Luisa in Manhattan for NYCXDESIGN

Our principal Luisa Manfredini was recently in New York City for NYCXDESIGN festival an annual architecture and design festival held every year in May. New York then becomes a mecca for architects, interior designers, furniture designers, and other allied industries to come together, meet, exchange ideas, view works buildings, showrooms and galleries.

Here is a taste of some of what Luisa saw and experienced.


1st Dibs Gallery:

Shop the most beautiful things on earth

The gallery is housed in an old brick warehouse in Hell’s Kitchen, New York. On arrival, the space is vast and exploring the Gallery seems like a never ending journey of discovering beautiful spaces and nooks, filled with beautiful things, in the most elegant combination. Everything from Antique to Modernist to Eclectic to Pop to Palm Springs and beyond was contained within those walls.

Pop Gallery opening

A small Gallery on Bowery Street was filled with fun, colourful and insightful art work. Whilst the subject of pop art is generally pop culture, this gallery also had environmental themes, such as a herd of elephants and African jungle, pop style.

Woolworth Building, Downtown

The Woolworth Building is an iconic New York building, designed in Neo-Gothic style by architect Cas Gilbert in 1913 to be Frank Woolworth’s NYC headquarters. The ground floor lobby is magnificent in its decoration and detail. As part of NYCxDesign, architects CallisonRTKL’s new office on the 16th Floor was opened for a talk and tour of their office. The fitout respected the heritage features of the building, exposing the steel structure and displaying the decorative elevation doors (no longer is use) The Design in the City team met Clayton Whitfield, Associate Vice President, and chief Interior Designer. In a departure from convention, it was decided to locate the staff lunch room in the an open space off the entry foyer, with the best views of the city. This space doubles up as a meeting point for staff, clients and venue for talks such as this.

High Fashion and Historic Preservation Tour

Tour leader: John Arbuckle.

The American Institute of Architects organised a walking tour as part of the NYCx Design. Architect John Arbuckle led our group down Madison Avenue on a rainy Tuesday evening. Introductions were held in a local architect’s office, where John explained the history of the area and the Council regulations relating to the preservation of historic facades. Of interest was that each building didn’t simply have a rating importance, but Council had prepared coloured elevations of each façade, identifying which part of the facade was required to be retained, could be amended or even demolished. We had a private tour of the Hermes Interiors store (including champagne!) with beautiful furnishings available. The Hermes family matriarch oversees all fitouts of their stores worldwide, using similar lighting, flooring and details, with a feature staircase, to reinforce their brand.

Open studio, Terreform and Michael Sorkin Studio

The studio includes architects, urban planners and publishers, specialising in a more equitable and sustainable future for our planet. They opened their modest office in New York for an evening of informal conversation. Executive editor, Cecilia pointed out their submission for a new golf course in NSW. One of their publications – The Helsinki Effect, reviews the Guggenheim Helsinki proposal and proposes alternatives to building a signature structure to house art in a prime waterfront location. Various solutions include dispersing art around the city to make art more accessible to everyday people rather than a few. The book investigates the reasons behind the ‘iconic’ architecture trend around the world (such as the Guggenheim Museums), asserting that the public funds put towards these projects take funds away from the less wealthy areas of the cities they are housed in, creating a divide of rich and poor.

Showroom openings


We perused various showrooms in the TriBeCa district including:

Clay Imports for beautiful Mexican tiles

Montauk Sofas – the sofa you never want to get out of!;

David Weeks Studio with beautiful lighting

Stillfried Wien, also with beautiful lighting and furnishings!

Neighbourhoods: Midtown

Hudson Yards

‘Hudson Yards’ is a new residential, retail and commercial development on the West side. It includes ‘The Vessel’, a climbable sculpture, just opened some weeks ago. Bookings are required to climb it, free of charge. It is a curious use of air space, a novelty whilst new for interesting photos and a slightly elevated view of the area. There are a few lookout zones but no areas to sit and enjoy. Its closed when raining and windy (which would be a fair portion of time). We managed to get it on a beautiful sunny day.

The Shed

More interesting is ‘The Shed’ next door to the Vessel, open a couple of weeks before we got there. It is a cultural centre and exhibition space with an extendable portion that extends for additional indoor space is required, and retracts for additional outdoor space. It moves on train tracks, but needs about an hour of preparation to disconnect the air con, wiring, services etc. It is currently extended, they don’t think it will retract til August. I tried to get a look inside to see the mechanism (along with numerous other people), but the interior of the extendable portion was blocked from view due to a performance by Bjork, who requires privacy for her secretive performance. When the building moves, the area around it will have to be shut down for safety reasons (in case someone throws themselves under the 1.8m diameter wheels!). It is a beautiful structure and design, the movement is expressed clearly with the large wheels and it nestles nicely in the main building when retracted. It also reflects the exposed rail lines from the Yards adjacent. It seems to be a huge expense for a relatively small additional space, but space is at a premium in this area.



Oculus is an incredibly beautiful organic form resembling giant rib bones.

Its function is a replacement transport hub for the station destroyed in 9/11 attacks.

Architect is well known Spanish bridge designer– Santiago Calatrava, built for $US 4 billion!.

9/11 Memorial

So simple and so evocative! I love the design of this space, communicating the depth of despair, loss into a black hole, fallen dreams, so many things…

Bars, cafes restaurants

The girls from Design in the City did experience local bars cafes and restaurants, all in the name of research! Here are a few well and lesser known gems:

Rooftop Bar: The Press Lounge, Hells Kitchen:

A corporate fitout, dimly lit, with reflection pool and incredible views of the New York sky line!

Lower East side:

Rooftop bar: Cloud M, at citizenM Hotel

A funky hotel foyer full of artwork is the gateway to the roof top Cloud M bar. High ceilings, sparkly lights and continued art and display shelving feature in the interior, I love the golden leopard statue. With relaxing lounges outside (if you can handle the cold, brr!).

Make sure to have the ‘Architects that Like Graffiti’ cocktail!

Ground level bar: Antique Garage, 41 Mercer St, Soho:

What a find!

An incredible ‘luxe glamour’ meets warehouse bar complete with live jazz music, bustling with lively conversation! Recycled vintage chandeliers, mirrors, clocks, paintings, everywhere. Displayed on bare brick walls, raw timber floor and decorative ceilings. Highly recommended!

Restaurant: Tao Uptown:

Restaurant in converted brick warehouse, originally stables for Vanderbilt family.

Towering height of the space at 3 stories high creates an impression and a challenge for designers. Space is dominated by a 5 metre high gold buddha sitting in a luminated carp pool. Existing brickwork is left unfinished to provide texture and colour to the space; room is dimly lit to reduce the scale, we had to use our phones to read the menu. Noise levels high, as majority of clientele were tables of corporate business people making an impression on their guests!

A place to be seen.

Katz Delicatessen:

New York institution since 1888, serving Jewish Deli classics. We were lucky enough to meet and speak to third generation owner Jack Dell, who explained how it takes months to prepare the pastrami for the enormous sandwiches (half portion was too large for me!), but tasted amazing!! Décor is unchanged for many years – possibly since the 70’s.

Packed and bustling at lunch time!

Day spas

Day spas are becoming ‘a thing’, with a couple of new offerings –

Sojo Spa Club: New Jersey:

Catch a shuttle from downtown to the Sojo spa, with a selection of massages, a selection of saunas – infra red, red clay, white clay, Himalayan salt, charcoal, ice room, ganbanyoku room and halotherapy room...

After all that you can soak in the rooftop pool overlooking the New York skyline over the Hudson River!