HD Talks

5 Transitional Projects from Rockwell Group

Posted by on November 30, 2016 in Events, Trends

Here at HD HQ, we are constantly seeking out and sharing the ways design is changing, and our industry’s response to them. Some people may even call these trends. In fact, in our December issue (out soon!) we highlight a bunch of of them.

While working on it, I was reminded of the “Design is the New Currency” symposium, organized by Pratt Institute and hosted at the Whitney Museum, that I attended in November. David Rockwell, founder and president of Rockwell Group (along with interior designer Juan Montoya, artist Michele Oka Doner, and MAC Cosmetics‘ creative director James Gager) tackled temporality’s importance in design. Here are five projects that showcase the intriguing ideas of specificity, transformation, and flexibility.

NeueHouse, New York and Los Angeles

Co-working space NeueHouse LA

The welcoming NeueHouse LA offers neutral colors and contemporary design

Rockwell wanted to update the idea of temporary offices from looking “like prison cells” into a high-concept space that “married hospitality with the evolving world of the office landscape,” he says. “The most important part of office space isn’t the office space, it’s the community shared spaces.”

What people remember most about the areas in NeueHouse are the smaller details like the food carts, the art programming, and the custom tables, he explains. For example, Rockwell’s favorite spots at Nueuehouse LA are the two-story temporary offices that operate like a backlot, a nod to the former CBS Radio Building’s home in the landmarked structure.

Chefs Club, New York

The open kitchen at Chefs Club

Chefs Club’s open kitchen

Because the space hosts a rotating group of chefs, it was designed to celebrate the thought process of a culinary master. For Rockwell, that meant highlighting the performance and making the kitchen act as a stage. “In our mind getting into the mind of the chef was to make the kitchen totally open,” he adds, so the six different chef’s tables engage the space.

TED Theater, Vancouver


The semi-circle TED theater in Vancouver. Photo courtesy of Rockwell Group

Tasked with creating a 1,300-seat theater in four days within the Vancouver Convention Centre’s 45,000-square-foot ballroom, Rockwell envisioned an intimate space that didn’t resemble a typical theater setting.

He saw the chance “to create a community space,” where a variety of seating options, including benches, lounge chairs, and beanbags, form a half-circle around the stage, allowing attendees to interact with each other. The mobile set, which comes apart in two days “was pretty phenomenal,” he says. “This was community theater on steroids.”

Imagination Playground

The blocks used for the 5,000 Imagination Playgrounds. Photo Courtesy of Rockwell Group

The blocks used for the 5,000 Imagination Playgrounds. Photo Courtesy of Rockwell Group

Part of a post-9/11 initiative, Rockwell and his team wanted to create a a portable playground in Manhattan that highlighted creativity and open-ended play. Using multifunction blocks that come in shapes like gears, arches, and tubes, they focused on “the joy of making things,” he says. There are now 5,000 Imagination Playgrounds worldwide, including the inaugural one in Lower Manhattan and another in Brooklyn, New York’s Brownsville neighborhood, where children use the 150 shapes to make temporary worlds every day.

Unscripted Furniture Line for Knoll

Rockwell's Unscripted furniture collection for Knoll. Photo courtesy of Knoll

Rockwell’s Unscripted furniture collection for Knoll. Photo courtesy of Knoll

Debuting in January, the 30-piece furniture line is an “intersection of hospitality, theater, and play.” Organized around portability, flexibility, and discovery, Rockwell used the water cooler as a guide. “It still represents the notion of a casual encounter, serendipity, the chance to perch,” he explains. All of the furniture is light enough to pick up and move. Panels can pivot and slide, while some pieces double as as storage units or are large enough to encourage groups to gather. “It embraces the idea of theater,” he says.

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