Rockwell Group founder and president David Rockwell teamed up with Pei-Ru Keh, US Editor at Wallpaper*, to create At the Crossroads of American Design: Celebrating the Established and the Emerging.
Dubbed the Crossroads, the pavilion will display products from 17 designers and collectives from all over the country at ICFF and WantedDesign Manhattan May 21st–23rd at the Javits Center in New York.
Here, the co-curators detail the inspiration and mission behind the pavilion, the importance of American-made design, and what’s exciting them in product design today.
What are you hoping to create with the Crossroads pavilion?
David Rockwell: Our goals are threefold: To introduce the ICFF and WantedDesign Manhattan audience to new designers working within and at the edges of the practice, because we want to see where they think American design is headed; to understand precedence; and to provide a place for guests to come and relax and create memorable connections.
Pei-Ru, how did you and David land on the inspiration for the space, the great outdoors and the American home?
Pei-Ru Keh: We liked the idea of having two opposing forces—indoors and outdoors, emerging and established—underpinning the space. And our homes are where we live most intimately with design, where it inspires us and helps us function more efficiently and comfortably (hopefully!) on a daily basis. We wanted to bring that intimacy and then breadth (and breath) with the outdoor vistas.
How are you representing this theme through the materiality of the pavilion and the elements within it?
DR: The gallery is divided into several spaces, which include a communal area anchored by Fort Standard’s oversized striped dining table; a gallery of objects highlighting the diversity in practice, origin, and method of practitioners that straddle both form and function; and a casual configuration of stools made by the members of Lumber Club Marfa, a woodworking club of girls ages 7 through 14 [in Texas]. A variety of seating areas, from the communal dining table to smaller lounge areas, and collaboration hubs are delineated with seating and area rugs. There’s a sense that you are moving through a home, which has both intimate and collective areas.
Why is ICFF + WantedDesign the right place for this project?
DR: They provide a front seat to the innovation happening in design and therefore allow us to see history unfolding. There’s no better place to drill down into what makes American design uniquely “American” than here.
Why is championing American-made design important to you?
DR: The standards for quality and craftsmanship are so high [in the U.S.]. And we want to create incentive and space for new generations of craftspeople and artists to continue to pursue their dreams and visions. We need their inventive spirit.
What were you looking for when you selected the designers to be showcased in the pavilion?
PRK: Entrepreneurship. Regardless of whether designers exhibit a more artistic, craft-driven or industrial-leaning product, there is a real individuality and make-it-happen quality to all of the work being shown.
Describe the work that will be on view.
PRK: It really ranges in size, medium, color, and form. The pieces are intentionally not meant to match, so the mix feels varied and vibrant, with each of the individual pieces’ qualities shining through. Whether it’s a wallcovering or a wooden stool, each work reflects a clear intent from its creator. Our aim is for that to be recognized and celebrated in each case, while still standing together in a group setting.
How do you want visitors to feel in the space?
DR: As if they have discovered something new! We want visitors to discover and reflect on the breadth of American design. This installation is the first of its kind at ICFF + WantedDesign Manhattan and we really wanted to surprise and inspire even the most seasoned of visitors to the fairs.
American Design is varied and has an identity of its own. Given that NYCxDesign follows on the heels of Salone del Mobile, we really wanted to bring energy to the work of American designers in all their different shapes and forms and reflect the vitality of the installation’s New York City location.
What excites you about product design?
DR: Products offer an immediate and tactile way to experience design. These are things we live with, touch, and see in our daily lives. At Rockwell Group, we are designing immersive environments where everything is part of the story, from the reception desk and thresholds to the sconces and columns. So, it’s a natural extension of ours to design products for these environments and others we haven’t created.
What career advice would you share with upcoming designers?
DR: Empathy is key: Put your audience first and make them feel welcome and understood. Sometimes they have multiple points of view, or sometimes there is more than one kind of audience that needs to be acknowledged. For example, at a performing arts center, how do you make guests and musicians feel at home? How can the space be intuitive for both? Using the audience as your driving force ensures a design that inspires collective experience, one that pulls people in and creates a response. I also tell young designers to stay curious and open to the world and other people around them. inspiration can come from anywhere.
What excites you about the future of design?
DR: We’re in such an exciting moment in terms of the power of technology to enhance craft and build more sustainably. I also think that there’s never been more willingness to bring architects to the table when it comes to addressing all kinds of challenges we face in the world, from housing to healthcare. That willingness of architects to collaborate with each other and those outside of our field is so promising.
Register for the fair here!