Long known as “the city that never sleeps,” New York City can feel chaotic with its cacophony of skyscrapers, subways and noise. But within creative corners of the Big Apple, from a photo studio in Brooklyn to a design firm in Manhattan, transplants find their own groove. Meet three recent alums based in New York.
On the sixth floor of a building smack dab in the middle of midtown Manhattan, in the white-walled architecture, interior and product design firm Workshop/APD, alumnus and furniture designer Hines Fischer (MS 14 Environmental Design) sits at a long table packed with coworkers and computers.
He animatedly discusses hand-drawn sketches and digital renderings of various projects, including giant Moroccan-style cushions for a house in Nantucket, canvas chairs for a hotel in Salt Lake City, and sofas, chairs, tables and desks for an in-the-works NYC hotel.
“Hotels are a great place for a furniture designer, because a lot of times everything in the room is custom,” says Fischer, adding that hotel projects involve working with designers with training similar to what is taught in Environmental Design at ArtCenter. “You collaborate on really cool pieces.”
Behind him are shelves displaying models of door levers and handles for a brass collection he co-designed for door hardware and lighting studio client SA Baxter. A curved wooden desk he co-designed with coworker and alumna Ruoxi Wang (MS 17 Environmental) sits across from a boomerang-style sofa they also co-designed.
Reflecting the flexible nature of working in NYC, in a few months Fischer will leave his senior product designer position at Workshop/APD to join hospitality design NYC startup Goodrich as lead product designer. At Goodrich, on the penthouse floor of a building eight blocks from Workshop/APD, he will work on lighting and furniture for a Northern California hotel, a sports arena in NYC and a national restaurant chain, among other projects. The office, he says, has a view of lower Manhattan’s 104-story One World Trade Center on one side and 102-story Empire State Building on the other side.
Drawn to design early on, Fischer grew up in Cincinnati, the son of a substitute school teacher mom and a lawyer dad who taught him how to repair things around the house. He took apart laptops and guitars, tinkered with cars and painted. He graduated from Carnegie Mellon University with an undergraduate degree in industrial design and did a study abroad in Denmark in furniture design before moving to SoCal to study at ArtCenter.
“I wanted to focus on design that would make people smile and improve their lives in tiny ways,” says Fischer, inspired by a Summer term furniture design internship at a Pasadena-based studio founded by alum and Environmental Design Assistant Professor Cory Grosser (BS 01 Environmental). He also met his fiancé Chuan Wang (BS 2014 Environmental)—an interior architect at the Manhattan architecture firm ODA—while at the College. Fischer moved to NYC in 2014 after graduating, and designed furniture and lighting at studios Yabu Pushelberg and AvroKO before Workshop/APD.
On this particular bright early fall day, Fischer takes a lunch break at Workshop/APD to walk two blocks to eat at L'Adresse American Bistro, with a floor-to-ceiling window overlooking leafy Bryant Park. Fischer then strolls through the park, past jugglers and a carousel spinning slowly to French cabaret music. “Occasionally I sit on a chair here and do Chinese lessons on my phone,” says Fischer, who’s learning Mandarin to communicate with Wang’s parents.
After, Fischer walks nine blocks to the NYC showroom of global furniture company Bernhardt Design on the third floor of a stunning 1915 Art Deco building. Bernhardt has partnered with ArtCenter in the past on interdisciplinary studios with students. “When it comes to design, everything is on this island, in Manhattan,” Fischer says. “I can Google any chair in the world, and it’s in a showroom five minutes away.”
At Bernhardt, Fischer sits at a desk called Hug featuring grey wrap-around upholstery and hidden compartments for computer cables. Fischer designed the desk—manufactured and distributed in the U.S. by Bernhardt—while at ArtCenter. It went on to win an Interior Design magazine 2016 Best of Year award.
Leaving Bernhardt, Fischer winds his way back through midtown. Every morning he walks his and Wang’s dog Toast from their two-bedroom apartment in the residential Brooklyn neighborhood of Park Slope to Prospect Park. Then he takes the subway into Manhattan for work. After work, he takes the train one stop to meet Wang by her office, and they ride home together. Their apartment is filled with walnut stools that Fischer designed and a painting he recently did of Wang.
“There are times I grumble about living in New York City,” says Fischer. “In the winter, it’s freezing cold and in the summer it’s unbelievably hot. But every day my subway goes across the Manhattan Bridge, so you see the Statue of Liberty and the sunrise. The view is gorgeous.”