What Design Can Do For New York City: A City Modern Preview

After Hurricane Sandy brought New York City’s precarious coastline to the forefront of the city’s collective attention last year, heads turned toward the design community and their proposed solutions to lessen and prevent the disastrous effects of another super storm. Next week Paola Antonelli, senior curator in the Department of Architecture and Design at the Museum of Modern Art, will lead a group of her peers in a discussion how the design community can help with this issue and others to advance urban living. Joined by Pentagram's Michael Beirut, architect Deborah Berke and architecture critic Justin Davidson, the group will be moderated by New York design editor Wendy Goodman.
city modern paola portrait

In advance of the discussion, Paola Antonelli answered a few questions for us about her own take on the design’s role in the continued improvement of city life.

What are one or two of your favorite design innovations that have improved life in New York City recently?

The Citibikes and the Clearview font for street signs.

What are some of the lesser known campaigns the design community is currently undertaking to improve city living?

I will interpret your question to be about not literal campaigns, but rather about movements to change behavior. I am not sure they are lesser known - they are very well known in my community: collective work spaces, from hackers' labs to vertically integrated makers' workshops or even very simply shared offices. To name just a few, Resistor, New Lab, Studiomates, Brooklyn Writers Space, SPark Workshop. Some (which I have not mentioned) are irritating, but the spirit is the right one.

How has the design community's working relationship with city leaders evolved over the last several years?

Most branches of design—from urban planning and street design, to signage, interfaces, and communication—have thrived under the leadership of commissioners like Amanda Burden, Janette Sadik-Khan, Kate Levin, and all their colleagues and collaborators. They understand the fundamental importance of design; the fact that it is not embellishment, but rather a civic responsibility; and the fact that well-designed objects and environments do not have to cost more than badly designed ones. Quite the opposite. I am keeping my fingers crossed for the future four years.

Are there projects from other cities you think New York should be looking to as a guide to solve some of our own problems?

There is always a lot to learn from others, people and cities, and they could learn as much from us. As a matter of fact, cities are organizing conferences and opportunities for exchange of information and knowledge. Recently however, to name one exemplary project, I have studied Copenhagen's Climate Adaptation Plan. It is quite impressive. And of course, I am very jealous of their protected bike lanes.

City Modern 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 be seen here.

Use the code DWELL20 for 20% off your ticket to What Design Can Do For New York City on Tuesday, October 1st.

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