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September 19, 2013
When David Rockwell, Founder and President of the Rockwell Group, takes the stage at City Modern with panelists including fashion designer Isabel Toledo, artist and illustrator Ruben Toledo, and Broadway Director and Choreographer Jerry Mitchell, you can bet we’ll be listening. His firm has churned out one stand out project after another—W Hotels in New York, Paris, Singapore and Vieques, Nobu restaurants worldwide, New York’s shared workspace Neuehouse, and the Shinola Flagship Tribeca, to name a few. The group expands their design beyond the physical and creates a unique narrative for each project to help inform their concepts. We recently had the chance to talk to Mr. Rockwell and get a little taste of what’s to come at City Modern, whose work is exciting him right now, and how he envisions the stadium of the future.
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Can you give us a teaser of what you're currently working on with Isabel Toledo?

I’ve worked with Isabel Toledo and her husband Ruben on different initiatives for the Design Industries Foundation Fighting AIDS (DIFFA). I’m always amazed by her enormous creativity and generosity. Although we are not currently collaborating on a project, I recently recommended her and Ruben to design costumes for the new Broadway musical, After Midnight. I’m looking forward to seeing their costumes come to life later this fall.

What do you find is the most creative incubator: fashion, Broadway, interior design? (Or perhaps something we haven't considered.)

All of the above. Working on theatrical productions has taught me that the theater is as much about the collaborative, real-time creative process as the final performance. This concept has influenced my architectural practice by inspiring me to put people of different disciplines together and combine their skills to solve problems in unexpected ways.

Who are some of your favorite architects and fashion designers? What excites you about their work?

Frank Lloyd Wright, and Luis Barragán and Joseph Urban are a few of my greatest sources of inspiration. I’m struck by Wright’s idea of creating houses made up of a series of intimate physical places within a larger superstructure. I love Barragán’s home in Tacubaya, Mexico. The relationship to Mexican folk art and craft, and all the light, colors and textures that he used in his house in Tacubaya, Mexico are permanently imprinted in my mind.

I’m also excited by the work of emerging designers, including Family and PlayLab, two Brooklyn-based firms which funded their + Pool project with a Kickstarter campaign, and Stoss, a landscape architecture firm recently chosen by Syracuse to transform the city’s main street into a social hub.

As for fashion designers, I’ve always been fascinated by Miuccia Prada’s work. Prada’s strong point-of-view and idiosyncratic taste are revealed in all of her projects whether it’s a new clothing collection, an art exhibition or a built environment.

You've done it all - what do you want to take on next?

I love opera houses because they're as much social as they are theatrical, so I've always wanted to design an opera house that could push the conversation of what happens before and after the opera. And I think stadiums are ripe for reinvention because creating a costly building that is used for a dozen or so events per year doesn’t seem to make sense. I'm intrigued by what would happen if you re-envision a stadium and merge it with more of a public use, like a park. I think that’s ultimately going to happen, and I’d love to be a part of doing that for the first time.

We're sure you'll get into this more in-depth at your City Modern panel, but what is your favorite part of integrating creatives from other disciplines into your design process? Are there any "a-ha! moments" from these collaborations that stand out in particular?

The West Lobby at The Cosmopolitan of Las Vegas is a good example of how we integrated creatives from other disciplines to turn a design challenge into an opportunity. We assembled a team of our architects, the LAB at Rockwell Group, and outside artists, including Jerry Mitchell, to transform an awkward space with low ceilings and 8 columns into a kinetic and intimate lobby.

Our design team dematerialized the columns by installing 384 frameless LCD displays behind two-way mirrors and programming them with software to allow us and other artists to create digital experiences. The imagery transforms the whole experience of the lobby, based on time of day or event, and the sense of movement is enhanced by the reflective mirrored ceiling, and dark chocolate granite floor.

City Modern, presented by New York magazine and Dwell, celebrates the best in New York design and architecture with studio tours, panel discussions, cocktail parties, special installations and home tours. Taking place from September 27 to October 4, the events look to elevate the level of discussion and awareness about how design affects urban life. The full list of events can here.

Use the code DWELL20 for 20% off your ticket to David Rockwell & the Creatives on Wednesday, October 2nd.

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