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Elissa Black, executive director of NYCxDESIGN, and GRAY checked out the installations and events during the city’s annual celebration of design. Here are a few standouts.

A bright orange chair with many feet sits in a bright blue painted room with other design objects around it.

"CURRENT: Tides of Contemporary Design" was one of the highlights of NYCxDESIGN. Image by Marcus Vinicius De Paula.

NYCxDESIGN—New York’s premiere design-and-architecture focused festival—was back in full swing this year and celebrating its 10th anniversary. With more than 1,000 local designers participating (and 200+ events, installations, and activities around the city), New York’s creative spirit was on full display over 10 jam-packed days.

“It was truly a special edition of the festival, between the 10th-anniversary celebrations and the collective energy and enthusiasm around engaging with design again at this scale and in this setting,” says Elissa Black, executive director of NYCxDESIGN. “Diverse and designer-led, this festival saw an incredibly strong turn-out across pop-up exhibits and collection debuts, immersive design installations, and wonderfully curated group shows.”

Although NYCxDESIGN held programming in 2021 (and hosts events year-round), this year’s edition, with its return to the usual springtime schedule, had ebullient energy—after three years of a global pandemic and the near-complete shutdown of the city that never sleeps, it felt like things were moving forward in a positive direction. And that the design industry is ripe for reinvention. According to Black, NYCxDESIGN is ready to help shape that future and continues to be a support system for the design community at large.

“NYCxDESIGN unifies New York’s expansive design community and champions its positive impact on the city’s creative economy,” she says. “Our year-round programming creates more and more equitable opportunities for designers, uplifts the diverse work and voices of New York’s design community, and educates and inspires our young people to become the City’s designers of tomorrow. NYCxDESIGN is focused on design’s role in building toward a more equitable post-COVID New York City.’”

GRAY had the opportunity to spend time with Black, hopping around the city to check out installations, events, gallery shows, and more. Below, find our highlights from the week.


A large circular sculpture made of steel strips in Times Square.

"FILTER," by CLB Architects, installed in Times Square. Image by Andres Orozco.

Designed by Wyoming-based CLB Architects, FILTER was a dynamic architectural installation in the heart of Times Square. FILTER started as a simple concept: a folded sheet of paper, carefully sliced, and able to stand on its own. Eric Logan, a partner at CLB, translated the model into a full-scale structure composed of a series of hot-rolled steel plates arranged to form a 24-foot-wide ellipsoid that stood 20 feet high. Meant to evoke Wyoming’s rugged landscape—a jarring thematic juxtaposition to the frenetic, urban energy of Times Square—the pavilion contained a lone tree at its center. After NYCxDESIGN, the tree was donated to the New York City non-profit The Battery Conservancy, and FILTER was disassembled and sent back to Wyoming where it will live on at EMIT (the exhibit patron and steel supplier and fabricator).


A table with five floral arrangements running down the middle. Yellow, red, and green chairs are pulled up on each side.

Floral designs by Lufti Janania for Vitra. Image by Eric Petschak.

In celebration of the release of Vitra’s Flower Guide—a delightfully illustrated volume with tips for creating floral-focused looks for home or work—as well as the introduction of the Vase Découpage collection by Ronan and Erwan Bouroullec, Swiss furniture brand Vitra invited Brooklyn-based floral designer Lufti Janania to create a series of installations for its U.S. headquarters. Janania, the founder of Rosalila Studio, worked with an eye-catching—and sometimes unexpected—mix of botanical material (for example, layering demure, lavender-hued roses with tropical-colored blooms) that brought a wild flourish to Vita’s classic (and newer, but still minimal) pieces.


A yellow couch against a black-and-white graphic background.

A room at the Casa Brazil exhibition. Image by Rachel Gallaher.

Craftspeople in Brazil are known for their meticulous, hands-on approach (which can feel like a rarity given today’s tech-driven focus) that dates back centuries, but is just as important to the country’s current artistic culture as it was in decades past. Some of Brazil’s best were on display at Casa Brazil, a large furniture and design exhibition that popped up in SoHo. Organized by ApexBrasil (a trade and investment promotion agency that promotes Brazilian products and services abroad), the exhibition brought together work from nearly 50 brands, companies, and individual designers including Estudiobola, Uultis, Alexandre Kasper, Bruno Faucz, Gilvan Samico, and Ibanez Razzera.


A white circular bench on green grass under a bridge.

A rendering of Kickie Cludikova's bench proposal. Image courage of the designer.

In partnership with Caesarstone, NYCxDESIGN launched its inaugural design competition, IMPACTxDESIGN. Designers Karim Rashid and Kickie Chudikova each developed compelling concepts, using material from Caesarstone, to showcase how design can foster engagement and enhance public space. During the festival, Chudikova’s piece, Spiral of Life, was installed and unveiled in Brooklyn’s DUMBO neighborhood. The bench, which is made of concentric riblike pieces of outdoor-safe material from Caesarstone, has a form that is delightfully reminiscent of a dinosaur skeleton, bringing a dash of whimsy and play (as well as a place to rest) to a busy corner of the neighborhood. According to Chudikova, her inspiration came from the shape of waves of the Hudson River and the sculptures of Isamu Noguchi.

CURRENT: Tides of Contemporary Design

A room showing two pieces or pink-hued artwork. One is a square piece of glass, the other a small stool.

"CURRENT: Tides of Contemporary Design." Image by Marcus Vinicius De Paula.

Organized by sculptor Marcus Vinicius De Paula and his partner Tess De Paula, CURRENT: Tides of Contemporary Design was the second showing of work under the CURRENT title (the inaugural exhibition happened last year). The showcase looked at the overlap between fine art and design and featured 17 emerging designer-fabricators and studios (Natalia Landowska, Simon Johns, Benjamin Kapoor, among others) based in and around New York, with a few additions from farther afield. With a cohesive arch of material exploration, the work was playful and vibrant, divided into two rooms: one for the brightly colored, uniquely formed in-your-face work, the other a softer reprieve of layered lighting, furniture, and sculpture with no less exquisite detail. “This spring’s selection has a playful vibrancy, with bold colors and surprising finishes,” notes Tess De Paula. “New York represents a deep pool of talent with the daring vision and technical skill needed to make such works.”

MASA GALLERY: Intervención/Intersección

A cream-colored room with a metallic chain-link bench and a wall of shelves full of pottery and sculpture.

Frida Escobedo's "Creek Bench" at MASA Gallery's "Intervención/Intersección" show. Image by Caylon Hackwith.

Making its New York debut, the Mexico City-based MASA Gallery—known for its site-specific, nomadic shows—opened its ambitious U.S. iteration, Intervención/Intersección, in a former post office beneath the Rockefeller Center. Featuring Mexico-based artists, architects, and designers (notable names include architect Frida Escobedo, lighting designer Héctor Esrawe, and Ewe Studio), the work works together, tapping into the past and present of Mexican design—from detailed forms created through traditional craftsmanship, to pieces that take cues from more recent pieces such as the Acapulco chair. Escobedo’s Creek Bench chair is a knockout, its metallic chains flow elegantly off the central form, while also hinting at a rebellious, punk-rock edge.

Intervención/Intersección is open through June 24.


"Spotlight One" at the Ace Brooklyn is the first exhibition by Black Folks in Design. Image by Kelly Marshall.

For its inaugural showing, Black Folks in Design—a collective network that connects Black designers across disciplines—debuted work from six designers and studios at Ace Brooklyn. Black Folks in Design was founded by Little Wing Lee, who in addition to serving as the design director of Ace Hotel group’s Atelier Ace, also helms her own interior design practice, Studio & Projects. The seven works on display demonstrate the diversity of talent and aesthetics of Black designers—from Lee’s narrative-driven textiles to the delightfully deceiving chair by Luam Malake (she’s playing with materials and expectations).

Spotlight One will be on view through June 29.


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