Destination: Downtown

Piggybacking on the success of the International Contemporary Furniture Fair, New York Design Week—which begins May 18—has now firmly established its own identity. Here’s our selection of not-to-miss events.

With furniture, lighting, and high-end design from around the world, the countless events swirling around New York City’s Design Week are always a logistical nightmare. There’s way too much to see, and way too little time. For those who don’t want to spend the week jumping in and out of taxis, or prowling the International Contemporary Furniture Fair to the point of exhaustion, it’s important to have a plan of attack. To that end, our special list of what’s worth seeing includes new work by big names, can’t miss discounts at curated pop-up shops, and where to go to discover design’s next wave.

01 / Landmark Status
Terminal Stores Building, 269 11th Avenue

This off-site fair debuted to great success in the landmark Terminal Stores building in 2011, and it returns to the same venue with an additional 22,000 square feet this year. There will be curated exhibitions, panels, events, and workshops, plus a pop-up store and plenty of places to relax, rest tired feet, and sip coffee. Visitors can vote for their favorite design in the Classic of Tomorrow competition, a showcase for the next generation of designers that’s cosponsored by Design Within Reach. Fresh From Brasil—curated by Joice Joppert Leal, the founder and executive director of Objeto Brasil—highlights the best work from that country’s designers. Other offerings from overseas round out the menu, including new work from the New Zealand designer David Trubridge, who presents outdoor lighting and scaled-down versions of his kit lights for apartment dwellers. Nouvelle Vague, curated by Cédric Morisset, features French designers such as A+A Cooren, Ionna Vautrin, Pierre Favresse, Nocc, and Pool. A members-only subscription shopping service called iGetit has a curated pop-up store featuring luxury items and high-end exclusives.

02 / The Virtual and Real Collide Pop-Up Shops and Online Sales
142 Wooster Street and 45 Bleecker Street

If you haven’t yet shopped, now’s your chance: the invitation-only design site is offering its first-ever pop-up shops during Design Week. Fans of the social-commerce sensation can check out the Fab team’s picks from Tom Dixon’s lighting lines at the London Underground pop-up on Bleecker Street. The other shop, Fab Color, in FLOR’s Soho store, features products from Quinze & Milan furniture, a series of pop posters by Kii Arens, and a red chalkboard piggy bank from Seattle-based Ladies & Gentlemen, among other finds. Orders can be placed online; curated items will be available on’s Web site the same week.

03 / Polishing the Classics
Herman Miller Pop-Up Shop
68 Wooster Street

“We’ve been working on this for two years,” Herman Miller’s executive creative director, Ben Watson, says of the launch of the Herman Miller Collection, which is coming to a Soho storefront during Design Week. “We’re expanding the range of what these timeless concepts can do, where they can go.” Pieces by BassamFellows, Matiazzi, Magis, Ward Bennett, Leon Ransmeier, and other designers promise to forge new directions for the line’s classic and functional aesthetic. “We’re adding a small number of partners with expertise that isn’t part of our history,” Watson says. “We’ve also uncovered stuff from the archives, like the Thin Edge storage program. And the Eames Aluminum Group, which was originally designed to be outdoors, will be outdoors-capable again, for the first time since it was introduced. The Eames molded plywood chairs will be reupholstered, and we’ll offer the Eames tables in stone.” Even with its updates, the new collection won’t alienate strict classicists, as it includes reissues of the traditional Eames and Nelson pieces for which the company is known. “Nelson called the collection ‘a set of objects that, together, can comprise a daytime living room where work can be done under less tension and with fewer distractions.’ Obviously, that’s something that still resonates today,” Watson says.

04 / Chaos and Craft
American Design Club and Karlsson’s Gold Vodka Raw + Unfiltered Exhibition
Heller Gallery, 420 West 14th Street

“Our club is always in search of new ways of looking at things,” says Kiel Mead of American Design Club (AmDC). “We wanted to do a show centered around materials, and when Karlsson was interested in sponsoring AmDC, we saw it as a great opportunity to unite their process, which is so raw and unfiltered, with our love of material design. Raw + Unfiltered was a perfect starting point for designers.” The resulting exhibition, on view at the Heller Gallery in the Meatpacking District, showcases materials and processes. The curators have called for “design that is considered, but not contrived,” says Mead, “design that embraces both chaos and craft.”

05 / Creative Hubs
Noho Design District
22 Bond Street and The Standard, East Village

Noho Design District, which is now in its third year, has new locations for 2012. “We’re starting to feel that it has its own momentum,” says Jill Singer, who is organizing the event along with Monica Khemsurov. “Iacoli & McAllister are doing an installation at Oak, and Brooks Hudson Thomas is curating a selection of artists and designers under his label, Specific Merchandise.” This year’s hubs are 22 Bond Street and The Standard, East Village. Confirmed designers include Fort Standard, Bec Brittain, Areaware, Makers & Brothers, Atelier de Troupe, Todosomething, Shin Okuda, Steven Shein, Brendan Ravenhill, Kelly Lamb, Scout Regalia, and Ian McDonald.

06 / Born in the USA
Love it or Leave it: American Standards Revisited at Gallery R’Pure
3 East 19th Street

“I realized, with the success of the Brokenoff show last year, how important it was to offer visibility to American designers during Design Week,” says Gallery R’Pure curator Odile Hainaut. “In New York, there’s a remarkable group of designers—very multicultural. So I decided to keep the gallery for them during Design Week, and give them the opportunity to present some personal work.” The show features reinterpreted versions of ordinary American objects or traditions, from street signs and automobiles to traditional holiday celebrations, as seen through the eyes of New York–based designers such as Lindsey Adelman, Brad Ascalon, Joe Doucet, Sebastian Errazuriz, Josee Lepage, Paul Loebach, Frederick McSwain, Alissia Melka-Teichroew, Marc Thorpe, and David Weeks.

“It will certainly be a very strong show, a combination of emotional and rational, conceptual and functional—a story in ten chapters,” Hainaut says. Showcasing points of view ranging from celebratory to critical and abstract to concrete, Hainaut presents a considered and thoughtful—if not definitive—take on American life, as interpreted by the designers who live and work here.

07 / The Ancient Arts
Alberto Alessi Collaboration with Cranbrook Design Academy
130 Greene Street

During a March 2009 visit to the Cranbrook Academy of Art, Alberto Alessi decided to organize a workshop with students in the school’s industrial design department. Observing the silver- and metalsmithing studios, he remarked on the “clear attitude typical of the Arts and Crafts movement, which has always intrigued me so much—especially because it is very rare in European design.” He describes it as “a cultural background based on the hammer, and on the metalworker’s manual ability.” In the workshops, Alessi encouraged students to resist the ease of computer design, in favor of a harder-won, more handcrafted aesthetic. Participants could submit their projects to Alessi for critique, and the results, he says, were impressive.

“The workshop resulted in projects that I would define as more ‘ancient,’ more manual, more ‘arty,’” Alessi says. “The collaboration enriches Alessi’s work as a research laboratory in the applied arts, and as an artistic mediator between design on the one side and the market on the other.” Four projects from the workshop will be included in the Fall/Winter 2012 collection, set to launch at Alessi’s newly remodeled flagship store in Soho during Design Week.

08 / Rolling Out the Brand
Avenue Road Shop
145 West 25th Street

This Design Week, Avenue Road is opening a new permanent showroom and formally launching their editions in the American market, including a new sofa, stools, and rugs designed by Yabu Pushelberg. New work from Christophe Delcourt includes lighting options and a series of modular glazed-ceramic side tables. “The showroom features designers and collections that are exclusive to Avenue Road,” says owner Stephan Weishaupt. “We’re looking forward to providing an inspired experience for New Yorkers.”

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