Tag Archives: nyc

A Place To Chill

ImageDiane Cohen

A refrigerated space recently opened in NYC, just in time for summer. Called “Minus 5,” it’s an ice bar similar to affiliated locations in Las Vegas and Monte Carlo. The brand-new outpost is housed on the ground floor of the Hilton Midtown hotel, and features intricate ice chandeliers, walls, and cups sculpted by artist Peter Slavin.

It took him two weeks, a team of seven people, and 18,000 pounds of ice to carve the inside of Minus 5. Peter drew inspiration from the City’s landmarks like Central Park, the Brooklyn Bridge, and the Statue of Liberty, but plans to change the bar’s design every three months in order to keep things “fresh” – exactly how New Yorkers like things.

(Peter Slavin at work) Dan Good

Pejman Faratin

– Francisca Ovalle and Ashley Lee

Designed to Move You


Architects are integrating more than just eco-friendly designs these days – they’re also building environments that promote exercise. A growing trend since 2000, indoor and outdoor spaces are being strategically built to get people moving. Because evidence proves architecture impacts our wellness, “fit buildings” and “fit cities” are popping up everywhere. Across the country, planners, designers, developers, and health advocates are working together to combat widespread idleness, obesity, and diseases related to both.

Right now, New York’s Center for Architecture is featuring 33 projects in 15 states (and D.C.) that exemplify this new objective for construction. Titled “FitNation,” it’s an exhibit inspired by NYC’s own Active Design Guidelines, which offers design strategies for healthier streets, buildings, and plazas, based on research and best practices. A first-ever show, it demonstrates how added stairs, bike lanes, “parklets,” portable pools, and scrap wood swings can improve the way people work and live.

Stop by before September 7 to see what’s been made possible through active design.


– Francisca Ovalle, Copywriter

One Man’s Firehouse Is Another Man’s Home

NYC’s Limelight Marketplace – a former church and nightclub.

These days it’s expected for things to take on a second life in a different form – we live in the age of recycling and the decade of hipsters, after all. From retro wardrobes to trash art to antiquing and composting, our society (for the most part) simply likes to transform old into new. Similarly, reconditioning buildings – particularly in NYC – is a practice we’ve made popular. Why? Because we love relics. They emanate history, character and rarity, which is why we’re willing to pay a lot to live in one. Developers have caught on; today they leverage old properties by converting the likes of churches, stables, firehouses and police station radio rooms into modern-day dwellings. They turn distinct spaces into camouflaged homes, unbeknownst to many of their repurposed function. Luckily for us, their opting for interior reconfiguration over tearing down a building preserves the neighborhood’s appearance and personality for later generations to appreciate.

ImageInterior of Limelight Marketplace

A former stable (Photo: New York Magazine)

A former church (Photo: New York Magazine)

A former firehouse (Photo: New York Magazine)

A former police station radio room (Photo: New York Magazine)

– Francisca Ovalle, Copywriter

Cosmic Quilt – NYC Design Week 2012

The Principals is an industrial design studio based in Greenpoint, Brooklyn and they’ve come up with an interesting project that will be exhibited at the International Contemporary Furniture Fair (ICFF) May 19-21.

“Cosmic Quilt” will challenge the design community with questions about interactive environments, including these from ArchDaily: “What would it be like if the environment we inhabit responded to our present in an active way? What if we shift the scale of the way in which our devices operate to the way our buildings function?”

The project is on Kickstarter, so check it out!

Milford Hotel

What REA produced: Video, website, email campaign.

About the retail location:  The Milford retail provides two retail spaces that can be divided – the first with three levels on 44th St; the second with the ground floor on 45th Street.  Every year, $4.9B is spent in Times Square – nearly half of which is retail spending.  This is no surprise, seeing as shoppers and tourists flock to Times Square as the ideal location to find the biggest and the best stores in New York City.

51K people pass by the Milford every day.  The Milford is located in the heart of the Theater District, near restaurant row and the Port Authority Bus Terminal, surrounded by NYC gems like Madison Square Garden, MoMA, Carnegie Hall, the Garment District, and Central Park.

The 1,300-room Milford Hotel itself was once the largest hotel in NYC when it opened in 1928, and remains one of the biggest and most well-known in the city today.

How REA approached the design & video process:  Our design process began simply by standing on the shoulders of the Hotel’s new brand identity.  We then came up with the idea of having each floor convey a different NYC neighborhood.  We infused this youthful and curious energy into the website design and short film we produced.

589 Fifth Avenue

What REA produced: Branding, video, brochure and packaging.

About the retail location: 589 Fifth Avenue is located on the premier southeast corner of Fifth Ave and 48th St. Fifth Avenue is the most prominent stage for retail in New York City – with several hundred thousand shoppers and tourists buying and browsing on a daily basis.

The sheer amount of foot traffic that Fifth Avenue attracts provides countless opportunities for potential customers to see and experience this location.  Fifth Ave is already the stage for the biggest names in retail, including Saks Fifth Avenue, Abercrombie & Fitch, H&M, Aldo, Urban Outfitters, etc.  This is a chance to build a must-see store that is more than just retail—it’s a destination on the world’s most desired avenue.

How REA approached the design & video process: Our approach was a combination of two strong ideas. The first was to encompass the power of Fifth Avenue and its worldwide appeal, which we expressed by “putting you brand center stage.”  The second was to introduce “TH!NK” and challenge potential tenants to consider all the location manifests and provides. The result was a fast-paced, heart-pounding journey into the power of 589 Fifth Avenue.

Dissecting the Art of Coffee

By REA Designer Mark Thrapp

In my opinion there is but one thing that serves as the ultimate vehicle for artistic expression — food.  And, by extension, the restaurants that serve it.

Why is food the ultimate vehicle?  It’s about the only creative work that can stimulate every sense all at once and do so on both a visceral and heady level.  The aroma. The plating. The texture. The flavor.  Even its sound (e.g., fajitas).  Then add to that the ambiance of the restaurant.  The décor. The music. The service. The vast possibilities in combining these elements into an inundation of all the senses, all at once, gives the artist (i.e., chef) greater sway over the emotions of the observer/eater of their art than Picasso or Rembrandt ever could.  But the food need not be haut cuisine of a world-renowned chef to elicit a rapturous response.  Goulash served in a dive can do just as well.

Coffee is my current realm of cuisine snobbery.  I tend to be hardcore when it comes to coffee — finding myself only enjoying espresso or ibrik coffee preparations.  It is in these preparations that the barista becomes more than a pusher of caffeine, and becomes an artist of great sensitivity and skill.  A barista can make or break a cup of espresso or ibrik coffee, even if the perfect bean, roast and equipment were used.  I’ve noticed that for as much coffee as New Yorkers drink, there just is no quality in the average cup.  I’ve searched NYC for good coffee and could find nothing.  Then just in the past five years, slowly but surely, quality coffee shops started to crop up here and there.   I’ve tried well over 100 restaurants and coffee shops in the city and have found only three to be of the best quality.  Here’s my list:

1) The best cup, by a significant margin, is O Café located on the corner of 6th Avenue and 12th Street in Manhattan.  Drinking their espresso is like drinking chocolate.  I don’t even need to add sugar to my macchiato; the caramelization and the créma from the extraction are so sweet on their own.  From the bean to the barista, O Café knows their coffee.  The downside to O Café is that its ambiance is a bit rigid and uncomfortable.  Still, I regularly commute to the city all the way from Astoria on the weekends specifically to have just one macchiato at O Café and then head back home.  I’m quite lazy, so that’s saying something.

2) A recent discovery for me was 71 Irving Place Coffee & Tea Bar located on Irving Place near 19th Street in Manhattan.  I have not had the chance to test their consistency, but the few times I’ve gone for my espresso the results were quite good.  Their ambiance is considerably better than, and their coffee came in a close second to, O Café.  The neighborhood is also quite inviting.

3) New in Astoria, Queens is Kickshaw, is located on Broadway near Steinway.  They serve the best espresso-based coffee in Astoria and are a close second to O Café.  Their baristas are definitely artists, with methods and a style that are more refined and precise than any place I’ve witnessed on the East Coast.  I go there quite often.

Honorable mention goes to Terrizzi’s Bakery in Astoria, who made the best espresso in Astoria until Kickshaw opened its doors.  At Terrizzi’s the quality was more in the bean than in the barista, but still very good, and their espresso complemented their quality pastries quite well.

Joe The Art of Coffee, having several locations in the city, used to be my favorite a few years ago, but has since been overshadowed by those mentioned above.  They still make a good cup, though.

It all comes down the artistry of the barista and the quality of the bean, roast, water and equipment.  Coffee is an art.