New York wins Wallpaper* Design Award 2020 for Best City

New York has long been a hotbed of innovation on all fronts, with many of these concepts come to life in recent months, making the Big Apple our Best City

New York skyline – Wallpaper* Design Award for Best City 2020
A bird’s-eye view of Manhattan taken on a late afternoon in February 2019. Photography: Fran Parente
(Image credit: Fran Parente)

Even by its own, heightened standards, the Big Apple had a whirlwind of a year. Hudson Yards, the largest private real-estate development in American history, opened to mixed reviews, and who can blame them? Heatherwick Studio’s Vessel, with its seemingly endless stairways, is nonetheless dwarved by luxury residential towers, a mammoth designer shopping mall, complete with chain stores and signature dining experiences, and the first Equinox hotel. The audacious offering could equally be seen as a brazen attempt to tick as many commercial boxes as possible.

Yet, the development’s arrival has also brought with it some much-needed infrastructure. Previously only accessible on foot, or by bus or car, the area is now connected by the newly extended 7 subway line, thus connecting it to other major hubs in the city like Bryant Park, Times Square and Grand Central Station.

Another redeeming point is Diller Scofidio + Renfro and Rockwell Group's The Shed, a now-iconic building featuring a telescoping outer shell that houses a non-profit contemporary arts centre – the city’s first new institution in decades. Armed with a democratic approach to the arts, aimed at bringing together both high and low, and paired with civic initiatives to make its programme available to New Yorkers of all backgrounds, The Shed’s architecture and aspirations couldn’t be more of the moment.

There was no shortage of cultural highlights in New York in 2019. In addition to the opening of the new Hunter’s Point Library, a triumph in civic architecture by Steven Holl, there was also the much-anticipated re-opening of MoMA, following a $450m overhaul by Diller Scofidio + Renfro and Gensler. Rising past its controversial beginnings, the renovation has enabled the museum to make use of more of its permanent collection than ever, and most notably, to display fine art and design alongside each other. Equipped with a new creativity lab, state-of-the-art studio, a new flagship MoMA design store and a sixth floor café and terrace, the museum’s new home is built for the years to come.

In Chelsea, Pace Gallery inaugurated a new 8-storey flagship gallery, purposefully designed by Bonetti/Kozerski Architecture that holds its own amongst the mushrooming of residential developments, office buildings and galleries in the tightly-packed neighbourhood. On the Upper East Side, the renovation of Sotheby‘s HQ, by OMA also proved a boon for the art market and public alike, with several blue-chip artworks displayed and accessible for public viewing for the first time.

New York has long been a hotbed of innovation on all fronts, and 2019 aptly saw many concepts come to life. Complementing Frieze and TEFAF, the new Object & Thing design fair, by Abby Bangser and Rafael de Cárdenas added a more curated dimension to the city‘s art week. Meanwhile, at museum level, the Cooper Hewitt Design Triennial tackled the challenges of climate change with an ambitious selection of both speculative and practical projects that presented new materials, methods and technologies, all united under the banner of sustainability.

In the world of design stores and showrooms, The Future Perfect’s Casa Perfect New York spun the idea of a shopping space on its head with its unique offerings put on display in a well-heeled, Tribeca townhouse space. Also memorable was the e-commerce platform 1stdibs’ jump from the digital space into the real world, with a sprawling showroom that brought fresh energy to an already vibrant design scene.

Finally, what would New York be without its diverse offering of hotels, restaurants and bars? This year’s newcomers ranged from Ace Hotel Group‘s pared-back micro-hotel spin-off, Sister City, to the grand modernist TWA Hotel (adapted from Eero Saarinen‘s TWA Flight Center at JFK Airport), and the aforementioned Equinox hotel, by Rockwell Group and Joyce Wang. The boom is set to continue through 2020 with the city‘s first Aman and Six Senses hotels.

Explore more of our Wallpaper* Design Awards 2020 here

Pei-Ru Keh is a former US Editor at Wallpaper*. Born and raised in Singapore, she has been a New Yorker since 2013. Pei-Ru held various titles at Wallpaper* between 2007 and 2023. She reports on design, tech, art, architecture, fashion, beauty and lifestyle happenings in the United States, both in print and digitally. Pei-Ru took a key role in championing diversity and representation within Wallpaper's content pillars, actively seeking out stories that reflect a wide range of perspectives. She lives in Brooklyn with her husband and two children, and is currently learning how to drive.

With contributions from