Design Walks for the Pandemic Era

Freshly launched NYC design festival seeks to give ‘voice to those who create’

designfestival.nyc's inaugural self-guided walking tours will include a stroll through Western Queens. Pictured is the Hunters Point Library by Steven Holl Architects in Long Island City. (ishmael daro/Flickr)

There’s a new notable design festival on the—for now, socially distant—block in New York City.

Initially envisioned as a four-day event, thedesignfestival.nyc has been reimagined during the coronavirus pandemic as “an ongoing, socially distant celebration of the independent, vibrant, and enduring spirit of New York City’s professional design industries.” Beginning on July 15, the festival will formally unveil the first of several planned “self-guided and socially distant” mini-itineraries that will be released each month with the aim “to reinvigorate New York’s creative community, and cautiously and reverently support the recovery of our city and our industry.”

This first mini-itinerary, dubbed “Stretching Our Legs: Design Walks,” will showcase noteworthy outdoor design elements in several different neighborhoods while also offering suggestions for takeout dining options so that tour participants remain happily satiated—and support local businesses—during their guided strolls. While more specific information about the walks will be announced on July 15, festival organizers have revealed that the tours will cover territory in Upper Manhattan, Western Queens, both southern and northern stretches of Brooklyn, as well as the fast-changing landscape of downtown Brooklyn.



Thedesignfestival.nyc was cofounded by former design editor and founder of independent design collective Colony, Jean Lin; Madeleine Parsons, a writer and designer who serves as art director of Colony; and Robert Higa. Per a press statement “the Festival uncovers New York’s most revered under travelled design destinations from the prettiest chef’s table to the quietest park bench, celebrating design as a discipline and lifestyle, giving voice to those who create.”

In addition to announcing the first of its planned mini-itineraries, thedesignfestival.nyc has also revealed its 2020 curatorial team. Through socially distant walking tours, the festival curators will lend their “expertise to carefully guide designers and New Yorkers alike safely out of their homes and back into the world of design.” The curators—in addition to Lin—include: Paola Antonelli, senior curator and director of research and development at the Museum of Modern Art; David Alhadeff, founder of the Future Perfect; Elizabeth Roberts, founding principal of Elizabeth Roberts Architects; Annabelle Selldorf, founding principal of Selldorf Architects; Malene Barnett, founder of the Black Artists + Designers Guild and Malene B Atelier; Karen Wong, deputy director of the New Museum; Steven Learner, founder of Collective Design; Wendy Goodman, design editor at New York, and Jane Keltner de Valle, style director at Architectural Digest.

“In the coming months and years, we draw from the knowledge and strength of our curators to find a path forward, celebrating and reviving the city and industry we love,” reads the festival website.

Keep an eye out here for more developments on this inaugural festival that, like other events that are rethinking and reformulating their approaches during the pandemic in lieu of canceling, is finding new ways to both celebrate and promote New York’s design community at a time when it could use it most.

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