Experience NYCxDesign 2023 with SDC Winner Wian van der Merwe

From all the design fairs in the world, #SDC2022 winner Wian van der Merwe and his lecturer-turned-mentor, Jaco Landman, travelled to the NYCxDESIGN Festival in New York City. They wanted to experience the festival’s street-level appeal, grandness in scale, and international design inspirations. Caesarstone caught up with this duo to get the low down of their time in the Big Apple.

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NYCxDESIGN Festival: History, mission, and love of design

Established in 2012, NYCxDESIGN Festival has grown into one of the leading design festivals in the world alongside Milan, Paris, and London. With an abundance of architects, interior designers, graphic designers, urban planners, and manufacturers – design is palpable in New York City. NYCxDESIGN’s mission is to promote NYC as a creative resource and supportive network to the global design community.

At its core, this multi-faceted event spotlights innovation and creativity through inclusivity, equality, diversity, sustainability, and regenerative design. Wian had never been to this side of the world before – and so the appeal to experience a new part of the world certainly was exciting. “We researched each design fair in the world – there are quite a few – but ultimately decided on this one,” says Wian & Jaco. “You get to experience the city at street level and stumble across interesting places and design studios while looking for the design fair exhibitions.”

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Highlights, discoveries, and takeaways: Q&A with Wian and Jaco

Q: Experiencing all that NYCxDESIGN Festival had to offer must have been incredible. What stood out for you?

A: We were transfixed by a 16-storey building dedicated to nothing else but design. Each floor features an endless array of design stores and manufacturers. Our favourite designers were John Pomp, Luteca, and Sossego. One furniture piece that stood out for us was called: “Bliss” by Mother – based on climate change. It looked like an ordinary couch, but transformed into a “luxury” lifeboat. It was equipped with paddles in the back rest, a rocket flair hidden in the armrest, and a mini bar in the ottoman. Everything you need on your new journey.

Q: Looking at international design trends – what would you like to see brought to South Africa?

A: There was so much to be honest, but something we’d love to see in SA is the idea of hand-blown glass incorporated into furniture, as well as non-traditional furniture showrooms.

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Q: Is there value in being exposed to international design fairs such as the NYCxDESIGN Festival?

A: Design fairs open your eyes in terms of possibilities and creativity! It connects you to like-minded designers, opening the floor for connections, collaborations, and inspirations. You’re able to experience different cultures and visit places that you might not otherwise be able to. It helps to see where other countries have set the bar, and be motivated to kickstart your own success.

Q: How do you feel the NYCxDESIGN Festival compares to South Africa’s design scene?

A: We were impressed with the showcased designs but realised we also have exceptional talent in South Africa. In terms of the world stage, we are not that far behind. If ever there was an area for us to grow as a country, it would be access to the sufficient tools needed to materialise our designs. The journey South African designers are able to go on when creating new spaces adds to our identity and celebrates true artistry.

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Q: You say visiting NYC was also a main draw card – what did you love about the city?

A: To experience the hustle and bustle of such a well-known city was an experience like no other. From the energy of Times Square and the city’s infinite skyline, we absorbed all the sights walking through New York City. We visited the world-famous Guggenheim and MoMa (Museum of Modern Art) and marvelled at the poetic Oculus by architect Santiago Calatrava at Ground Zero. Later on, we walked through the endless, winding paths of Central Park. Bonus: we found the most unique places, exhibitions, art galleries, and shops with mind-blowing interior design and architecture.

Q: Wian – after winning the Caesarstone #SDC2022 competition and graduating from BHC School of Interior Design, what have you been up to in 2023?

A: I am currently working at ARRCC on high-end residential projects, focusing on developing my design process and creative thought processes. I love being in the midst of the real-world architectural and interior design fields on a daily basis.

Q: It’s time for the quick-fire round Wian. Let’s see what you say about:

Advice for recent design/architecture graduates: Take notes. Don’t overthink. Keep sketching.
Your personal design style and aesthetic: Laid-back, masculine, and layered consistency.
Mentors and influencers in the industry: Publications such as VISI and House & Leisure – and Jaco Landman, of course!

See the full gallery of Wian & Jaco’s trip to NYCxDESIGN Festival:

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