This design organization came about in 2008 and has experimental gallery/labs in three cities already. Founder/Director Mitch McEwen was really interested in making the field of architecture more engaged and involved in its surrounding community. The group’s ground zero, SUPERFRONT BK, the group began putting on exhibitions in a gallery space geared towards the public. The non profit organization is focused on promoting architectural experimentation and interdisciplinary exchange. Many of the Brooklyn gallery’s projects have been praised by the forward thinkers within the profession, and SUPERFRONT has produced exhibition catalogs that are available for sale online.
The exhibits often feature radically experimental works by young designers that are built and exhibited on very limited budgets by the SUPERFRONT staff in collaboration with the artist. Each year the organization hosts designers-in- residence, and 2011 featured urban designer Manuel Avila Ochoa, culminating in his project Participatory Urbanism: Crown Heights. The project used a landscape urbanist’s approach to envision and rethink the residual spaces adjacent to the Franklin Avenue shuttle line. Avila involved the local community in his research and final exhibition, looking to create a common ground between constituents and residents while involving them in the conversation about public space. The project was one of ten selected visions for NYC honored at Urban Design Week 2011.
This is just one example of how SUPERFRONT’s work is making a difference. SUPERFRONT Detroit, spearheaded by SUPERFRONT member Chloe Bass has been working to re- imagine what the future of the city will hold. Their exhibition Detroit: A Brooklyn Case Study was a combination of art, architecture and documentary. SUPERFRONT released an RFP for a design intervention on a vacant lot site they owned, resulting in the LIGHT UP! Installation by artists Ellen Donnelly and David Karle. There was also a crowd-sourced documentary, SUPERtube, inviting residents to use YouTube as a communal think tank and create their own vision and proposal for how the city should change. Contributors were asked to pick one lot, block, or neighborhood in Detroit and create a 1 minute video based on SUPERFRONT prompt questions.
In 2009, SUPERFRONT LA began as an offshoot of the Brooklyn site, at the Pacific Design Center. The gallery produced exhibits here through August 2011. The LA portion of the operation hosted the traveling exhibit Detroit: A Brooklyn Case Study and curated Unplanned and Anthony Gross:Crime Scenes. Unplanned has an accompanying publication available for purchase on SUPERFRONT LA’s website.
Across all cities, SUPERFRONT is in your face and asking the hard questions. It is bringing the ideas of design, its process, and consequences direct to the constituents in affects the most. More impressive is this forward thinking group that features many young, female, minority designers making big things happen. Their work is definitely worth an in depth look and for those readers on the east coast, make a point to visit their Brooklyn Studio next time you are in the New York area, there seem to be some very exciting things happening there!