a sculpture, one that represents the history of this great city.
John Randall | Furniture Maker
Brooklyn Navy Yard, Brooklyn | bienhechobklyn.com
Before smoking was bad, it was customary that venues would have branded matches. All through her twenties, my mother collected them. When I discovered the mountainous box of matches in our attic, I tried to make sense of the geographic timeline: bars in Oklahoma City (her hometown), nightclubs in Manhattan (her fabled youth), restaurants in Paris (her mysterious love life), hotels in Memphis (her early career). Some matchbooks were full, and some were incomplete: for whom were the matches struck? I've framed them in my apartment as a reminder of life’s cacophonous march and the opacity of memory.
Charlotte Zaininger | Graphic Designer
Gowanus, Brooklyn | charlottezaininger.com
Surrounded by designs from Ludwig Mies van der Rohe, Eero Saarinen, Ettore Sottsass, David Adjaye, and the incomparable Florence Knoll, my home office inspires me to contemplate designs that represent the evolution of our modern viewpoint. Everything has its own place, which plays a crucial role when working from home because it gives me the capacity to think and formulate ideas in the midst of my collection of beautiful and functional pieces.
Benjamin Pardo | Design Director
Midtown, Manhattan | knoll.com
I have started a collection of classic modern miniatures from Vitra and Herman Miller. I have around 20 of these chairs, including the Eames Lounge chair and ottoman, Le Corbusier’s LC7 swivel chair, Castiglioni’s Tractor seat stool, and Nelson’s Marshmallow sofa. Sort of as a complement to the furniture miniatures, I started a small collection of Alexander Girard’s wooden dolls. I only have four of these right now but each represents something in my life.
Katie Michael-Battaglia | Design Director
Flatiron, Manhattan | nemotile.com
I grew up in the 1960s and love most things midcentury. I started collecting lady head vases very recently and appreciate the delicate colors, textures, and dimensionality they have. The blatant irony of woman as decoration is rather curious. Their faces are very expressive and each has its own unique personality and life story. Inanimate objects have life in them and I appreciate the craft of the Inarcoware and Napcoware works. My collection is growing fast. To these few I've taxidermied mice to fashion hats for them. The expressions on these ladies' faces are so serene and so oblivious to what's going on above them!
Elaine Molinar | Architect, Partner, Managing Director
Financial District, Manhattan | snohetta.com
Sculpture and art make me very happy: Harry Bertoia’s sculptures, which have qualities of both sculpture and sound, are special and I now have five of them.
Tommy Zung | Architect, Principal
Soho, Manhattan | studiozung.com
My prized collection is an ornate mix of kitsch and trash—from plastic gems and pompoms to used oyster shells and prescription bottles. I treasure objects that fall into the category of thankless waste, exploring the new ways that, through my side hustle as a collage artist, I can give them fresh meaning and bring them back to life.
Sonia Malpeso | Art Director
Midtown, Manhattan | malpeso.info
When I was in college, I purchased two political posters while traveling in St. Petersburg (then Leningrad). At the time, I thought of them as meaningful souvenirs on a student budget. I then went on to collect similar socially conscious pieces during my travels, and treasure them as pieces that speak to both their unique origins and to my own experiences within those settings. In addition to the two posters from Leningrad, I have woodcut print posters that I purchased at URTARTE in Oaxaca. In the category of more conceptual political art, I have several works by Korean American painter and new media artist Mina Cheon; a NYC Public Art Fund banner by Ai Weiwei; and a wonderful photograph by the Argentine-Israeli artist Enrique Rottenberg that captures the modest dignity of a Cuban apartment. I think they clearly speak to my values, and have always informed my work in design.
Marybeth Shaw | Chief Creative Officer
Chelsea, Manhattan | wolfgordon.com
Architecture Research Office (ARO) is a quintessentially New York firm. So it’s no surprise that with immaculate timing, the architects have completed an art space that perfectly symbolizes a sensitive, measured return for the city’s cultural landscape.
Every year, a wave of talented designers graduates from New York City’s world-renowned educational institutions. Their projects represent the future of creativity—rooted in context, culturally sensitive, charged with social purpose, and optimistic about the impact design can make in the world.
Hosted by Debbie Millman, The Mic is NYCxDESIGN's podcast that offers an inside look into New York City's most creative minds.
NYCxDESIGN and Arts Thread have teamed up to present a 3-month Emerging Designer Residency Program at Hudson Yards.
To promote entrepreneurship in design, NYCxDESIGN provides an annual grant for local independent talent and businesses to turn their next great idea into reality.
All the content for NYCxDESIGN: The Magazine was contributed by New York’s designers and creative professionals. Avinash Rajagopal, Lauren Volker, Akiva Blander, and Ethan Tucker edited the content; Carlos Dominguez and Travis Ward were involved with the design. Valerie Hoffman, Maya Bayram, and Samantha Sager were instrumental in the realization of this project.
Emerging Designer Residency
The Breakout Grant
In partnership with
Without the right tools to manipulate materials, an idea is just an idea.
I love this thing. This unique tool is essential for the production of my new lighting collection. Its development took a year of research and experimentation with production methods. Once we had the three-dimensional shape we were trying to achieve, this was the only way to produce what I had envisioned—and I couldn’t be more excited to share it.
Architect/Sculptural Lighting Designer
Andrea Claire Studio
In my design studio, we create artworks all day long and can’t live without our brushes and homemade rubber stamps of various shapes and sizes. They are like our collaborators, and sometimes they have minds of their own!
Textile and Wallpaper Designer
Lori Weitzner Design
Flatiron District, Manhattan
A white sheet of paper is the most exciting space in the world for me. It’s a space full of potential, a window to a world to be unearthed, curated, nurtured to life. I have been putting pencil to paper since I can remember and, while technologies, trends, and ideas come and go, I never get tired of the promise in a white piece of paper and a pencil.
This image is of a pair of pliers but the most important tool is the combination of my hands with this particular pair of pliers. Over the years, I have trained my hands to use this hard steel tool to create the most fluid and sinuous lines. I’ve had this particular pair of pliers for over 20 years. Looking at the handle missing the protective rubber is slightly embarrassing but part of me wants to watch it age alongside my work. I consider these pliers extensions of my fingers and hands. They are an integral part of my bench-scape.
Prospect Heights, Brooklyn
To design is to communicate clearly by whatever means you can control or master.
The planishing hammer is a tool that smooths, flattens, and/or polishes by rolling or hammering repeatedly on a metal surface. It is an essential tool for our studio, creating some of our key pieces such as the Laurel and Blossom collections. It also allows us to continue fabricating in-house as much as possible. What I enjoy about the planishing hammer is that it allows me to be hands-on in the shop, exploring new metalworking techniques.
Rosie Li Studio
Clinton Hill, Brooklyn
The CP Lighting mini truck is as much a studio pet as it is a fantastic tool. Despite its tiny footprint (it’s only 10 feet long), it’s an amazing workhorse. Able to carry up to 1,000-pound crates, it functions as our mobile loading dock. It is a great delivery vehicle, and the rack allows me to pick up 20-foot-long material from our metal suppliers. The four-wheel drive gives it the agility and traction of a little mountain goat. It figures in with our eco-conscious ethos at 35+ MPG. And of course, it works as a wonderful branding tool and conversation starter wherever I take it.
This trio of essential tools is my humble companion anytime, anywhere! My calculator has been a reliable advisor since high school, through university up until today (yes, this same one!). It traveled the world with me and helped me to calculate budgets, estimate lead times, get exchange rates or convert from metric to imperial units on so many landscape architecture projects for an unbelievable 12 years. Along with Muji gel ink ballpoint pens (0.38mm) in vibrant colors and good espresso, the days are easy, even when I’m still working from the home office.
mmcite street furniture
I use a number of tools to create botanical linocut prints for my MazyPath wallpapers, but the V gouge is the tool that I can’t live without. The V gouge has a wooden handle shaped like a mushroom, and a V-shaped steel blade. With its rounded contours, the handle fits perfectly into the palm of my hand and reduces how tightly I need to grip the gouge as I carve. Depending on the pressure I place on the gouge, the blade can remove either narrow and shallow or wide and deep amounts of surface area. This allows me to create significant variation in the quality of my line with a single tool. For a relief printmaker, the V gouge is like a magic pencil.
Hell’s Kitchen, Manhattan
Man is a tool-using animal. Without tools he
is nothing, with tools he is all.
Fabricating a Future in Long Island City
With a massive new studio on the East River, architectural fabrication company Eventscape becomes a part of New York’s creative landscape.
By Ethan Tucker
he name Eventscape is incredibly deceptive considering the fact that we don't
While today the company specializes in perforated feature walls, sculptural cladding, undulating curtains, and ceiling textures, Eventscape did get its start in events. The company was born when Brennan’s DJ career in Toronto led him to events production. What began as a corporate event design company—specializing in visuals, lighting, and decor—later expanded to include exhibition design, retail installations, and eventually the kinds of large-scale architectural features that now occupy Brennan’s imagination. “Every couple of years we reinvent ourselves,” he explains. “Whenever we get too comfortable, we just raise the bar, so we feel uncomfortable again.”
do any events,” says Gareth Brennan, founder and president of the company, which instead produces imaginative custom fabrications and architectural
installations for environments across all markets—from airports to corporate headquarters and retail spaces. “The objects that we build are typically the unique features that when you go into a space, you sort of stop and might look up at and enjoy,” he says. “It’s functional art.”
This past year the company did just that, taking over two studios totaling 20,000 square feet in Long Island City, Queens, establishing a hub for custom fabrication, design, and robotics on the banks of the East River. But Brennan saw the Toronto-based company’s expansion to New York as much more than additional square footage. “I find New York to be the real design and cultural hub of not only the U.S., but North America,” he says. Aside from the city’s raw potential for inspiration and access to clients, he felt there was a statement to be made: “If you're the best, I think that you need to have a presence in New York.”
Eventscape’s new facility in Long Island City, Queens, features both extensive workshop space outfitted with state-of-the-art fabrication equipment as well as comfortable office space for meeting with clients and developing ideas. The expansion to New York City supplements the design company’s Toronto headquarters where 150 employees work across nearly 130,000 square feet.
Eager to embrace the city and open a fabrication shop closer to the clients who drive the design industry, Brennan pounced when the first space became available in spring 2019. Only when he and his team were fitting out their new space did they learn that their next-door neighbors were the designers, engineers, and fabricators who were responsible for creating Barney's iconic retail window displays on Fifth Avenue. When the retailer declared bankruptcy later that year, Brennan saw an opportunity to not only acquire more space but also more talent. He bought the Barney’s team’s equipment, leased their space, and hired most of their existing fabrication team, practically doubling Eventscape’s New York footprint and cementing the company’s commitment to the city overnight.
Gareth Brennan, Eventscape’s founder and president, hopes to explore opportunities to connect with New York’s creative community through the new space. Ideas include possible educational programs that would introduce students from the city’s many design schools to the world 3D printing, robotics, and design-build. And plans are already taking shape to launch an architect-in-residence program that would explore new possibilities for advanced fabrication in construction. “I want to embrace [the city’s] creativity and focus on design and culture, and try to help grow it,” he explains.
Outfitted with a Kuka 7-axis robot arm, a Haas milling center, a CNC router, an arsenal of machines for fine wood and metal working, and a vast material library, Eventscape’s new digs add capacity to meet the needs of a growing roster of clients. In recent years, the company has focused more on architectural scale, undertaking partnerships with heavy hitters such as Bjarke Ingels Group, Gensler, SHoP Architects, and Rockwell Group. They’re no strangers to working in New York either, having recently completed Journey to Edge, the two floors of detailed sculptural exhibits, graphics, and feature ceiling leading to the vertiginous Edge observation deck at Hudson Yards, as well as custom fabrication for Google’s hub in Chelsea.
“It’s been exciting to infuse that existing talent with new machinery and some of our ways of thinking and bring them into the architectural world,” says Brennan of the synergy between Eventscape and the Barney’s team that recently joined them.
With a view of the Manhattan skyline across the East River, Eventscape’s new hub is also a great place to hang out, something Brennan wants to encourage once public health considerations allow it. “There is a lounge, and the guys have a bourbon bar set up where after hours sometimes clients will come by,” he says. “We're surrounded by art galleries and incredible artists. We really want to be part of that community and give back when we can.” Other plans include an architect-in-residence program as well as partnerships with local design schools to help get the next generation of designers thinking about design-build. “Our goal is not to just focus on manufacturing; it's to embrace the things that make the design culture so great in New York,” says Brennan.
Members of the New York Eventscape team from left to right: Thomas Lee, creative fabrication specialist; Tyler Smith, senior project manager and team lead; Tristan Fischer-Smith, director of creative fabrication; Vincent Micozzi, fabricator; and Shea Paytas, fabricator. Not pictured: Brendan Creed, installation site supervisor; Jennifer Busch, director of creative partnerships; Brett Titcomb, fabricator; Col Lindemuth, fabricator; and Daniel Nissimov, project manager.
Credit: Oleg March Photography, courtesy Eventscape
The New York architecture firm ARO has had a good run in a difficult year. Just last month its reimagining of the Dia Chelsea gallery space was revealed, a finely tuned act of historical preservation and spatial unification and the latest instance of its ongoing collaboration with the Dia Foundation. Along with earlier work at artist Donald Judd’s former studio in SoHo and other high-profile projects, it’s proof the trio-led firm has staked a position in the recovery of New York’s cultural landscape.
By Akiva Blander
What were you called in to do with Dia in their New York locations?
Adam Yarinsky: We were engaged by Dia about four years ago, with the initial assignment being the renovation of their spaces in Chelsea. They own three buildings on 22nd Street and that project has been about the ground floor renovation of each of those buildings to provide greater public exhibition space and a better experience for visitors.
The second piece of work we’ve done for Dia has been various planning studies associated with their Beacon, New York, buildings, primarily to look at the lower level and put in more lighting infrastructure. The third piece is Dia’s space in SoHo. We’ve prepared design modifications and renovation for The Broken Kilometer and The Earth Room and the one space Dia has on Wooster Street. We’ve already completed construction drawings, which will probably be implemented in 2022.
Kim Yao: The project in Chelsea is a major renovation and an expansion of their public facing program space, which is a keystone to the collaboration. But they always started by saying Dia is a constellation of the three sites in New York State. So, looking at all three—Dia Chelsea, Dia SoHo, and Dia Beacon—was a parallel effort about supporting both their built environment and their programs in a broader way.
ARO renovated and integrated Dia Chelsea’s three adjacent structures, clarifying their circulation while maintaining prominence of the building’s features.
Is there something that coheres this constellation of the sites, certain elements that weave it all together?
Adam: A key part of Dia’s ethos is the adaptive reuse of existing buildings. That institutional presence is sublimated to the character of the existing building, and the artist then has a dialogue with the space, as opposed to Dia being an institution that mediates this through some architectural expression that’s added.
Kim: From a material standpoint, there are also certain elements that we were cognizant of. Brick was important—responding to the existing brick structures in Chelsea and thinking about Dia Beacon, which is this amazing brick factory structure. And then there’s obviously “Dia Gray,” which is part of their identity and which we’ve integrated very specifically in certain places. The architecture is very much about having that frame of the existing building be exposed—with exposed brick and seeing the structural envelope—so that artists can fill that space in the way they want.
Stephen Cassell: I think that Dia’s ethos of [using] these found structures is incredibly carefully controlled. Every small detail is considered in a way that supports the art and the quality of the space. A lot of what excites us about these projects, or the Rothko Chapel or Donald Judd’s home and studio at 101 Spring Street, is trying to understand both the distinct concept and the ethos of the artist or organization that we’re designing for and trying to see how the architecture can support that. In each case there are all these small decisions that can either reinforce or undermine the quality of the art or the quality of, for example, Judd’s [original] conception of the space.
Adam: When Donald Judd bought the building on Spring Street, he adapted it to his use. He very much respected the attributes that the building had. But he was having a dialogue with the building and it wasn’t about slavishly returning it to its 1870 appearance. Rather, there’s a focus on certain key attributes of that building, like the proportions of each space, the fact that you could experience each floor all at once, and the quality of glazing and windows, which are remarkable.
So, he began to have a dialogue with the structure, form, and quality of the existing building. It greatly informed his art, and the concept that Judd originated in that space
in SoHo also became the ethos of Dia. Judd was one of the first artists that Dia supported in the 1970s.
The entranceway in the easternmost structure holds Dan Flavin’s light sculpture “the diagonal of May 25, 1963 (to Constantin Brancusi)” and a bookstore whose wood recalls Dia’s location in Beacon, New York.
In 2013, ARO’s restoration of Donald Judd’s home and studio on Spring Street in SoHo opened to the public. The firm sought to preserve not only the cast-iron building, but Judd’s modifications to it.
I see you as a firm that speaks from a New York perspective. Given that these projects we’ve discussed implicate public gathering, how do you hope they will land in the next year or so as the city reopens?
Stephen: We do think of ourselves as from New York, though we’re doing work across the country. Our ethos and our experience working with existing buildings came from growing up architecturally in New York.
Kim: We are 100 percent committed to the city and believe optimistically in the future of the city. New York City is definitely not dead. Everybody has a lot of questions, and all those things are going to change the landscape of commercial real estate, what storefronts are like, what public spaces like are, in exciting ways. It’s an opportunity for us as practitioners to envision what the future of some of these typologies can be, but also how to make the city even better, more resilient, more sustainable, more accessible, and more inclusive. We fundamentally believe—which, in my opinion, is what NYCxDESIGN is all about too—that design is powerful and important and makes people’s lives better.
Projects like Dia and Judd perfectly suit this reemergence. These institutions are poised to navigate this transition with the city. In our approach, one thing that we always try to think about is flexibility, infrastructure. The spaces don’t just show art but also host the public in very different and evolving ways. So that’s what the city is all about: different and evolving all the time. And I think this is just a big moment for that to happen.
Dia Chelsea has reopened with two works by artist Lucy Raven: a lighting piece that occupies the middle gallery, and an installation in the westernmost gallery featuring a film shot at an Idaho concrete production facility.
© Elizabeth Felicella
Joshua White © Judd Foundation; © James Ewing
Photo: Bill Jacobson Studio, New York, Courtesy Dia Art Foundation