Excerpt: Exhibition
Noho Design District 2011

PHOTOGRAPHY BY WILL STEACY

When the Sight Unseen and Uhuru teams rolled up the grate and entered the Great Jones Lumber building on Monday, May 9, it was like déjà vu all over again — one full year after we’d closed the door on the inaugural Noho Design District, the space’s vast rooms were as dark, empty, and beautifully raw as when we first laid eyes on them, but with half-disassembled wooden signs, wayward Macallan cups, and other stray remains of the 2010 festivities still intact. The weight of all the work that lay ahead immediately hit us: four long days of manual labor in order to breathe life back into the building, to transform it from its dormant state into the hub of the 2011 Noho event, where the work of more than 100 designers would be on display for four days.

While we set about organizing the inventory for Sight Unseen’s first pop-up shop and envisioning how best to display the works in our McMasterpieces show, Uhuru were buzzing to and from their Red Hook studio, cutting vinyls and constructing pegboards until the wee hours, not to mention prepping for the launch of their own new furniture line. Fort Standard were busily cutting OSB plinths for their fellow Noho Next-ers. Meanwhile, Vancouver’s Bocci was across the street wrangling a crane from Queens in order to hoist its chandeliers 40 feet into the air, and Relative Space was spreading dozens of cutting-edge designs from Berlin across four tables that spelled out “$HIT.” More than a few of us pulled all-nighters in the process.

But when the dust had cleared — including the actual toxic cloud kicked up by Bernhardt Design‘s professional cleaning service, which creative director and Noho patron Jerry Helling graciously sent over after a mid-week walk-through — it was apparent to everyone that we had created something special. The Noho Design District was conceived as a new platform from which to champion creativity, multidisciplinary work, and emerging talents during New York Design Week, and we had managed to squeeze some of the very best examples of each into an area encompassing less than 15 city blocks. Our thank yous are too long to list here, so instead we’ll present you with a slideshow surveying the events of May 13-16, 2011, including all of the folks who made it possible. And if you’d like to get involved in the 2012 event, it’s never too early to let us know.

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Uhuru helped Sight Unseen transform the ground floor of 45 Great Jones into a four-day pop-up shop featuring the work of more than 35 designers. The weekend's biggest sellers included Tanya Aguiniga’s dip-dyed rope jewelry and Chen Chen and Kai Williams’ creepy but awesome Cold Cut Coasters, made from studio detritus like resin and rope.

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On the wall we displayed the results of our WEARABLES commission, which asked designers to create one-off pieces of jewelry or other accessories. Shown here are creations by Aguiniga, Monika Wyndham, Shabd, SuTurno, Confettisystem, Bec Brittain, Pascale Gueracague, Renata Abbade, Raw Color, Fredericks and Mae, Eskayal, Chen Chen, and Kai Williams.

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In the back of the shop, we asked James Gaddy, a former Print editor now at Interview, to curate a poster wall. He filled it with the work of a dozen up-and-coming graphic designers and artists including Kenzo Minami, Jiminie Ha, Sara Cwynar, Christopher Palazzo, and Richard Colman.

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On Saturday, Baggu sent two talented interns to customize the brand’s recycled cotton backpacks, which were for sale in the shop. The two came armed with original Goyard-esque monogram combinations plus a stash of geometric designs that they busted out halfway through the session.

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JP Williams, graphic designer extraordinaire and the brains behind Amassblog, even had the boys customize his Dries Van Noten leather and canvas tote.

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Throughout the event, we screened films about design and process culled from sites around the web like Cool Hunting, Gestalten, and The Scout. Noho sponsor Bernhardt Design showed the making of its Corvo chair, plus the story behind its Tools for Schools project, which went on to win an editors’ award at ICFF.

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On the second floor, Lindsey Adelman showed her Catch lamps, new Burst lights, and collaborative tabletop pieces with sculptor Darcy Miro. Below are Paul Loebach’s carbon fiber and wood Sten chair and Can table and light.

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Uhuru debuted its third local materials line, this time using reclaimed wood from a decommissioned WWII naval ship. The size of the end tables directly corresponds with the magnitude of the bullets on board, and the pattern interprets the Dazzle camouflage once used to confuse enemy ships.

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One of our favorite things about the lumber building is its warren of tiny rooms, mostly old offices, which acted as exhibition spaces for individual designers. Areaware took one to highlight its new line of colorful Bow Bins, made by designer Cordula Kehrer in collaboration with Filipino artisans, courtesy of the NGO Preda.

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Next door was our second edition of McMasterpieces, which asked designers to create new works using only parts sourced from the industrial supplies catalog McMaster-Carr. Shown here is Roman & Williams’ hand-operated, 300-pound welded steel table with brass- and lead-sheet office suite.

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Inside, from left, works by Jonathan Nesci, Jonas Damon, Alissia MT, Henry Julier, Karl Zahn, Bec Brittain, Commonwealth, Jonah Takagi, Ross Menuez, and Nick Dine.

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Clocks by Timothy Liles, rubber-dipped stools by Workstead, glass-jug pendant lamps by David Weeks, and an engravable desktop by Kiel Mead. Passersby could pound messages into its brass plate using steel letter stamps and a hammer.

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From left: Alissia MT’s basket, tote and trivet, Julier’s mesh bowls, Zahn’s oil lamps, Brittain’s chess set, Commonwealth’s Smolten mirror (which they melted down from bronze nuts and pipe fittings), Takagi’s floor lamp, Menuez’s neodymium magnet necklace, and jewelry by Nick Dine.

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On the third floor, the American Design Club’s Use Me exhibit featured the functional designs of 45 up-and-coming American designers, spread out over massive plinths created by AmDC president Kiel Mead. See more great pics on the AmDC's Facebook page.

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Our second annual Noho Next exhibition was designed by Fort Standard and featured work, shown here, by Max Lipsey (steel tube and leather seats), Lukas Peet (fluorescent tube pendants, clocks, table lights, and mirrors), and L.A.–based Brendan Ravenhill.

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Fort Standard themselves showed, among other things, these gorgeous teak and marble Foundation lights to go along with their recently debuted line of tables.

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Ravenhill’s Cord Lamp, Hex Lamps, and La Buca Chair.

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In the upstairs offices, a showcase of four students from RISD’s furniture design program garnered tons of attention for the whimsical Googlies Are Watching You piece by Misha Kahn, plus elegant seating by Rosie Li, Lui Kawasumi, and Vivian Chiu.

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Seattle-based Iacoli & McAllister were everywhere during this year's fair — showing jewelry at The Future Perfect, Frame chandeliers at the Javits, a show-stopping brass, wood, and steel stepladder with Use Me, and brass bottle openers in our pop-up shop. At Noho Next, an array of recent work included the Panca bench (right), Canvas tables, and Frame light.

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Minneapolis-based RO/LU showed Sol LeWitt–inspired wood seats in collaboration with wool artist Ashley Helvey.

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In the window of the Japanese butcher Japan Premium Beef, we installed a mini-tableau of pieces from Dutch-Canadian designer Oskar Peet’s Color Research series.

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And next door at The Future Perfect, a team of assistants led by designer Matt Gagnon created fiber-wrapped pendant lamps on the spot — titled, appropriately, Prototype Lamps.

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A block south on Bond Street, the festivities continued in the cleared-out office space of curator Josee Lepage, where Brooklyn designer Takeshi Miyakawa installed this acrylic light sculpture titled Knot Yet.

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Upstairs at Relative Space, an exhibition of Berlin designs—curated by architect Juergen Mayer H with Relative Space’s Tyler Greenberg—opened and will stay on view through June 3. Think Bless, Studio Hausen, Jerszy Seymour, Judith Seng, Mayer H himself, and more.

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Zero + Maria Cornejo was a new venue this year. The Primitive wood pieces by Brooklyn designers Nightwood fit in so well with Cornejo’s architectural, pattern-happy garments, you could hardly tell they weren’t originally part of the shop.

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Nightwood’s Slate coffee table.

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And in case you missed it — considering the installation was most dramatic at night — a few shots of Omer Arbel and Bocci’s amazing exhibition of their 28 series chandeliers at the Downtown Auto Center.

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The Vancouver-based company parked a crane in the autobody shop’s parking lot and hoisted a cluster of blown-glass lamps 40 feet in the air.

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At night, on the sidewalk, they laid out instances of their sandcast bronze Series 19 bowls.

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Last but not least, we must mention our Friday night VIP opening at the Bowery Hotel to celebrate the launch of Rafael de Cardenas's furniture collection with Johnson Trading Gallery. Many thanks to Architecture at Large, Black Frame, The Bowery Hotel, and our gracious party sponsors BOFFO and Karlsson’s Vodka. See you next year!