A participatory design charrette 

Date: Saturday, July 14, 2012, 2-4:30 pm
Location: First Park, 33 East First Street, a public cultural park, located at last year’s BMW Guggenheim Lab, between 2nd Avenue & Houston Street
Mission: The NYChair lab is an open charrette that aims to generate design ideas for an iconic outdoor chair conceived just for NYC First Park. We want to engage NY designers and all New Yorkers–old and young–in imagining what an outdoor chair could be like, for a specific neighborhood. Forget about the ubiquitous Paris bistro foldable chair!
Background: As public spaces gain a wider presence in the city and in our consciousness, the demand for green space increases drastically and consequently, the time spent outdoor too. How does furniture play into the definition, identity and configuration of public space? Can we imagine a specific look for a NYC chair now that pedestrian street life is a top mandate of the City and public plazas are popping up at every corner? Can a chair help communities and neighborhoods strengthen their sense of place?
Objectives: To influence and inspire public policy, BIDs, DOT, Parks, Design Commission public’s perception of outdoor space, and enhance the role that (industrial/furniture) design has in shaping public space.
Venue: First Park is a public cultural park, located at last year’s location of BMW Guggenheim Lab, between 2nd Avenue, Houston Street, 1st Street, & 2nd Avenue. First Street Green is a community group engaged in programming the park and exploring ways to engage local communities, organizations, institutions, children, nearby residents and businesses in the making of a non-green, cultural art park.


A participatory event, inviting design experts and the general public, side by side, to design the NYChair of tomorrow for a specific neighborhood.

2:00 pm: Introduction by Laetitia Wolff about expoTENtial and desigNYC.
2:10 pm: TODO DA presents brief history of First Park and their modular furniture prototypes for First Park.
2:20 pm: Gail Wittwer-Laird and Celia Petersen present NYC Park’s criteria for public furniture and selection process.
2:30 pm: Presentation of desigNYC’s 2011 Destination Nostrand project by VAMOS Architects, a pilot project that devised a branded furniture line that helped reinvent Crown Heights’ streetscapes.
2:40 pm: Presentation of desigNYC’s 2012 DayLife Urban Backyard by DUB-studios for Lower East Side Business Improvement District, a festival that featured a custom-made, modern, modular push-cart.
2:50 pm: Emily Weidenhof will discuss the challenges, the pros and cons of designing for a specific place versus for mobility and adaptability.

Charrette Format & Schedule:
3:00-3:10 pm
: Formation of teams
3:10-3:50 pm: Everyone at the drawing board
4:10 pm: Teams present their concepts
4:30 pm: Jury deliberates, comments and gives feedback

Online public voting will be available @ Winner will be announced on August 15, 2012. Winning entry will be posted on expoTENtial, designNYC, and First Street Green websites, social media and various design blogs.



Silva Ajemian & Jorge Prado are the co-founders of First Green Street and the principals of TODO DA, a multi-disciplinary practice focusing on urban design, architecture, and furniture design. TODO DA works on the edge between program and abstraction to propose solutions that turn constraints into opportunities. Their work has been widely published internationally in books and magazines. They have participated in gallery shows, design conferences and trade fairs in Beirut, Palermo, Tokyo, & New York. Silva and Jorge are adjunct professors at NJIT College of Architecture and Design.

Laetitia Wolff A design editor, curator and strategist, Laetitia Wolff joined desigNYC, an organization whose mission is to improve the lives of New Yorkers through the power of design, last summer as its first executive director. Wolff is the founder of futureflair, a creative conduit that provides a critical eye on all things visual and a multi-faceted understanding of the cultural value and strategic dimensions of design, through integrated communications strategies and innovative, content-rich programming. Last year, she initiated expoTENtial, a collaborative platform that investigates ideas for a livelier, happier and healthier New York – each lab is using a design strategy to address a pressing challenge to urban life.

Evan Bennett:
is a Principal of VAMOS Architects, a socially-driven architecture and urban design firm led by Evan Bennett and Silvia Fuster. VAMOS works with public and private organizations to activate and optimize spaces through design and creative programming. VAMOS was selected to participate in DesigNYC 2011. Evan earned his M.Arch from Princeton University and his BA in Art History from Oberlin College. Prior to forming VAMOS, Evan worked with OMA/AMO in Rotterdam and The Rockwell Group in New York City. He has taught history, theory, and design studios at Parsons, Hobart & William Smith Colleges, and Cornell University.

Michael Piper: DUB-studios is a multi-disciplinary design practice with offices in LA and NYC, headed by founding principals Michael Piper, Natalya Kashper and Gabriel Sandoval. The studio works on projects ranging in scope from furniture to towers and regardless of scale, much like the way music producers dub music, the studio’s work is about “providing a new takeon an old track.” Piper teaches graduate level architecture and urban design classes. He earned aBS in Architecture from Georgia Tech and a Masters inArchitecture from Harvard’s


Celia Petersen is a professional landscape architect, registered in the State of New York. She has worked in the profession for 32 years, thirty of those years serving New York City Parks & Recreation Capital projects division. At Parks, Celia is responsible for design details and technical specifications, including site furniture. She conducts research and development of materials and methods of construction and serves many other technical functions. She also developed criteria and managed a design competition that resulted in the Agency’s first 100% recycled plastic lumber bench. Celia Petersen lives in Garden City, New York where she serves on the Village’s Architectural Design Review Board.

Emily Weidenhof Project Manager, Public Spaces NYC DOT Division of Traffic & Planning. Trained as an architect and urban designer, Emily has researched and edited two publications with The Earth Institute at Columbia University on the potential impacts of natural gas extraction in the Upper Delaware and on strategies for maintaining sustainable agriculture in the Catskill Region. She has worked as an Urban Designer for the NYC Department of City Planning on projects ranging from renewable energy metrics to the integration of a charter school into a NYCHA development. She currently works in the Public Spaces Unit at NYC DOT working closely with community groups and local businesses to create plazas throughout the five boroughs. She manages the planning and design of capital plazas such as Astor Place and DUMBO’s Pearl Street Plaza and also designs and manages construction of temporary plaza spaces such as Fowler Square and Putnam Triangle along Fulton Street. She is also an Associate in Architecture at Columbia University’s GSAPP, teaching with the MSAUD Summer Studio since 2010.

Gail Wittwer-Laird is a Senior Designer in the Capital Projects Division for New York City Parks. Ms. Wittwer-Laird has over 20 years of experience of design in public realm and is a licensed landscape architect in both New York and California. Early on in her career she practiced as an industrial designer in Milan, Italy alongside renowned architect Ettore Sottsass working on designs for companies such as Alessi, Artemide and Knoll as well as overseeing the custom fabrication of limited edition furniture for private clients and galleries. Wittwer-Laird is an award-winning designer whose built projects in New York City include the Irish Hunger Memorial (2001) a collaboration with Artist Brian Tolle and 1100 Architect for the Battery Park City Authority, CaVaLa Park aka Albert Capsuto Park (2007), which received an award for excellence in design from the Public Design Commission, and the renovation of Bleecker Street Sitting (2012) which recently received a 2012 Village Award from the Greenwich Village Society for Historic Preservation. She received her Bachelors of Science in Landscape Architecture from the California Polytechnic State University & a Masters in Landscape Architecture from the Graduate School of Design at Harvard University.  She currently resides in the East Village and is on the Advisory Board of the East Village Parks Conservancy.

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