Illy Rolls Out Artsy Pop-Up

For its holiday pop-up, Illy used a piece of functional art to preview a new espresso-making system at the Time Warner Center.

By Anna Sekula December 10, 2007, 10:34 AM EST

Illy's Push Button House

Photo: Evan Sung

According to the folks at the Italian coffee company Illycaffè, they are as serious about art and sustainability as they are about coffee. And that's part of the reason behind the Push Button House, the pop-up promotion-cum-arts installation at the Time Warner Center. Designed by artist and architect Adam Kalkin, the piece is a fully functional and sustainable five-room home (built inside an industrial shipping container) from which Illy is marketing its new Hyper Espresso system of coffee extraction. Slightly shorter than the run of Illy's SoHo promotion in 2005, the house debuted to the public on Monday, December 3, and will be on display through December 30.

“The Push Button House is a vehicle that brings Illy's brand values to life and serves as a reflection of Illy's continued commitment to innovation, the arts, and sustainable development,” said Gregory Fea, president and C.E.O. of Illycaffè North America.

Primarily made of steel, with wood, plexiglass, and recycled materials, the Push Button House is controlled by a computer (with several mechanical-engineering components inside the container) and takes about 90 seconds to open. Unfolded, the container has a kitchen, a dining area, a bedroom, a lounge, and a library. In the kitchen, Illy displays its newest espresso-making method, which uses coffee packaged in individual capsules.

To further promote its coffee, Illy will have Giorgio Milos, a master barista from Illy's Università del Caffè (University of Coffee) host demonstrations on how to make espresso and espresso-based cocktails. And on Monday evenings through December 17, passersby can sample treats from Bouchon Bakery with their coffee.

On the charitable side, the concept—a public relations initiative that took a little more than a year to plan and execute—is also tied to fund-raising for Illy's Cup of Kindness campaign. Donations and five percent of proceeds from online sales will benefit Share Our Strength, with funds designated for schools in Ethiopia. Hosted by Martha Stewart, Andrea Illy, chef Thomas Keller, and artist James Rosenquist, a Cup of Kindness charity dinner at Per Se took place the night after the promotion opened and raised over $100,000.

Since it's a mobile exhibit, we asked about the plans to bring the installation to other major cities in the U.S. “Illy plans to travel the Push Button House to major metropolitan cities throughout the U.S. New York is the first stop, as it is at the forefront of art and design innovation,” Fea said. “It is also the shopping center of the world, and Illy's Push Button House serves as a wonderful respite for shoppers this holiday season.”

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