New York’s Design Scene Is Going Dutch

A series of events and exhibitions by Dutch designers will transform New York into New Amsterdam, at least for the next few weeks.

It’s easy to find the Dutch booths at the big design shows. Just follow the smirks. At least that’s what people are fond of saying about them. The American design press often describes the Dutch design community as a bunch of happy pranksters, but that description is too glib and not entirely accurate.

rag chair

The Dutch tend to inhabit a niche between art and design, and like any conceptual artists their work contains layers of irony. Their work is often funny, but not ha-ha funny. It’s more like a wry posture that prods us to think about materials, tradition, comfort and sustainability. Example: Tajo Remy’s rag chair (above) made from 15 bags of recycled rags.

new amsterdam

This week marked the unveling of the New Amsterdam Plein & Pavilion on the southern tip of Manhattan in Battery Park City, celebrating the arrival of Dutch settlers 400 years ago. Although the structure is shaped like a windmill when viewed from above, designer Ben Van Berkel denies having any Dutch imagery in mind. Is he serious? Or is this an example of signature Dutch tongue-in-cheek wit?

New Amsterdam Plein and Pavilion

Also launching this weekend to commemorate four centuries of Dutch influence in New York, Droog, the Dutch design collective, will take over Governors Island, a decommissioned Coast Guard base in New York harbor. The promotional image (above) pokes gently at the first Dutch invasion.


It turns out that Governors Island is already a bit of a Dutch outpost. Two years ago the city hired the Dutch landscape firm West 8 to turn the island’s flat grassy fields into undulating hills and marshes traversed by looping paths. This summer visitors can rent wooden bikes designed by West 8 (above).

Pioneers of Change

And for the next two weekends (September 11 to 13 and September 19 to 21) Droog will hold a festival called “Pioneers of Change” in and around the former officers quarters with a robotic tickling salon and a carpet knitted with six-foot-long needles (check out more details from our preview). What makes the event all the more appealing is that it takes place within view of Wall Street.

admiral's house

By coincidence, the PaceWildenstein Gallery will hold a dinner Friday night for architect Maya Lin in the Admiral’s House, the island’s most imposing structure. So there may be an unplanned after-hours meeting of American and Dutch designers, at least until the last ferry leaves at 10:30 pm.