The young architect Sam Chermayeff was holding court in the dappled sunlight outside Manhattan’s Storefront for Art and Architecture the other day. Twenty feet away his latest masterpiece sat in the middle of the sidewalk. He had earlier visited a restaurant supplier to buy a low white oven on wheels that “cooks like lightning,” he said. The oven got topped with an orange toss pillow he brought from home and a tall flagpole, or perhaps it was a mast, which soared above, holding aloft a lopsided bouquet of wine goblets, also from home.
Architect Sam Chermayeff’s stool was used to cook clams casino for 100 guests at 10 PM.
Photos by Spencer Kohn
Although it was a summery afternoon and the SoHo streets were teeming with people, none of this was attracting much attention. At 10PM, however, he planned to plug into an electrical outlet, using a snaking extension cord, and start warming Clams Casino, a delicacy he described as dating to “a time when it was cool to be drunk.” The plan was to give away a hundred bivalves garnished with peppers, bacon, butter, and pulverized Ritz crackers. “I try to make things that are festive and bring people together,” he explained.
Chermayeff spent five years working in Tokyo for Sanaa, the cult contemporary architecture firm responsible, perhaps most famously in New York, for the New Museum of Contemporary Art. He, along with his business partner and fellow Sanaa alum Johanna Meyer-Grohbrugge, were invited to be among two dozen adventurous young firms like Buro Koray Duman, T+E+A+M, and TheLab-lab. Each built a unique stool and organized a 60-minute performance for the recent all-day-and-all-night festival known as Solstice: 24x24x24, which brought together 24 designers to each create a seat for a collective gathering during the summer solstice during a 24-hour-period running from 7 PM on June 20 to 7 PM on June 21.
For decades now, the rap on young architects has been that they no longer believe form follows function. Here, function followed fun. Had things gone flawlessly according to plan, the festival might have been a little less spirited. Originally, five firms were going to furnish stools for a communal table in a booth at a furniture fair. Then the location changed to a vacant lot on Manhattan’s Lower East Side, before moving, finally, to coincide with Storefront’s Architecture Book Fair, which had opened there earlier in the week.
Koray Duman’s stool featured glow sticks that were put to use during a silent disco at midnight.