As part of its ploy to convince you that NEOCon is really about design and not merely about crass commercialism, the organizers typically apportion one part of the show floor to a group show of emerging designer’s products. This year they gave it over to Shared Practice, a group that defines itself as “an innovative resource, network, and event calendar for the design community” but really seems to me more like a present-day version of a medieval guild. Based in Chicago, it’s assembled “Relationship by Design,” a fine exhibition of its members’ products.
Below, Felicia Ferrone — a spectacularly talented architect and object designer [I was blown away by her show at Volume Gallery in 2010] who, with David Krell, organized the show — stands next to one of my favorite pieces, a coat rack designed by Kari Merkl of Merkled Studio.
Another piece I really liked was “Cubby,” by Bruce Tharp of Materious, which is [unintentionally, I think] an ideal companion piece to the coat rack — an injection molded plastic object that, mounted to the wall, is the perfect repository for your keys, wallet, sunglasses and other items you tend to put down somewhere but too often don’t remember where that somewhere is. [A friend recently wrote to me that he is so busy, his weekend has been shrunken down to 2 hours, 20 minutes of which he spends looking for his keys.]
While it’s a hugely expensive undertaking, some vendors completely remodel their showroom spaces for NEOCon every two or three years. Among them, Teknion often yields the most spectacular results, courtesy of designer Michael Vanderbyl, who I don’t think is actually trained as an architect [although he’s one of the world’s most lionized communications designers]. He’s revamped the Teknion showroom into a super shiny, bright white space age stage set with brilliant flashes of orange gloss — definitely the highest architectural impact of the event for me.
Which is not to say other places didn’t stand out. I’ve always looked forward to seeing what Luna Textiles does with its space [athough it’s kind of hard to look at anything but those spectacular glass light fixtures when you go in the place] and what clever object they make as samples for their fabrics. This year, knapsacks.
I gather that there’s some kind of trend toward semi-private spaces in the cube farm offices that have become the norm. The Buzzi company doesn’t have a space in the Mart, but it put together a big vignette on the first floor to show how well its soundproofed materials work.
But the Buzzi product I liked was the curved screen made from end pieces of their felt bolts. I had always coveted an Eames folding model, but henceforth I may focus my material yearnings here.
And of course there’s no end of new product. Magnuson Group showed Berta, a great perforated metal bench designed by Franc Fernandez [who is not the same person famed for designing Lady Gaga’s meat dress]
and a stylish graphic sign system designed by Victor Martinez.
Knoll is highlighting several archival fabrics, including this tweed-y number that it made into slipcovers for various Bertoia items.
Finally, I am embarrassed to admit that I didn’t know Charles Pollock was still alive. Although he has been quiet for some time, he emerged to design this fine new chair featured at Bernhardt Design.