As you may have noticed, Sight Unseen isn’t just a web magazine: Considering all the time we’ve spent getting up close and personal with designers, we’ve become intimately involved in the design scene over the years — particularly on our home turf. What that means is that we’re frequently asked to bring the Sight Unseen experience to life for other brands and institutions, like with the pop-up shop we curated for Creatures of Comfort, the book launch we hosted with Rizzoli, and the panels we’ve led for the likes of DWR and the Museum of Arts & Design. Last month, we were approached by the London tour agency Urban Gentry with a new kind of proposal: to craft an insider’s journey through the New York design world for a group of international journalists, in town for the launch of HTC’s new 8X and 8S phones. After a bit of brainstorming and a flurry of phone calls, we managed to line up a two-day itinerary that would make any design lover swoon. Read on to follow our trek from the now-private Johnson Trading Gallery showroom in Queens to the Noho headquarters of Roman & Williams, and beyond.
Martino Gamper and I are neighbors. His studio sits just across the road from my flat in east London, and he and his wife garden in the communal plots out the back of my block. Their autumn planting — beets, kohlrabi, winter salads, and the last of some impressive tomatoes — was turning me green with envy, so when Sight Unseen suggested I ask Martino for a tour of the plot to talk about both his working and gardening methods, I was secretly hoping to gain a little insight myself, so as to turn my dirt patch into an edible wonderland.
Last summer I spent the month of June living and working in Berlin, which is also the home base of the designer Jerszy Seymour. Right-hand man to Vitra and Magis and inventor of the amorphous conceptual building material Scum, he'd just had his busiest year ever — mounting five exhibitions on his way to being guest of honor at the Design Parade festival in Hyères, France, with a monograph to follow. Having already known him from previous projects, I convinced him to spend the day with me discussing his Coalition of Amateurs project, the subject of all those shows; he offered to take me to Nowhere Land, which turned out to be an overgrown meadow just north of the hipster enclave Kreuzberg.
It’s half past eight on a Wednesday evening, and in the kitchen of the Pastoor Van Ars church, a few miles from Eindhoven’s prestigious Design Academy, a long table has been set with two propane gas burners. Normally, the burners here are used to boil massive amounts of newspaper into pulp bound for the cocoon-like structures of Nacho Carbonell’s Evolution collection. But tonight the Spanish-born designer has hijacked the flames to fry up two huge paellas: chicken and pancetta for the meat-eaters, eggplant and artichokes for the vegetarians.