In the early days of the pandemic, MOMA curator Paola Antonelli and London-based design commentator Alice Rawsthorn started an Instagram Live series called Design Emergency. It documented the more phenomenal design solutions emerging from the Covid crisis – those tackling pressing health and societal needs with unprecedented focus, clarity and speed, often in a very local way. May sees the launch of the book that evolved from the conversations they had with the problem-solving protagonists and moves those conversations on to the next focus for the design world: how to build on the experience and be the agent of change. It’s apt then, as New York’s design shows, the International Contemporary Furniture Fair (ICFF) and WantedDesign Manhattan return to their regular springtime slot from 15 to 17 May, at the Jacob K. Javits Convention Center, that Antonelli’s is a voice we will hear in the key talk 'Design Emergency: Building a Better Future'.
Finding a new sense of purpose
When the New York shows stepped out of the pandemic shadows last November, there was a lot of catching up to do. Eyes were on what everyone had got up to over the past two years. Now, it’s time to move things on. Antonelli’s focus will be on four themes: Technology, Society, Communication, and Ecology. Taking place a month before Milan’s rescheduled Salone, and with a roster of exhibitors from more than 16 countries making the trip, it’s in New York that we will start to see if there really is a new sense of purpose in these areas.
The ICFF + WantedDesign Manhattan Talks programme – sponsored by Mercato Place and American Standard, and whose stage is designed with the support of Turf Design, Midgard and Be Original Americas – will provide the framework for many of the conversations that will ring out as fair-goers peruse the latest design launches, products and careers. Also on the schedule is Ethical Design: Humane and Environmental Provenance, led by the artist and writer Paul Clemence; Where Originality Begins: Inside the Creative Mind, led by Gabriele Chiave, Creative Director, Marcel Wanders Studio; Rethink. Reimagine led by Float Studio; the ‘Power Couples’ theme includes Yabu Pushelberg as well as Eric Höweler and J. Meejin Yoon of Höweler + Yoon Architecture who will share their philosophy that design is an instrument for imagining and implementing change. The latter's work, often in atypical fields (think interactive landscapes and submersible structures), explores how design fits contemporary culture, affects behavioural and social norms, and can produce a sense of place or create environmental awareness.
Ecology and wellbeing taking the lead
With focus sharpening on the do-or-die nature of the sustainability question, we can expect both established as well as new designers from around the world to put it front and centre of their work. The ECO Solidarity platform initiated by the Polish Cultural Institute New York and Studio Rygalik and developed with WantedDesign Manhattan will highlight progress, presenting nine European studios united through their drive for ecology. A need often twinned with sustainable design is that for more salubrious, human-centric interior design and this will be tackled by heavy-weights Turf, Mohawk Group, 3M, Ressource+Rezina, Visual Magnetics and Precious Woods, who, as part of Wanted Interiors, sponsored by Ultrafabrics, will use immersive installations to demonstrate innovative solutions for creating healthy spaces.
Design shaped by nature
In evidence, too, will be the powerful role of nature in design and wellbeing. Crafts old and new drawing on the natural environment include ICFF’s Norwegian exhibitors Figgjo porcelain and Lundhs stone, while many modern makers on WantedDesign Manhattan’s Look Book platform – which facilitates matchmaking between designer-makers from across North America and interior designers and architects – bring a sense of locale to their work. They include Tucson-based Levi Christiansen, whose furniture design is informed by the tones, forms and textures of the Sonoran desert, Mexican tile designer, Alfonso Verduzco, whose black clay designs take textures from local nature, Canadian Simon Johns, whose pieces are contemplations on the ‘pure and raw shapes of his surroundings’, and new Brooklyn brand Concrete Poetics, whose beautifully brutal pieces of sculptural furniture are inspired by nature, land and sea.
The biggest new pandemic-accelerated living habit – indoor-outdoor living – will have its moment in the sun, too. It is the theme explored by Rodolfo Agrella at Wanted Interior’s The Lounge in collaboration with sponsors Ligne Roset, Bend Goods, Havwood, wakaNINE and 3M.
Supporting fresh talent
There will be strong support for young talent through both shows – ICFF Studio, in partnership with Bernhardt Design, shines a light on the next generation of designers through the ICFF Studio competition, this year with nine winners from 2020 and six from 2022 entrants. WantedDesign Manhattan’s Launch Pad, presented with media partner Design Milk and sponsored by American Standard, meanwhile, is the perfect place to witness the fresh ideas of emerging talent, and this year a Schools Exhibit will be added, showcasing the work of international design students – a symbiotic exercise in developing networks between new talent and established professionals.
The twin shows of ICFF and WantedDesign Manhattan are set to be ripe ground for discovering where the design industry might take us next.
Register here and use the custom code ARCH22 to receive a complimentary pass for the event.