The Block Party
With furniture shops, design ateliers, and new architectural developments, the Meatpacking District is a bona-fide design destination

Abe Gurko is the organizer of the inaugural Meatpacking District Design Week events.

From its humble origins as home of New York’s meatpacking companies to its days as the prowling ground for transvestite hookers to its present guise of Clubland, USA, the Meatpacking District has never been short on personality. One of its presently evolving identities is that as a designer hotbed. According to Abe Gurko, who is organizing the first series of design events in the Meatpacking District during ICFF this year, The neighborhood has never gotten together to say We’re fabulous. Come see us not just at night but during the day, too.” Gurko, who in the past few years has organized off-site events during ICFF at the Chelsea Hotel and at Drive-In Studios went on, This is the first year that we’re claiming the neighborhood as a design destination..

From Saturday, May 20, to Monday, May 22, the Meatpacking District Design Week will present a series of events, exhibitions, and lectures amid the backdrop of the area’s new architectural developments. For example, a panel discussion on Women in Architecture on Monday, May 22, will include Clodagh, the designer of the Caledonia, a new apartment complex attached to the High Line, and Amale Andraos, a partner of Work, which is in the process of converting a complex of historic Meatpacking District buildings into Diane von Furstenberg’s new flagship store.

The neighborhood’s well-known clothing boutique’s are also being folded into the mix: A model of the neighbhorhood’s centerpiece, the High Line, which recently began its transformation into a public park, will be displayed in the windows of the Carlos Miele boutique, itself an innovative interior designed by New York firm Asymptote. And Stella McCartney’s shop will display the latest offerings of London-based Established & Sons, founded by former Wallpaper publisher Alasdhair Willis (who is also McCartney’s husband).

Courtesy Karkula
Paola Lenti’s Bliss textiles will be on view at Karkula.

The idea for the Meatpacking initiative arose in conversations between Gurko and Kip Kotzen, the director of the Vitra store on Ninth Avenue, and John Erik Karkula, who runs his eponymous furniture shop on Gansevoort. Gurko convinced Annie Washburn and David Rabin of the Meatpacking District Initiative, a group that represents the neighborhood’s businesses, to support the effort.

My shop and other design-related shops in the area typically do something during ICFF,, said Karkula, but we have never been connected in any way.. This year, his store, as well as kindred local shops Vitra and Design Within Reach, will anchor Design Week. Karkula will present a Best of Milan exhibition, which will show recent work by Paola Lenti and Mooi. And in front of his shop, Gansevoort Street will be filled with an open-air design fair organized by London event promoters Designersblock.

The Meatpacking event is mostly about creating an atmosphere for the design industry,, said Gurko. We’re interested in promoting the culture and people of design, rather than straightforward business interests. What’s going on in the Meatpacking District is not at all like a trade event..

The veteran events planner continued, To me, New York Design Week needs to evolve even further.. As of press time, Gurko was still putting the finishing touches on a dense program that takes advantage offand shows offfthe venue-rich district. New York City is an important player on the international design scene,, he observed. Organizing these events is the only way to make design become a citywide interest..ANDREW YANG

Dumbo Takes Flight
Now in its fourth year, bklyn designs gathers the best of brooklyn’s furniture design talent in dumbo, giving local makers a boost and nurturing a community

Bklyn Designs was conceived by Christine Abbate, left, Karen Auster, right, and Kenneth Adams (not pictured).

The settlement of Brooklyn’s industrial fringe by designers is old news, but until BKLYN DESIGNS started four years ago, no one could be sure of the scope or character of the borough’s creative output. Kenneth Adams, president of the Brooklyn Chamber of Commerce, said, We knew that there was a critical mass of designerssin particular of furniture and furnishingssand that it was time for Brooklyn to mount a unique event around it.. Adams brought on Karen Auster of Auster Events, an events-planning and market-research firm, to conduct a market analysis of emerging business sectors. Auster found that, indeed, Brooklyn had a high concentration of furniture designers, noting that the main clusters were in DUMBO, Red Hook, the Navy Yard, and Williamsburg..

So Adams, together with Auster and Christine Abbate, founder of Novitt, a Brooklyn-based communications firm specializing in architecture and design, developed the concept for a trade fair of sorts, open to contemporary furniture and furnishings designers based in or whose work is continued on page 20 dumbo takes flight continued from page 19 made in Brooklyn. As a sign of its success, BKLYN DESIGNS now finds itself fending off companies from outside the borough that want to participate. We’ve had people from Manhattan trying to sneak in the showwand from other states!! laughed Abbate.

This year’s event, which runs May 12214 and is held in locations around DUMBO, near the Brooklyn Bridge, is the largest yet, with 54 exhibitors, including 23 first-timers. BKLYN DESIGNS is not like ICFF and we don’t want it to be,, said Dania Ahmad of Novitt. It has a very community feel to it, but also a high level of professionalism.. This stems from the show’s organization: BKLYN DESIGNS has an advisory board that includes Thomas Schutte, the president of Pratt Institute, Jen Renzi, senior editor of House & Garden, Cindy Allen, editor-in-chief of Interior Design, and Arnold Lehman, director of the Brooklyn Museum. Moreover, the show is juried and has a dedicated trade day, to keep its emphasis on quality contemporary design. Some of the exhibitors also show at ICFF but in general, the show is more for smaller companies. It’s also more affordable (at $1,500 per booth, compared to ICFF, where a comparably sized booth costs $7,200). Most of the Brooklyn exhibitors are just making the leap from custom- and small-batch production to larger collections. When the companies become bigger, they can move on to ICFF or other shows,, said Adams.

gillian haro
Sunset Parkkbased furniture designer Rob Day will introduce his first collection, R.Day, at BKLN DESIGNS.

The organizers made a conscious decision to hold the event the weekend before ICFF, an interesting move given the urge of other off-site events to attract the attention of international design media that flock to New York for the main event. In this sense, BKLYN DESIGNS is really home-grown, by locals, for locals. Of last year’s roughly 5,000 attendees, one quarter was trade, and three quarters were general consumers. I just ran into one of our exhibitors who told me he’s still busy from custom commissions that he got from regular people coming to the event last year,, said Auster.

The Chamber of Commerce puts approximately $50,000 toward BKLYN DESIGNS, which is also funded by admissions, booth fees, and sponsors-led this year by appliance company Bosch/Thermador/ Gaggenau and Two Trees Management, which is developing a large portion of DUMBO. The Chamber’s funds actually come from a program called Brooklyn Goes Global, a state-funded initiative dedicated to providing marketing assistance to Brooklyn manufacturers. Previously, the program, which has been around for ten years, had focused on more traditional manufacturing. But it became clear that the manufacturing base was changing,, said Adams. When we started, people came out of the woodwork, pun intended,, said Adams.

For Adams, one of the most gratifying aspects of the show is the degree to which the show has helped identify and foster a community. The show has helped anchor a very important sector of the economy,, he said. And the designers have come together, socializing, helping each other, pointing each other to resources, exchanging ideas on how to run their businesses..

BKLYN DESIGNS includes a full roster of events, including lectures, exhibitions, and parties. For more information, go to CATHY LANG HO

The Good ‘Burgers
Altoids Living Spaces is a strong sign that Williamsburg’s design scene has come of age

Dave Alhadeff, left, and Jason Miller, right, are curators of this year’s Altoids Living Spaces show.

Williamsburg design has come into its own, and for Jason Miller, it is a culture that is distinct from others in the city, or even the country. One of the main characteristics of people who move here is that they tend to be makers of things, whether it is art, music, or design,, said Miller, himself a designer. I don’t think there are such large communities of makers in other places. It’s no coincidence there is a bigger pool of design talent here than anywhere else..

That talent will be on display during Design Week in May, when Altoids Living Spaces opens at the local event space Supreme Trading. Miller put the show together with Dave Alhadeff, who opened a design store called The Future Perfect in the neighborhood three years ago. The show will include the work of about 30 young designers, many of whom live and work in the area. Along with The Future Perfect, the Living Spaces show has been one of the agents helping to define the local design culture and give it a more public face. It grew out of an event called Joint Venture that Alhadeff had worked on with the designers Ruby Metzger and Bart Bettencourt in 2003. (Joint Venture has subsequently been combined with Firstop, which is a series of open studios, events, and public art projects throughout Williamsburg that will also run during Design Week. See events guide for more information.) Altoids’ sponsorship of the show has allowed Alhadeff and Miller more leeway its production. The support has also inspired the Altoids Designer of the Year Award, which comes with a purse of $2,500 and the chance to design a limited-edition Altoids tin. Miller’s one-time boss Karim Rashid is the award’s celebrity judge.

For Miller and Alhadeff, who both attended the Milan Furniture Fair last month, it is what happens off the trade show floorrin the events and exhibitions that often spring up around the fairssthat is the most interesting and provocative. After all, these fairs happen at convention centerssthey’ll be selling tape there next week,, laughed Alhadeff. The buzz that circulates throughout Milan is something that they want to recreate with Living Spaces.

Courtesy Altoids Living Spaces
Michael Andrulewich’s Axe Table II (top) and Jun Aizaki’s Foam Chair are two of the pieces featured in the Altoids Living Spaces show.

ICFF remains at the heart of Design Week, but these Williamsburg happeningssalong with those in DUMBO and the Meatpacking Districttare providing more opportunities for large manufacturers, small workshops, custom woodworkers, textile designers, graphic designers, architects, and fashion designers from New York and beyond to rub shoulders.

Living Spaces is submissions-based, and is open to U.S. designers, no matter where they live and work. So while its sensibility reflects the Williamsburg design scene, it isn’t just an exhibition of that work. The show isn’t about that culture, but it is very much a part of it,, said Alhadeff. But what characterizes that culture? For Miller, Williamsburg style grows out of middle-class suburban American culture. Though this isn’t necessarily a shared background for all locals, it is the general baseline for the general sensibility one will see in the show. There is a Williamsburg aesthetic,, said Miller, And you see it not only in design but in clothing and elsewhere. Altogether, it makes sense.. ANNE GUINEY