Boston Design Week honors top achievers

TODD LARSON
CORRESPONDENT
Boston Design Week Co-Producer Robert Four (left) and Andrew Martineau of Zero Empty Spaces.

The Boston Design Center, the city’s premier assemblage of design showrooms, offered a fitting setting for Boston Design Week 2022’s Design Awards presentation last week on Friday. What’s more, the Seaport venue enabled this annual celebration of design’s progressive societal influences to resume in-person after COVID-19 made it virtual last year and postponed it the previous year.

“We very carefully watched the progress of the pandemic in January and February, and it appeared safe to once again hold in-person events by the end of April,” said Tony Fusco, who has co-produced Boston Design Week with Robert Four as the principals of Fusco & Four Associates Marketing and Public Relations since the 12-day festival’s 2008 inception. “The guests felt so elated to reconnect with their friends and colleagues after two years of isolation.”

Pandemic panic truly took a back seat in the presentation’s traditional auditorium setting as Fusco fervently described the design achievements of each award’s nominees and opened envelopes Oscars-style to announce the winners.

Oren Sherman of Elkus Manfredi Architects is the recipient of the 2022 Lifetime Achievement Award.

Lifetime Achievement Award

A theme of design as a life and space enricher predominated the acceptance speech of Lifetime Achievement Award laureate Oren Sherman, a Rhode Island School of Design professor and alumnus and a carpet/wallcovering designer and color consultant for Elkus Manfredi Architects.

Selections from the Boston and Truro resident’s portfolio of illustrations for such giants as Disney, Hermès, Steuben Glass, Visa and the U.S. Postal Service, paintings, catalog covers, patterned carpets and wallcoverings, and color schemes for buildings flashed by on PowerPoint as he explored his 40-year journey to what he called “placemaking” with design: creating spaces that bring people together, tell stories of a building’s history, and add new visual dimensions to architecture.

“Where does my best work come from?” he asked. “It’ll take you to the place where you need to be.”

He was referring to design’s power to not only foster the togetherness people need - and lacked during the pandemic - but also guide him to his rightful place in the design world with help from connections he made through design along the way, by face or by familiarity with his work.

“I started out as an illustrator,” Sherman said in a pre-event interview. “In the same period of time, I was designing a Burger King Double Cheeseburger box, I was doing 11 U.S. postage stamps, a Visa card promo and the cover of The Random House Book of Greek Myths… My work was really ubiquitous.”

Although his work is familiar to millions, he himself was not and his workload as a “production person” isolated him from others and alienated him from art that had personal meaning to him. “So, I ran away to Provincetown to become a painter,” he said.

His Cape Cod paintings struck chords of familiarity in many.

“It was the Cape they remembered from their past,” he said. “I made an enormous connection with people that I’d never made before.”

He also made an enormous business connection: publication of one of his paintings on a Yankee magazine cover. This inspired him to sell prints of his paintings in the magazine and earned him L.L. Bean catalog cover commissions.

A visit to Amsterdam’s Rikes Museum sparked yet another career path.

“I was looking at Rembrandt on beautifully flocked wallpaper,” Sherman said, “and I fell completely in love with pattern. I started experimenting with pattern. I wasn’t interested in repeat patterns, but patterns that made artwork you could step into and experience.”

That became his next vocation when the Durkan carpet company asked him to create a carpet collection. Which led him to follow suit for Brinton, the world’s oldest carpetmaker, followed by wallcoverings for Koroseal and eventually his work for Elkus Manfredi.

This includes the Wintergarden at 222 Berkeley St. in the Back Bay where Sherman refreshed “an unloved atrium” by painting it “three colors that matched the marbles” and designing a laurel-imaged carpet to honor the laurel-wreath crowns annually awarded to Boston Marathon winners at the nearby finish line.

“The laurel-wreath crown comes from the Greek myth of Daphne and Apollo,” he said. “I secretly put a piece of mythology into the carpet.”

Similarly, he put heritage into the Fenway’s Verb hotel by refashioning it from a decrepit Howard Johnson’s hotel with stained-glass windows modeled on existing ones “that had been smashed and replaced randomly over years. We liked it so much we decided to recreate it. We kept the pattern that was randomly done.”

Sherman’s work in the South End’s Ink Block exemplifies storytelling through design. Occupying the old Boston Herald site, the new residential development contains images he crafted in the daily paper’s memory, including a newsprint-patterned dot-matrix mural of an archival party photo, Roy Lichtenstein-esque “funny pages” cartoons, and wallcovering made from old newspapers cut into strips. “We wanted to integrate the history of the site into the project, because the Herald informed the whole Ink Block,” he said.

Sherman concluded his speech on a note appropriate to the post-pandemic recongregation the Design Awards ceremony and the design initiatives it honored were aiming for: “Creativity is a solo journey to a connected place. It is our hope that creativity can connect people.”

To learn more about Oren Sherman, visit http://orensherman.com.

Mary Park of UX Architecture Studio received the Newcomer of the Year Award for UX Architecture Studio founder Susi Sanchez from Betty Moore, Publisher of Builder + Architect Magazine.

Newcomer of the Year

The Newcomer of the Year was Susi Sanchez AIA, who established UX Architecture Studio after 20 years working in Barcelona, New York and Boston.

“I grew up on the U.S.-Mexico border…and I’ve always struggled feeling like I don’t belong in these spaces,” Sanchez wrote in a prepared statement her associate Mary Park read in her absence. “Recognitions like these demonstrate to future newcomers…that women and marginalized groups do belong and are valued.”

“It is rare that women start their own architecture firms and on top of that, she is Latina, so the firm is both minority-owned and women-owned,” said Fusco.

From left to right, John David Corey and Miguel Rosales of Rosales and Partners, designer of the Zakim Bridge, nominated for a Social Impact Award, with Ed Forte and Sandra Madden of the Eliot School in Jamaica Plain.

Social Impact Award

The Social Impact Award went to Brookline artist/furniture maker Michael Mittelman for carving wooden bowls to give to food bank/pantry donors through his Bowls for Food organization.

“Food insecurity is everywhere and it’s good to help as many people as possible,” said Mittelman.

This award is given to “an outstanding individual, project, development, innovation or business in any design field that has contributed a design solution large or small to any urgent issue facing our world: societal, environmental, economic, health and wellness, poverty, affordability, sustainability or other.”

Charles Spada of Charles Spada Interiors, now located in SoWa in the South End, accepts the “Mentor of the Year” Award.

Mentor of the Year

The Mentor of the Year was South End interior designer Charles Spada, who specializes in European antiques, fabrics and furnishings.

“Charles is one of the ‘deans’ of the design world in Boston and has mentored innumerable young designers over the years,” said Fusco. “His recognition is long overdue.”

The Producers’ Choice Award went to the Eliot School of Fine & Applied Arts in Jamaica Plain. “We look for an organization in the design field that has committed itself to diversity, equality and inclusion,” Fusco said. “Eliot School is a shining example.”

“The Eliot School is proud to inspire lifelong learning in craft and creativity for all,” said Abigail Norman, executive director of the school, where bookbinding, drawing, knitting, painting, photography, sewing, etc., are taught in-house and in Boston schools and community centers. “We are tasked to think about craft and what it belongs to.”

From left to right, Dara Cheek, Melony Swasey and Abigail Norman of the Eliot School of Fine & Applied Arts in Jamaica Plain accept the Producers’ Choice Award.

Producers’ Choice Award

The Producers’ Choice Award went to the Eliot School of Fine & Applied Arts in Jamaica Plain. “We look for an organization in the design field that has committed itself to diversity, equality and inclusion,” Fusco said. “Eliot School is a shining example.”

“The Eliot School is proud to inspire lifelong learning in craft and creativity for all,” said Abigail Norman, executive director of the school, where bookbinding, drawing, knitting, painting, photography, sewing, etc., are taught in-house and in Boston schools and community centers. “We are tasked to think about craft and what it belongs to.”

Interior Designer Christine Tuttle with Tony Fusco, co-producer of Boston Design Week.