City Modern Panel Considers Design, Gentrification


When Andrew Tarlow opened Diner, his first business, in South Williamsburg, the area was desolate. The growth of his mini-empire since then, culminating in the opening of the Wythe Hotel in North Williamsburg in April, and sparking or paralleling both the growth of Brooklyn style and the intensification of gentrification, depending on your point of view, could be seen as a metaphor for the trajectory of the whole borough. On Wednesday, a panel at the hotel, part of the week-long City Modern program hosted by Dwell and New York magazines, considered the relationship between gentrification and design in Brooklyn. On the panel were Tarlow, Wythe Hotel designer Stefanie Brechbuehler of Workstead, and Wythe Hotel architect architect Morris Adjmi. New York Magazine Design Editor Wendy Goodman moderated. “The building is a character, it has a personality,” explained Brechbuehler, describing the evolution of the design of the hotel, repurposed from an old factory. The panel agreed that the essence of Brooklyn design consists of taking over old, falling apart buildings, and rebuilding them while preserving the character rather than sheetrocking over it. Honesty, authenticity and funkiness are other Brooklyn style qualities that could include such materials as shingles or fake brick siding, said Adjmi. The quality of everything in Brooklyn, particularly the food, is very hard to find in Manhattan, where everyone focuses on cost, said an attendee. “I am afraid it will happen here. Is there any way to escape it?” he asked the panel. ”It will happen here,” said Tarlow. “It’s the nature of the society we live in. There are certain spaces, depending on the landlord, where you might be able to keep those qualities. Staying fluid is important. We can move to the Upper East Side or wherever the next place is where those things can happen.” Tarlow’s next venture, in fact, might take place upstate and involve pastures and dairy farming, he said. Adjmi, for his part, is planning to open a new architecture office with an Italian partner in Williamsburg. Above, panelists pose for a photo after the panel (left to right: Brechbuehler, Tarlow, Goodman and Adjmi). Below, the audience mingles in an exposed brick room with original factory tracks on the ceiling.

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