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urbanity

NYC Pilot Program Aims to Boost Local Design Businesses


New York City Council Speaker Christine Quinn at a press conference held yesterday at The Future Perfect in Manhattan. (Photo: William Alatriste / New York City Council)

New York City is for designers. (Quick, someone screen that on a tri-blend tee!) Hot on the 3D-printed heels of NYCxDESIGN, the 12-day designfest that debuted in May between Frieze and ICFF, comes a pilot program that aims to stimulate the local design economy. Built/NYC, unveiled yesterday by New York City Council speaker Christine Quinn and Department of Design and Construction Commissioner David Burney, will commission site-specific furnishings for City construction projects—think parks and municipal offices—from local product designers.

“Instead of automatically purchasing a desk, a lighting fixture, or other furnishings made in another country, we can allow the City to purchase products that have been designed and manufactured right here in the five boroughs,” said Quinn at a press conference held yesterday at The Future Perfect in Mahattan. “Built/NYC is a way for the City to support our growing design community by investing in the businesses that drive New York City’s creative economy while simultaneously enhancing the interiors of public buildings and spaces.”
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New McNally Jackson Store Offers ‘Goods for the Study’

It’s hard out there for a bookstore. We’re still mourning the recent loss of New York’s Archivia Books, whose windows (and shelves) never failed to feature the latest and greatest design books alongside vintage tomes. Meanwhile, downtown indie McNally Jackson (home to a print-on-demand Espresso Book Machine and literature organized by nation) is not only going strong but in expansion mode. The beloved establishment has opened the McNally Jackson Store around the corner from its flagship operation. The cozy Mulberry Street space is stocked with an array of “goods to furnish your study and enrich your desk life,” from desks and lamps to stationery and writing utensils. “We believe that the life of the mind deserves a space of its own,” says owner Sarah McNally. Not in New York? Fear not–a web store is in the works.

Raymond Pettibon’s Baseball Billboard Debuts on the High Line


Raymond Pettibon, “No Title (Safe he called…),” 2010. (Courtesy the artist and David Zwirner)

Take me out to the High Line, where Raymond Pettibon has thrown out the summer’s first public art pitch–a baseball-themed billboard. The jumbo-sized version of “No Title (Safe he called…),” a 2010 work from the artist’s famous series of baseball drawings, debuts today in the sky above West 18th Street and 10th Avenue in New York as the tenth installment of the High Line Billboard series. We suggest visiting with a group to discuss the array of cultural references, from the depiction of a game between the the Boston Red Sox and the Brooklyn Dodgers (before their 1957 defection to Los Angeles) and references to Moses (brokers of Biblical and civil power, who knew from exoduses) to shout-outs to Jackie Robinson and Biggie (“Where Brooklyn At?”). As the latter would say, “Anytime you’re ready, check it,” but make sure anytime is within the next month, or you’re out! Of luck, that is, because the billboard is on view through July 1.

Finish Your Holiday Weekend in Detroit


A still from Detropia.

God save Detroit. In 1930, it was the fastest growing city in the world. Today a governor-appointed emergency manager is eyeing the collection of the Detroit Institute of Arts as a way to pay off some $15 billion in debt (the prospect of selling off the DIA’s masterpieces has, of course, been met with outrage from within the community and beyond). Get a closer look at the long-stalled Motor City in Heidi Ewing and Rachel Grady‘s Detropia, which makes its television debut tonight on Independent Lens (click here to check your local PBS listings). No postindustrial gloomfest, the documentary follows several Detroiters–including an owner of a blues bar, an auto union rep, a group of young artists, and a gang of illegal “scrappers”–in an attempt to illuminate both a city and a country grasping for a new identity. Say Ewing and Grady, “We hope that the rest of America can see that they may have more in common with Detroit than they thought.”

JR on HBO: Inside Out Documentary Debuts

Watch French street artist JR get his TED Prize wish for a global art project in Inside Out, a fresh-from-the-Tribeca-Film-Festival documentary that debuts tonight at 9 p.m. on HBO. Director Alastair Siddons (Turn it Loose) crisscrosses the globe–from Tunisia to Haiti, North Dakota to Pakistan–as people around the world come together to follow JR’s simple directions to “take a portrait photograph of yourself or someone you know and then paste it in the street, using it to stand up for something you care about.” More than 100,000 people responded to his call by uploading their portraits to the project’s website for JR to print and display around the world. Explains Siddons, “This is a film about an artist giving away his method and the inspiring stories that follow that.” Sample a few in the film’s trailer (below):
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Diller Scofidio + Renfro on Turning Lincoln Center Inside Out

“After so many years of averting the border patrol between the disciplines of art and architecture, while inhabiting both yet claiming to be outsiders, this is the ultimate validation,” said Elizabeth Diller last Wednesday at the Plaza Hotel, as she joined partners Ricardo Scofidio and Charles Renfro in accepting the American Academy of Rome’s Centennial Medal for their exceptional contributions to the worlds of architecture and the visual arts. The trio spent the previous evening at the New York Public Library, where they discussed their interdisciplinary design studio’s renewal of Lincoln Center. We asked writer Nancy Lazarus to attend the event and harvest some memorable quotes. Learn more on May 10, when Diller and Scofidio will be joined by DS+R monograph author Edward Dimendberg for a book talk at the Center for Architecture.

Redesigning Lincoln Center was an epic undertaking that involved a prominent public landmark and a painstaking process that evolved over nearly ten years. Diller Scofidio + Renfro, the design studio behind most of the project, has chronicled their experiences in Lincoln Center Inside Out: An Architectural Account (Damiani). The three principals shared their views on the project and the book at a recent event hosted by New York Public Library and moderated by Barry Bergdoll, chief curator of architecture and design at MoMA. The DS+R trio is just as articulate as they are creative, so here are excerpts from that discussion.

On Lincoln Center’s design:
Diller: The old Lincoln Center was too elitist, solid, and turned its back on the neighborhood and community. We were drawn to the promenade levels where everyone pours out in the middle of events. We wanted to extend that social feeling to the rest of the project. We broke down the edges to enable events in the public spaces. There’s more symmetry now across the public and private spaces.

Scofidio: There were no photos of the old Lincoln Center except the main plaza with the fountain. Someone said that in the 1960s, plazas were designed to be desolate.

On how they approached the project:
Diller: To win the project we showed many ideas, since we tend to think in multiples, with different approaches and solutions. We demonstrated our affection for the place and showed how to take it to the next step. We felt we could do it justice and interpret it for contemporary culture. We wanted to transform Lincoln Center for the logic of our time.

Scofidio: We didn’t go in and say here are the problems we have to correct. We just said we can finish Lincoln Center.
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Guggenheim’s David van der Leer Named Director of Van Alen Institute

David van der Leer, who with Maria Nicanor developed and headed the curatorial team of the BMW Guggenheim Lab, will take the helm at Van Alen Institute beginning May 6. The NYC-based nonprofit architectural organization, whose mission is “to promote innovative thinking about the role of architecture and design in civic life,” selected van der Leer as executive director after an international search. He will succeed Olympia Kazi, who stepped down last May. Since then, Jeff Byles has served as interim director.

“David van der Leer represents a new type of commitment to the public realm that makes urban issues accessible to architecture and design professionals and everyday urban citizens alike,” said Stephen Cassell, chairman of the Van Alen’s board of trustees, in a statement issued Tuesday. “Van Alen Institute welcomes his initiative to develop more national and international competitions, studies, and programs relevant to the understanding of contemporary urban life.”

Jonas Damon Reveals Frog Design’s Vision for NYC Payphones

Ring! ring! It’s the future calling. With NYC’s current payphone contracts set to expire in 2014, the city is scouting for ways to modernize payphone infrastructure across the five boroughs and put all of that public space to the best possible use. Hence Mayor Michael Bloomberg‘s appearance (via video link) at a December meeting of the New York Tech Meetup, where he announced the “Reinvent Payphones Design Challenge,” a competition to rally urban designers, planners, technologists, and policy experts to create physical and virtual prototypes that imagine the future of NYC’s public pay telephones. Frog Design hopped to it, and while the list of semi-finalists who will present their concepts at next Tuesday’s Demo Day has yet to be announced, something tells us Frog will be among them. In a talk on Saturday at Parsons’ Aftertaste symposium, Frog creative director Jonas Damon offered a sneak peek at the firm’s vision for payphones of the future:

NYC by Design: City-Wide Event to Showcase, Promote Design


X marks the spot. The identity for the new event was created by Base New York.

The Bloomberg Administration has been busy pumping up the NYC tech scene and fashion industry, and now it’s focusing on design of all disciplines with NYCxDESIGN, a collaboration among the City Council, Mayor’s Office, City agencies, and a steering committee of 33 design stars ranging from MoMA’s Paola Antonelli to AIGA/NY President Willy Wong. The inaugural twelve-day event, smartly sandwiched between Frieze and ICFF, kicks off on May 10 with happenings that will showcase NYC designers and more, from design-centric institutions and retailers to curators and educators, with the goal of driving economic development.

According to the Center for an Urban Future, NYC is home to more design firms than any other city (L.A. comes in a rather distant second), and the May event will seek to attract even more designers and manufacturers to the city, generate new sales and export opportunities for local designers, and increase design-based tourism. City Council Speaker Christine Quinn is setting her sights even higher. “NYCxDesign will help demonstrate that New York City is the design capital of the world,” she said in a statement. London, Milan, and Paris–consider yourself warned.

Moby Praises ‘Baffling, Byzantine, Fantastically Uncohesive’ L.A. Architecture

The Getty is looking to seize the momentum of last year’s “Pacific Standard Time” L.A. art bonanza with an equally collaborative (yet smaller-scale) celebration of SoCal architecture. The new initiative, “Pacific Standard Time Presents: Modern Architecture in L.A.,” will take the form of 11 exhibitions and related events in and around Los Angeles that will run from April through July. Grab your dog-eared copy of City of Quartz and prepare to survey what $3.6 million in Getty-funded grants can do.

Among the exhibitions to look forward to: the Getty’s own “In Focus: Ed Ruscha” (“a concentrated look at Ruscha’s engagement with L.A.’s vernacular architecture, urban landscape, and car culture”), “The Presence of the Past: Peter Zumthor Reconsiders LACMA,” and “Quincy Jones: Building For Better Living” at the Hammer Museum. Moby is up for it. In the below video about “Pacific Standard Time Presents,” the musician, DJ, photographer, and en”tea“repreneur riffs on LA architecture, in all its “mind-numbingly complicated” glory.

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