Cooper-Hewitt Uses Fluorescent Tape for Museum Replica, Interactive Design Wall, and Donations

By Anna Sekula October 26, 2011, 4:00 PM EDT

Photo: Richard Patterson/Courtesy of Cooper-Hewitt

Cooper-Hewitt's National Design Awards
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As the Cooper-Hewitt National Design Museum continues the multimillion-dollar renovation of its landmark Upper East Side home, the organization has been forced to look for alternative venues to house one of its biggest annual events, the National Design Awards gala. After taking over Cipriani 42nd Street for the past two years, the design institution opted to head to a new space. The affair on Thursday brought 585 patrons and supporters to Pier 60 for the seated dinner and awards ceremony as well as an additional 100 or so guests for the after-party that followed, raising $924,000. To make sure its attendees didn't lose sight of the museum and its redesign, the organizers collaborated with event designer David Stark to highlight this idea in the decor.

Using fluorescent tape supplied by 3M, Stark sketched out a scale version of the historic mansion's façade onto a three-dimensional structure and placed the model in the center of the cocktail space.

“I've been working with David Stark for years and he never disappoints, and was thrilled that he really incorporated the whole idea of Cooper-Hewitt being on the move, which is what we're affectionately referring to our renovation period as,” said Caroline Baumann, the museum's associate director, who was responsible for overseeing the event. “So by creating that great Carnegie mansion in the middle of the cocktail space, it showed that we're on the mend—with the 3M tape—and also on the move. And reminded people that they were here for Cooper-Hewitt.”

A separate section of the reception area held an interactive installation, which invited guests to illustrate what design means to them with rolls of 3M's brightly colored adhesive strips. “We wanted to do something fun with [the slogan] 'Design is...' because we're launching a campaign this spring that sort of parallels that. The intention is to open people's eyes to the fact that design is ubiquitous, from basic things like a wineglass or a pen to the Chrysler Building,” Baumann said.

The tape also appeared in the dinner space, where rolls replaced the traditional paper place cards. This afforded the event staff another opportunity to engage guests—asking them to use the tape and a supplied Sharpie to jot down a donation. “As part of our opening comments, Bill Moggridge [the museum's director] and I made an appeal to help us close the $54 million renovation campaign—we're $990,000 away. So what we did is say that it was the participatory part of the evening, where we encouraged people to either just write 'yes' on their place card or [the sum of their] pledge to the campaign.”

The rest of the gala's design was relatively simple, with large graphic table numbers providing the bulk of the decor during the awards. With Today show news anchor Natalie Morales as M.C., the award ceremony honored a number of individuals and companies, including the landscape architectural firm Gustafson Guthrie Nichol, fashion brand J. Mendel, and author Steven Heller, with the likes of Bergdorf Goodman's Linda Fargo, actor Matthew Modine, and Architectural Digest editor in chief Margaret Russell serving as presenters.

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