The recent NYCxDesign festival, held from May 18 to 25 across New York City, featured members of the Pratt community presenting their innovative design work. Their projects range from modern habitats for animals to the visibility of water in public space, all proposing new ideas for 21st-century life.
Pratt Shows: Design, held in the ARC Building on the Pratt Brooklyn campus, was the major showcase of student work during NYCxDesign, bringing in members of the public, alumni, design professionals, and media to explore projects by hundreds of graduating students from the School of Design, School of Architecture, and School of Art. The celebration of the students’ accomplishments included an energizing professional and alumni reception on May 11 to kick off the diverse presentation of what is next in design. From architectural models and jewelry designs to interactive games and prototypes for furniture, the projects reflected how students are rethinking every aspect of creation, from the design process to the final product. Major themes like confronting and communicating global climate change, social justice and community healing, and the importance of presence in making in the wake of the pandemic resonated across disciplines.
“The work of our students reveals a sensitivity not only to the problems of people, but especially of the planet, while navigating creative processes with high academic rigor,” said Ignacio Urbina Polo, chair of industrial design, of this year’s Pratt Shows: Design.
On May 18, the NYCxDesign Student Showcase Night was held in Pratt’s Higgins Hall to further highlight the forward-thinking work of the next generation of designers studying in New York City, including presentations from students at Pratt, the Cooper Union, the Fashion Institute of Technology, the Parsons School of Design, and the School of Visual Arts. The students shared their work around the theme of “Adapt!,” such as Haiwen Yang, MID ’23, who presented the project Older Connections: Positive Mobility for Senior Citizens in New York City that involved interviews and co-design workshops to explore how the waiting experience for public transportation could be improved for aging populations.
At the International Contemporary Furniture Fair (ICFF) + WantedDesign Manhattan event held in the Javits Convention Center in Manhattan, 14 projects by Pratt undergraduate and graduate industrial design students were featured. They included projects engaging with ideas of facilitating connection, promoting care, empowering individuals, and creating adaptive environments.
For instance, Mary Lempres, BFA Fine Arts (Painting) ’18; MID ’23, presented the Reef Rocket, which is an oyster reef structure grown from biocement, while Kinako Miyake, BID ’23, exhibited a trap for the invasive spotted lanternfly that doubles as a bird feeder and Myles Chisholm, BID ’23, presented a cooling collar designed for extreme heat.
“I enjoyed seeing my work relative to the work of other designers,” said Rose Moon, BID ’23, who exhibited a jewelry table made of wood and multicolored ceramic boxes that can be flipped and reorganized to create visual patterns. “My piece took on a new character as it contrasted with the furniture around it. In this context, I could see the influences that characterize my work clearly, as well as learn about what defined the work of others.”
Several Pratt students were recognized for their work at the NYCxDESIGN Awards, which honor products and projects in different areas of design. The winners in the Student Design category, which were published in Interior Design magazine, include Anushritha Sunil, MID ’22, Meiqing Tian, MID ’24, and Siyu Xiao, BID ’24.
Sunil was honored for Momi, a piece that uses lights and a sensory movement rug to encourage children to learn and connect with their bodies. It was developed while Sunil was a student at Pratt in partnership with teachers at Brooklyn’s PS 270 Johann Dekalb School. Tian was honored for the Clip Chair, which is a seating design that is named for its evocation of a paper clip in its shape and can be used either outside or indoors. Xiao was honored for Delta, which is an intelligent campus street lamp with solar panels that provide and store clean energy.
Pratt students Paul Lagasse, MFA Interior Design ’25, Chieh “Jenny” Lee, MFA Interior Design ’25, Maseo Velasquez, BID ’24, Nicole Yuen, MID ’25, participated in the WantedDesign Schools Workshop held during NYCxDesign at Industry City in Brooklyn. Pratt has been involved in the initiative, which brings together international design students to develop creative solutions, since 2014. The 2023 theme was Water Matter(s), and the students from six schools in the United States, Mexico, France, and El Salvador spent four days creating projects that consider water access and visibility in New York City in the context of climate change.
“My greatest takeaway was learning how to work with designers with different skill sets, backgrounds, and methodologies,” said Maseo Velasquez, BID ’24, who was part of a team that won the Best of Workshop award for Urban Flow. The project proposes using the New York City subway I-beams for fountains and creating an ad campaign that would promote water accessibility and make the stations more inviting. “Our group consisted of industrial, fashion, interior, and strategic designers from Mexico, France, and the USA. Everyone had different perspectives and ways of working, and everyone came up with more ideas for our project than anyone could do alone. It ended up making our concept much more far-reaching and relevant.”
Pratt faculty also presented their work during NYCxDesign, including Constantin Boym, professor of industrial design, who exhibited his Ecophilia series of modern habitats for plants and animals in the courtyard of the Penny Williamsburg hotel. His work, presented in collaboration with the Available Items gallery in the Hudson Valley, was highlighted by the New York Times and is featured in a new publication. The habitats, ranging from a home for bats to worm towers, are intended to be accessible for anyone to build, promoting a more ecologically friendly world.
At the Juliana Curran Terian Gallery on the Brooklyn campus, Amanda Huynh, assistant professor of industrial design, and Ranee Lee, associate professor of industrial design at OCAD University in Toronto, presented One Lovely Hour. The research project involves an exhibition and a plate design. All of these elements engage with how to serve a meal in a care-home setting to encourage conversations on memory and dignity for older adults, particularly those with dementia. The One Lovely Hour panel discussion for NYCxDesign was held alongside Asian American and Pacific Islander (AAPI) Heritage Month and centered on a conversation about the need to care for aging people through considerations of culture and design.
Also honoring AAPI Heritage Month was an event with A Rising Tide and AAPI Design hosted by the Pratt School of Architecture at Pratt Manhattan Gallery. The celebration recognized Asian and Pacific Islanders in design through presentations by emerging design firms and a networking hour.
Through conversations, presentations, exhibitions, and collaborations, the events of NYCxDesign celebrated the inspiring work taking place across the city and recognized how emerging designers are transforming their fields.