Contract Magazine - January/February 2018 - 18
PHOTOGRAPHY: MACKENZIE STROH
Honoring a Designer of the Year and a Legend
In our world of commercial interiors, we are keenly aware of the
influence of hospitality design, and the blurring of hospitality, with
frankly every other project type. We are observing the leading hospitality
designers more carefully and with more scrutiny now to see the impact
that they-as individuals and collectively as a profession-have on the
design industry. With that in mind, in that context, we honor a hospitality
designer who is truly standing out and having a remarkable moment:
Alessandro Munge, our 39th Designer of the Year (page 42).
Even compared to just three years ago, the founder of Toronto's
Studio Munge has elevated his own practice, taking the sole leadership
position of a firm that has grown from about 30 to 60 professionals,
with a roster of international clients of increasing acclaim. "For me,
the moment right now is like a blank canvas," Munge says. "My business
is evolving. I'm evolving. I feel like I'm growing and bursting out
and finding myself, which is the most beautiful time I've ever,
ever experienced in my career."
Munge began his career in the 1990s with Yabu Pushelberg,
the hospitality design firm that was named the 2002 Designer of the Year.
Eager to lead his own work, Munge developed his practice with notable
restaurant and club interiors that defined the downtown Toronto social
scene for the turn of the century. He gained recognition in that city,
but most all of his work was in Canada and he was not well known
in the U.S. or abroad. Fast-forward to this decade, with projects in more
diverse locales, including Las Vegas and China, and more accolades,
including Interiors Awards in the restaurant category in 2015 for Cluny
and 2017 for Figo, both in Toronto. The scale of his work has increased
to now incorporate entire hotels, including The William Vale Hotel
in Williamsburg, Brooklyn, Munge's inaugural New York project.
Since opening less than two years ago, The William Vale, its restaurant
Leuca, and its club Westlight are heightening the expectations of
the hospitality experience in Williamsburg and, broadly, in New York.
And now, the Munge moment. At the end of 2017, Bisha
Hotel opened in Toronto, with luxurious interiors, including restaurants
and lounge, all designed by Munge. Just one block from Bisha Hotel,
construction is beginning on Nobu Toronto (page 136), the first-ever
integrated hotel, residence, and restaurant development for the Nobu
brand. Munge is designing all interiors for Nobu Toronto. In China, Munge
has multiple projects underway, including hotels. And in Los Angeles,
he is designing interiors for a new Park Hyatt at Oceanwide Plaza,
across from Staples Center, that will open within the next two years.
Munge's work considers context, infusing light and materiality
into spaces that reflect the location and clientele. In restaurants, he
is constantly seeking to refine the dining experience, allowing guests
to savor an interior in new and different ways with each visit. In hotels,
Munge is collaborating with clients to develop timeless, sublime
interiors that enhance the guest experience. And in most all of his
projects, Munge is designing bespoke furnishings, lighting, and other
fixtures that are specific to the interiors. I am pleased to honor Munge,
and to welcome him to the fellowship of past Designers of the Year
that are present at the Interiors Awards Breakfast.
What also makes the Interiors Awards Breakfast special is
the opportunity to celebrate a legend. This year, our Design Legend
Award honoree is Joan Blumenfeld (page 54), a design principal and
former global design director for interiors at Perkins+Will in New York.
Blumenfeld has overseen the design of some of the most significant
interiors completed by the firm over the past 12 years. But, perhaps
more importantly, she has had a demonstrable impact as a leader
among women in architecture, as a mentor, as an advocate for
sustainability and wellness, and as a proponent for design excellence
in New York. For the past five years, she was the chair of the board
of the Beverly Willis Foundation, an organization that supports women
in architecture. Blumenfeld's influence has been a positive force
for change at multiple levels of our design profession.
I hope that you will learn from the stories and work within the
pages of this issue, be inspired in your practice, and have a great 2018!
John Czarnecki, Assoc. AIA, Hon. IIDA
Editor in Chief
Visit contractdesign.com/editorial to read all of Editor in Chief
John Czarnecki's editorials
JANUARY | FEBRUARY 2018 OCTOBER 2015