Go inside the worlds of art, fashion, design, and lifestyle.
On view this week at Design Miami/ is an interactive, site-specific installation entitled Belong. Here. Now. Created by Airbnb, in collaboration with Chicago-based Design With Company (founded by Stewart Hicks and Allison Newmeyer), Belong. Here. Now. brings together a variety of creative and artist who are hosting different experiences and performances throughout the week. Whitewall spoke with Hicks and Airbnb CPO & co-founder Joe Gebbia to learn more.
WHITEWALL: How would you describe the mission of Design With Company?
STEWART HICKS: Design with Company explores the overlaps between architecture and literature through speculative urban scenarios, spatial installations, and built projects. We are invested in the idea that buildings might be or have a “character.” This is both an important concept historically, as well as now, when architecture is losing its capacity to communicate with the public and to produce meaningful places with unique identities. We believe every place, every building and every object has a story. Through design, we tinker with these stories to generate new and unexpected realities. We embrace the use of light and shadow, materiality, ornament, promenade, etc. to choreograph experiences with objects in the theater of everyday life. Spectators are brought together in a seemingly endless and pleasurably indeterminate creative process to render the world wondrous, full of mystery and surprise. The goal is always to breathe life into what at first glance seem to be lifeless material, in order to detect qualities and human values that invigorate life and can be staged in architecture.
WW: How did the collaboration between Design With Company and Airbnb come about?
SH: We were approached by Alexandra Cunningham, the Creative Director of Design Miami/ to submit ideas for what at a collaboration with Airbnb might look like. Airbnb appreciated our ideas about how the space could engage people in new and exciting ways. Our playful approach seemed like a natural fit for the goals of the activation.
WW: How will the installation achieve the idea of “hosted moments?”
SH: The project brings people together into a shared performance. The activation is modeled on the Greek agora, an urban form for gathering where citizens needn’t arrive with an agenda. It is the space for public appearance, where visitors are rewarded with new experiences and opportunities for discourse. This reinterpretation is a ring of columns broken into fragments. Under the columns are a series of outdoor rooms that appear like miniature colonnades in the shapes of squares, triangles, circles, etc. These serve as props to arrange people into new and unexpected configurations. Like a living stage set, the pieces promote dialogue and improvisation.
WW: Who are some of the emerging creative talents that you are working with for the installation?
JOE GEBBIA: We’re working with an incredible group of emerging talent for the installation who are all members of our community. From a design collective from Chile called Great Things to People to a London based designer, Yinka Ilori, who upcycles furniture with the use of Nigerian textiles, each one will host a unique moment in the space. I’m also excited that BINA48, which might be the world’s first “conscious” robot, will be one of our creative hosts. Further, Paola Antonelli (Senior Curator of Architecture and Design at MoMA) and I will be doing a talk about the new age of creative hybridity and cross-pollination in design, art and architecture.
WW: How did the setting of Miami, and the timing of the art and design fairs, affect what you wanted to achieve?
JG: Miami draws such a diverse group of people from all over the world each year for the fairs. We wanted to create something that reflected that diversity but was also very welcoming to everyone who came through the space. We find that more and more people stay in Airbnbs in Miami during Art Basel so we wanted to also create a gathering place that was inspiring for everyone in town.