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Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Postcard from New York

Our home away from home. West 86th Street.

I’ve been to New York twice in two months for industry events. Christmas is always a magical time because of the lights, ice skating, and window displays. My favorite windows are Bergdorf’s; one of those rare moments where creativity and commerce come together to create delight.

Windows at Bergdorf's

It often rains at that time of year, and we did get drenched after the Interior Design Hall of Fame gala. Because of this event, I associate the Waldorf with Christmas. The food isn’t very good, but the work of the Hall of Fame designers is always interesting, and it’s good to see old friends. Annie Block was in Norma Kamali (her high school prom dress, natch), and we spied Edie Cohen the next night at the Guggenheim Best of Year Awards event in an exquisite Balenciaga. We never made it into the round auditorium, because we were too busy catching up with writer Raul Barreneche, who we haven’t seen in a few years. He has branched out into design. (Nothing to see on his website just yet.)

Back in late January for the other big event, the Contract Interiors Breakfast at Cipriani. A lot of the same people attend both events, but the two always feel different. Perhaps people are less guarded at 7:30 in the morning. The good schmoozing takes place early, so it’s not a good idea to be late. Despite the wretched economy, over 500 folks showed up. Contract Editor in Chief Jennifer Busch looked great in her custom outfit by Jean Lin (www.dressedinyellow.com). This year’s Designer of the Year was Graft from Los Angeles, which provided an excellent contrast to the legacy award recipient, Art Gensler. Old Global and New Global. Thankfully, Art knows how to be brief. The award-winning design projects were fantastic, but the music on the video was just weird. One commentator said it reminded him of high holy days. Former Designers of the Year showing their SF roots included Mark Harbick and last year’s recipients, John Peterson and John Cary of Public Architecture.

Ms Busch at the Contract Breakfast

Industry Leaders gather at the Contract Breakfast including (l to r) Cheryl Durst, ED of IIDA, Katie Weeks, Editor in Chief of EcoStructure and former Designer of the Year and Man About Town Mark Harbick

Primo Orpilla and Verda Alexander gossiping with Katie Weeks at 8:00 am!

What does Diana Mosher have in that handbag?

Steven Betts Art Director Extraordinare, Katie Weeks, and Yosh Asato

Favored restaurants are still packed. We tried Danny Meyer’s new place in the Gramercy Park Hotel, Maialino.

Gramercy Park

The breads at Maialino

Inside Maialino

The first venture in the renovated hotel failed, but this one seems likely to succeed. The understated design (Rockwell has taken a more minimal turn!) is the right backdrop for excellent fresh Italian cuisine. The servings are not large, but the quality of the ingredients is fantastic. The bar looks out to the park and is a great spot if you want to dine solo or don’t have a reservation. Danny Meyer was walking around greeting guests and keeping an eye on things, including adjusting our curtain when the sun got too bright. See ArchNewsNow (www.ArchNewsNow.com) editor Kristen Richards in sunglasses.

Kristen before the shades went down

Of course, everybody is asking about Architectural Record and the AIA contract, which was transferred to Architect (and its publisher Hanley Wood). We chatted with Record editor Bob Ivy, who feels genuinely confident that the magazine’s circulation numbers will stay up. Given what I’ve heard about declining membership at the AIA, this makes sense. I actually think the change means that we may have two stronger architecture-oriented magazines. On top of this, of course, The Architect’s Newspaper has just started a Midwest edition, in addition to its East Coast and West Coast ones.

Everybody seems to agree that the future depends on how print publications embrace the Web, but I’m not sure anybody’s got it figured out. Young freelancer (and former I.D. staffer) William Bostwick has been recruited to begin writing for a regular online design publication for Fast Company. Former Metropolis Web Maven Randi Greenberg is writing about design for AOL and Anne Guiney, alumnus of Metropolis, Architecture, and The Architect’s Newspaper, has taken over the Institute for Urban Design. And of course Katie Weeks moved to Washington to take over eco-structure. A lot of changes!

We stopped by the relatively new Ace Hotel, which has a NY funk attitude, but unlike most hotels, it has loads of room to hang out in the lobby, which feels a bit like an old library with bar service. There’s the requisite photo booth. The hotel’s restaurant, Breslin, is popular because it’s dark and serves the best French fries. (Since the vibe is faux English, they call them chips.)

The Ace Hotel

The Ace Hotel

The library table in the lobby of the Ace Hotel

Ralph Pucci had an opening for most of the design commune (www.ralphpucci.net) at his enormous gallery. In the penthouse were the blue chippers with the Jens Risom furniture and the Deborah Turbeville prints. But down on the ninth floor, furniture designer and architect Rob Bristow and his wife Pilar Proffitt held forth. Their custom pieces aren’t cheap, but you won’t ever want to replace them—they are timeless. They have branched out beyond wood and made some exquisite metal pieces. They even got covered in the New York Times last week. We ran into Susan Victoria, formerly of Metropolitan Home, Fred Bernstein, PR maven Liz Kubany, and the young gallery duo Jay Horowitz and Sally Oberbeck of Morgan Lehman (www.morganlehmangallery.com). (Rob and Pilar designed their gallery in Chelsea.) The designers responsible for Facebook’s new offices, Primo Orpilla and Verda Alexander (www.o-plus-a.com), found their way to East 18th Street all the way from San Francisco. Pucci’s old-fashioned PR lady kept telling everybody there were no photos allowed, and all the bloggers looked at her like she was mad and went on taking pictures. It was a great party.

Jay Horowitz and Sally Oberbeck at Ralph Pucci

Rob Bristow and Pilar Proffitt being interviewed at their Ralph Pucci opening

After the opening, we ventured out to Brooklyn to see Andrew Blum. Seems like nobody lives in Manhattan anymore. Most of the writers, editors, and architects live in Brooklyn these days! Andrew is writing a book about the actual bricks and mortar of the Internet (advance and everything!) and is making a film with his wife Davina based on the Princeton Architectural Press book entitled Minka. Check out the trailer at www.vimeo.com/5394397.

Snow began falling on Thursday. Children were mesmerized. They refused to ride in their strollers and stood up on the backs instead, sticking their tongues out trying to catch snowflakes. The garbage at the curb was covered in an even pale frosting. Despite the traffic, the city seemed much quieter, as if a moment of reflection fell over the metropolis. Like another chance.

Snow makes even the garbage look better

One of my favorite subway murals (Roy Lichtenstein)

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