Each time we start to celebrate the end of yet another successful edition of our Noho Design District project — this one being our fourth, if you can believe it — it’s not long before a certain realization hits us like a ton of bricks: We only really get a few short months to recover before we have to start the process allllll over again. We began planning in the fall for the 2013 edition of the show, which ran from May 17-20 and which we’ll be recapping on Sight Unseen today and tomorrow, and it’s almost impossible to fathom how much work could go into a four-day event that nevertheless flew by so quickly. There were spaces to secure (thanks, SubCulture!), flyers to finagle (thanks, Benjamin Critton!), and press-preview pastries to provide (thanks, The Smile!). And of course we had to find the perfect brand to partner with to help support all the amazing emerging talents we offer a platform to (thanks, Jawbone!). But in the end all that work would have amounted to naught had our exhibitors failed to bust out with some of the most stunning and inspiring designs we’ve ever shown, from the simplest concrete domino set to painstakingly elaborate chandeliers, light-up neon desks, and textile installations. In case you weren’t lucky enough to join us for this year’s event, we’ve put together a roundup of its highlights, the first half of which is featured in the slideshow at right; stay tuned for coverage of Noho Next, ICFF, and other offsite shows to come. And thanks to everyone who joined us this weekend!
The question we get most often about curating and producing three years' worth of Noho Design Districts isn’t “Can you spare an invite to the VIP party” or even “How can I show my work with you?” but “How on earth do you two do it?” This year was our biggest and best event yet: We had two new hubs (the empty former print lab at 22 Bond Street and The Standard, East Village hotel on Cooper Square); two new international partners (London’s Tom Dixon took over the basement of the Bleecker Street Theater while DMY Berlin hit the American circuit downstairs at 22 Bond); and exhibitions so big that one of them stretched across two different venues (The Future Perfect’s showcase busted the seams of its Great Jones flagship, continuing up the street at 2 Cooper Square).
Even non-New Yorkers know Soho, the swath of land below Houston Street in Manhattan, colonized by artists in the '60s and now the domain of the rich and the retail-obsessed. Noho, on the other hand, still flirts with obscurity, despite having been home to some of the city's most legendary artists — Robert Mapplethorpe, Frank Stella, and Chuck Close, to name a few — as well as its first Herzog and de Meuron building. Sure, as an emerging neighborhood with several hotels on the rise, its streets are often crisscrossed with ungainly spiderwebs of scaffolding, but beneath that lies a creative energy so strong we at Sight Unseen figured it would be the perfect place to create a new satellite destination during New York design week: the Noho Design District. All of the elements were already there.
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.