Design Stars: Six Firms Creating the World's Newest Must-See Destinations
These six firms are in charge of a new brigade of must-see buildings and installations across the world—plazas transformed into majestic urban sculptures, restaurants that feel like time capsules, run with the tools of tomorrow, light-filled museums that upend our expectations about how to view art. Plus: six more much-anticipated design-driven openings.
Many boldfaced names have been invited to design the Serpentine Pavilion (pictured), a temporary structure erected each year on the lawn of London’s Serpentine Gallery, including Frank Gehry, Herzog & de Meuron, and Zaha Hadid. But for the 15th edition, the prize went to the little-known Spanish husband-and-wife team Selgascano. The selection of the duo, whose sinuous sensibility sometimes evokes the fantastical structures of Antoni Gaudí, was especially surprising since most of their projects to date have been private residences and offices. One exception was a community center in Badajoz, Spain, where skateboarders can ride curvaceous ramps under an orange, mushroom-like roof. >>
Partners José Selgas and Lucía Cano seized the Serpentine commission as an opportunity to play. The amoeba-like building, on view through October 18, is wrapped with polymer ETFE fabric panels and ribbons printed in 19 colors. A changing rainbow of hues shines through the translucent fabric onto a glossy white floor, turning a Fortnum & Mason pop-up café at the center of four passageways into a kaleidoscopic light show. “The whole building is a dialogue between the materials, to test shapes and colors,” Selgas says. “We want the experiment to feel playful or even mysterious, like a dream.” >>
Selgascano’s serpentine pavilion is a curvy maze of bright tubes made of synthetic materials with a café at the center.
Coming soon: The firm’s design for a school for the slum dwellers of Kibera, in Nairobi, Kenya, is on view at the Louisiana Museum of Modern Art in Humlebæk, Denmark, through October 25, after which it will be rebuilt in Kenya. The Serpentine Pavilion will travel to a park in Los Angeles next year, where it will live permanently.
Many designers find inspiration in earlier eras, but AvroKO does it better than most—in part because of the partners’ exacting control of their projects, especially the eight bars and restaurants they operate themselves. The firm, now based in New York, San Francisco, and Bangkok, adopted this strategy in 2003 with Public, in New York’s Nolita neighborhood, a riff on early-20th-century civic buildings (like post offices and libraries), and has since used it for projects like the equestrianthemed Saxon & Parole in New York and Moscow. These personal ventures allow them the freedom to try things, which they can later apply to client commissions, like Momotaro (pictured), an homage to mid-century Japan, which opened last fall in Chicago. >>
Genuine Superette, which they opened in April in New York’s Little Italy, mixes graphics that evoke coastal California eateries, light-filled construction inspired by Eames Case Study houses, and a soundtrack culled from childhood cassettes. The menu is just as carefully designed, with options like a roadside-diner-style, hormone-free burger with American cheese and golden fries cooked with state-of- the-art technology that reduces the fat content. “It’s not that we want to take you on a journey to a nostalgic past,” partner Kristina O’Neal explains. “It’s more like modernist poetry. We want you to feel a sensation of the past, not a copy of it." >>
From left: Partners William Harris, Kristina O’Neal, Adam Farmerie, and Greg Bradshaw outside Genuine Superette, in New York City.
Pictured here, Gotham West Market.
Coming soon: Among a dozen projects AvroKO has under way around the world are Genuine Liquorette, a bar opening later this month beneath Genuine Superette, and a yet-to-be-named hotel, restaurant, and spa, on the site of a 1950s motel in Calistoga, California, that will open next fall.
Modern-day China is often accused of having terrible design standards, and when the Chinese designer Lyndon Neri was working with his wife, Rossana Hu, in the Princeton office of starchitect Michael Graves, he was often one of the accusers. Then a Chinese journalist challenged him to do something about it. So in 2004, the duo moved to China to launch their firm; today, they employ a staff of 100, who design everything from teacups to buildings. >>
For one signature project, the Waterhouse hotel (pictured), in Shanghai’s South Bund, they repurposed a 1930s building, introducing modern architectural elements to the original concrete structure. Neri says that when it opened, in 2010, many Chinese considered it “controversial for its rawness,” but that changed when celebrities began staying there. >>
In 2012, Neri&Hu brought a similar aesthetic to Design Republic Design Commune, a 1910 British police building in Shanghai that the firm converted into design shops and Jason Atherton’s restaurant the Commune Social. The British chef has been a frequent partner; Neri&Hu has designed restaurants for him in London, Sydney, and Hong Kong, where last year it opened the airy, two-story Aberdeen Street Social. Neri describes the aesthetic as “textured and eclectic,” a reflection of the cultural mix he and Hu have embraced in their fastchanging adopted hometown.
Coming soon: The Hub, a mixed-use retail, hotel, event, and performance space near Shanghai’s Hongqiao Railway Station, opens this fall, followed by Social Japanese, the firm’s eighth restaurant for Jason Atherton, in London in December. A seven-story hotel and retail space is scheduled for Miami’s Design District in late 2016.
Diller Scofidio & Renfro
No architecture firm working today has done more than this team to transform New York City’s once woebegone structures into dynamic public destinations. Diller Scofidio & Renfro’s signature project is the High Line, the mile-and-a-half-long aerial greenway on a section of abandoned elevated-railroad track in Manhattan that is now a model for urban interventions around the world. Before that, they revived dreary Lincoln Center, first peeling back the fortresslike façade of Alice Tully Hall to engage with the street, then stitching together the fragmented 16-acre campus by creating better access to its plazas, opening up its frontage along Columbus Avenue, and adding a dramatically sloped sunbathing lawn with a restaurant below. >>
Diller Scofidio & Renfro
Now DS&R has brought its knack for civic choreography to downtown Los Angeles with the Broad museum (pictured), opening this month. Because the institution, which will be free to the public, has two jobs—to house 2,000 works from the Broad family’s collection and to present rotating exhibitions—DS&R devised a concept that partner Elizabeth Diller describes as “veil and vault.” The veil is a honeycomb layer of concrete and steel around the exterior, which allows diffused light into the galleries. >>
Diller Scofidio & Renfro
The vault is an immense storage system at the building’s core, with a vast gallery space above and a lobby below. “We lifted the veil on two sides of the building to make it feel welcoming,” Diller says. “It was important to us to make a porous interface between the cultural institution and the city.”
Coming soon: DS&R’s new campus for the Berkeley Art Museum and Pacific Film Archive, which combines a 1930s Art Deco printing press with a modern structure, opens in January. After that: the Museum of Image & Sound in Rio de Janeiro; the United States Olympic Museum in Colorado Springs; the Culture Shed, an arts hub in New York City’s Hudson Yards; and an expansion of New York’s Museum of Modern Art.
Cities often commission large-scale public art to create events that draw visitors and give locals a fresh perspective on their environs. Few are better at delivering such experiences than Janet Echelman. Urban space is her canvas, and rope—miles and miles of it—is her brush. With these tools, the Boston-based artist fashions multihued installations that hover over once-ordinary plazas like airborne fishing nets. Her latest, inspired by a cat’s cradle, floats above Boston’s Rose Kennedy Greenway, a zone reclaimed from car traffic after the Big Dig. Echelman says she conceived the project, on view through mid-October, as a way to “link the city back together along the gash that had been a six-lane highway.”
Echelman, who developed her technique after watching fishermen construct nets in the Indian village of Mahabalipuram, has in recent years created undulating works in cities from San Francisco to Singapore. Their construction is not simple: the one-ton installation in Boston required more than 100 miles of specially braided twine and half a million knots, not to mention custom software to model the sculpture’s joints and predict the effects of weather. Most visitors lie on the grass to view it, watching as it ripples against the sky. Pictured here, 1.26, Montreal, 2015.
Pictured here, Impatient Optimist, Seattle, WA.
Coming soon: In November, Echelman will exhibit a sculpture inspired by the Japanese tsunami at the Smithsonian American Art Museum’s Renwick Gallery, followed by projects in West Hollywood and Greensboro, North Carolina.
Maybe you’ve noticed the Golden State vibe that has become ubiquitous in restaurants and hotels: warm but cool, artisanal yet polished, jumbled while being immaculately curated. One of the style’s leading lights is the southern California firm Commune (none of whose three members, ironically, is a West Coast native). At the Ace Hotel in downtown Los Angeles, which opened last year to instant acclaim, the firm brought a mash-up of minimalism and craft to the former United Artists film studio and theater with a lobby showcasing the work of local artisans and guest rooms with exposed concrete. That was their second Ace, following the conversion of a 1965 Howard Johnson Motor Lodge and former Denny’s in Palm Springs into the Ace Hotel & Swim Club, now a bastion of desert cool for its “hippie camping” aesthetic. >>
“Modernism in L.A. reinvented the way people live,” says partner Pamela Shamshiri, who is originally from Iran. “Our work is about that freedom to embrace many histories and multiple narratives.” They’ve applied this approach to projects outside California, like the American Trade Hotel, another venture of the Ace Hotel Group, in Panama City. For the new West Hollywood location of Verve Coffee Roasters, Commune mined another California trope, the blurring of inside and out: past the copper counter is a tiled patio with stadium seating. For the Durham Hotel, which opened this summer in North Carolina, the firm reconceived a mid-century bank building as an elegant boutique property. “You want each project to look like it’s always been there,” Shamshiri says. “To make it look effortless is the hardest thing.”
Pictured here, Irene Neuwirth retail space in West Hollywood.
Coming soon: Their third Farmshop restaurant and market for chef Jeff Cerciello opens this month in Tokyo in a space that marries West Coast artisanship (Heath Ceramics wall tiles, Robert Lewis lighting) with Japanese craft.