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Times Square Will Transform Into a Design Spectacle for 9 Days in May
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Times Square Will Transform Into a Design Spectacle for 9 Days in May

Picture of Amber C. Snider
Home & Design Editor
Updated: 24 April 2018
With immersive and interactive installations stretching from 42nd to 47th streets, Times Square will soon be transformed into a design extravaganza. We spoke with Design Pavilion’s founder Ilene Shaw and creative director Harry Allen to find out what to expect as the week approaches.
43 DUPONT LIGHTING DSCF9462 photo by Rune Stokmo
43 Dupont Lighting | © Rune Stokmo

Design Pavilion 2018, a public program dedicated to fostering creativity in New York City and around the globe, will feature a variety of events, talks, and interactive experiences from May 12-20. The free event is expected to attract more than three million visitors. The theme for this year’s events, From This Day Forward, speaks to what is “new, now, and what’s in the pipeline for the future,” says Ilene Shaw, producer and founder of Design Pavilion.

“We look at technology, we look at social issues and how designers can solve [various] problems and address issues. We think that design itself is always looking forward.” Design Pavilion showcases experimental ideas and uncovers the different ways design addresses social and civic issues in the 21st century. “The purpose of our jobs is to improve conditions and make life easier, better, and more functional for people—and certainly more beautiful,” continues Shaw.

72 KAYNEMAILE DSCF9119 photo by Rune Stokmo
72 Kaynemaile | © Rune Stokmo

At the heart of Times Square, a 2,000 square foot inflatable pavilion designed by Harry Allen, in collaboration with UK-based architecture firm Inflate, will host a myriad of installations, and feature interior and exterior lighting by the world-renowned firm L’Observatoire. The large-scale, soft-form housing structure dubbed “Arc” will act as the central information hub for all of NYCxDesign events, including the site for the 2018 Design Talks.

“Design enriches life—it makes it more beautiful, thoughtful, and functional. From one’s car down to one’s nail clipper, the more you know about how things are made and why, and the more creativity one invites into one’s life, the richer one’s life becomes. I believe that ‘making’ and design are a very important part of the human experience,” Harry Allen says.

92 MARKET DSCF9313 photo by Rune Stokmo
92 Market | © Rune Stokmo

Allen, who is also the creative director for Design Pavilion, says that the Arc is “the result of a long design and engineering process.” Its renderings show a white, ribbed form in what resembles a softer, simpler version of the Oculus (the World Trade Center subway station). Allen admits that other people have picked up on this similarity, and while he says the comparison is “a huge compliment,” it wasn’t on his mind when he designed it.

“Arc will act as a beautiful temporary shelter for Design Pavilion. Of course, inflatable architecture is very futuristic, so it also supports our theme, From This Day Forward,” he says. “Inflate’s technology definitely informed the design vision. I like nothing more than to partner with companies that have a focused technical expertise. I am a generalist; I know a little bit about many manufacturing techniques. From that place I can play provocateur,” Allen continues.

CPA Images_7
Courtesy of Design Pavilion

“There are many great thinkers already putting their minds to the challenges of the future, but there is not much of a reflection of this in our everyday lives. So we thought ‘the future’ made a very nice jumping off point…we don’t expect Design Pavilion to be the ultimate vision of our future—just a proposition,” Allen says. “Our hope is that it will encourage thought about where we are going and what the 21st century will look like.”

The Design Talks, a series of discussions led by international innovators in art, design, and architecture, will include conversations with Debbie Millman, host of the Design Matters podcast; Sybil Yurman, co-founder of David Yurman; and Frances Bronet, president of Pratt Institute, among others.

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Courtesy of Design Pavilion

“Our mission is to help explain what design is, and what it can do for our lives,” says Ilene Shaw. The public is our customer, our consumer, and our client. Once we explain and simplify what design thinking is, we think that will increase understanding and the value of what we do. We want the public to enjoy design and delight in it.”

Shaw hopes that that the public will become more aware of design’s impact on society and its significance in everyday life.

When I asked Shaw what she considers the highlight of this year’s event, she refers to the central pavilion itself and the work of the lighting design firm L’Observatoire, which has worked on similar projects for the Metropolitan Museum of Art, the High Line, and several Frank Gehry buildings. “It’s an incredible honor to have them involved in this project,” Shaw says.

Courtesy of Design Pavilion

New Yorkers and tourists alike can get a reprieve from the sensory overload of Times Square via a series of bold seating installations, all of which add an element of spontaneity to the passive act of sitting. Designed by Eero Aarnio, Konstantin Grcic, Jaime Hayon, and Thomas Heatherwick, the various seating designs explore expressions of organic forms, vivid colors, and a sense of playful curiosity. MIO, a line for sustainable furnishings for creative spaces, will also debut a new line of furniture for workspaces that foreground this same sense of play.

During the event, NASDAQ’s seven-storey high LED screens will take short breaks from relaying stock market news to relay new graphics and messages from AIGA’s Design for Democracy. The initiative aims to use design as a tool to engage citizens in democratic dialogue—encouraging them to vote, for example—while showcasing how design can serve as an agent for positive change.

Inflate Pavilion Rendering | Courtesy of Design Pavilion

The fact that NASDAQ is partnering with Design Pavilion this year—in what will likely become an annual event while we remain in Times Square—is a remarkable thing,” says Shaw. “NASDAQ understands and recognizes the importance of design in industry and business, and they see the relevance in Design Pavilion and the celebration of design in New York. They’ll also hold broadcast interviews with designers on a daily basis with their network of two million business followers.”

At the end of the day, NYCxDesign is all about bringing great design to the public. “Design is a great tool to tell stories and provide interactive experiences, and we will have amazing technology and great design on display,” Allen concludes.

Want to know more about NYCxDesign? Check out our guide to the newest events for 2018 and how you can plan for the two-week long celebration.