Metropolis’s “T is for Talent” Exhibit Helped Envision the Future of the Workplace

Metropolis showcased four emerging talents in a vibrant installation at NeoCon 2017.

Norma’s Bookshelf is a freestanding hardwareless, scalable storage system that debuted during NYCxDESIGN 2016. Courtesy Norma

This year’s NeoCon, held at the Mart in Chicago from June 12 to 14, once again gave industry leaders an opportunity to showcase their best and boldest work. At the same time, the team at the Mart doubled down on their efforts to provide a platform for emerging talents, turning to Metropolis for a second year in a row to help give a voice to a new generation of designers.

As part of this endeavor, Metropolis, with the help of Chicago-based architecture studio Design With Company, curated the exhibit T Is for Talent!, which highlighted the work of up-and-coming studios Branch, Norma, Studio Gorm, and Moving Mountains.

In designing the installation, which needed to command a strong visual presence within a small physical footprint in the lobby of the Mart, Design With Company cofounders Stewart Hicks and Allison Newmeyer found inspiration in The Listening Room, a 1952 work by Belgian surrealist René Magritte. In the painting, an oversize green apple fills a pink-walled room. Hicks and Newmeyer reversed this composition, creating a towering pink structure in the form of a capital T with its arms cantilevered over the surrounding space, covered in Milliken Formwork Sapphire carpet. “A key characteristic was the simplicity of the concept,” Newmeyer says. “This allowed the design to be supple enough to absorb new requirements as they came,” adds Hicks.

Metropolis Neocon exhibit
T Is for Talent!, curated by Metropolis and Design With Company. Courtesy Jessica Pierotti

In a change from last year, given the constraints of the space, the curators decided to feature photographs of the work instead of the objects themselves. The images folded around the installation’s edges, mimicking wallpaper. Hicks and Newmeyer’s inspired handling of forms and materials carried over to the frames of the photographs, which were custom-made and clad in WilsonArt Satin Brushed Gold laminate.

For Metropolis, the installation was an opportunity to envision the future of the workplace. In choosing which designers to feature, Metropolis vice president of design Paul Makovsky and director of brand strategy Grace Ehlers looked to projects that took an almost residential approach to workspace design. “The whole ‘resi-mercial’ crossover means that companies are increasingly looking for contract solutions that make people feel as comfortable in these new workplaces as they would be at home,” says Makovsky. “The designers we selected all have the potential to elevate brands with their refreshing and thought-provoking responses.” The curators highlighted a selection of products that experiment with form and material, as in the case of a luxurious blue suede chair by Moving Mountains and a sleek bookend by Norma, or offer provocative solutions to contemporary concerns, such as Branch’s Airplane Mode, a concrete capsule that blocks mobile phone signals.

Metropolis Neocon exhibit
Detail: T Is for Talent! Courtesy Jessica Pierotti

“The most successful moment was seeing attendees, many of them leaders in the contract industry, stop in front of this giant pink monument and take a moment to pause and discover something new,” Ehlers says. “This resetting is crucial, and we were incredibly proud to be a source of inspiration in that way.”

branch Metropolis Neocon exhibit
Branch’s Dusk Dawn is a lighting collection for Ghidini 1961 unveiled at the Salone del Mobile in Milan this past April. Courtesy Branch

Members: Nick Cronan and Josh Morenstein
Founded: 2013
Work: The San Francisco–based firm’s expertise includes industrial and experience design, packaging, branding, and strategy.

Moving Mountains Metropolis Neocon exhibit
Moving Mountains’ The Chaise Lounger is Lew’s latest work and is on display at Colony, a designers’ cooperative of which she is a member. Courtesy Moving Mountains

Moving Mountains
Members: Syrette Lew
Founded: 2014
Work: Brooklyn-based Lew works with regional craftsmen and fabricators to produce furniture and accessories.

Norma Metropolis Neocon exhibit
A detail from Norma’s Bookshelf, showing how its flat-pack elements can be assembled without any hardware. Courtesy Norma

Members: Benjamin Critton and Heidi Korsavong
Founded: 2016
Work: The Los Angeles studio specializes in objects, movables, and spaces.

Studio Gorm Metropolis Neocon exhibit
Studio Gorm created these Shaker baskets for the second edition of Furnishing
Utopia, at the DWR showroom in New York this past May. Courtesy Studio Gorm

Studio Gorm
Members: Wonhee and John Arndt
Founded: 2007
Work: In addition to their design practice, the Arndts teach design at the University of Oregon.

You may also enjoy “Highlights from the September 2017 Edition of Maison & Objet Paris.”

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