“One man’s utopia is another man’s dystopia,” said British design critic Alice Rawsthorn two weekends ago at an opening festival for A/D/O, the latest creative co-working space to launch in New York City. What unites the widely varying examples of utopian visions throughout history, said Rawsthorn, is a simple and empowering definition for design: “Design is an agent of change, which can help us to make sense of what is happening and turn it to our advantage.”
That baseline certainly seems to be the driving force at A/D/O, a multifaceted space whose ambitious setup is best characterized, much like its moniker, with the help of a few backslashes. Backed by the automotive company MINI, the design workspace/accelerator/lecture hall/gallery/restaurant houses many resources in a 23,000-square-foot former warehouse in Greenpoint, Brooklyn’s Industrial Business Zone—and promises to do things differently.
A/D/O itself offers its own microcosmic and utopian proposal for creatives. An installation of a modular, reconfigurable furniture system by MOS Architects, made from shiny, perforated sheets of aluminum, provides communal seating for the open-plan interiors. Industrial beams are left exposed, in a nod to the original warehouse from which it was transformed by nARCHITECTS. A kaleidoscopic, mirrored skylight called The Periscope refracts a collage of reflections from the street, the rooftop, and the Manhattan skyline in the near distance. The nondescript exterior, made from repurposed brick, features a patchwork mosaic of reshuffled graffiti murals. All told, A/D/O is as much a literal convergence of varying views as it is a metaphoric one.
In addition to shared studio space and a fabrication lab for its members, A/D/O also hosts Urban-X, an in-house startup accelerator co-sponsored by the HAX accelerator based in Shenzhen, China. Norman, an eatery by Scandinavian chefs Frederik Berselius and Klaus Mayer, serves up local seasonal fare. The restaurant, along with the gallery spaces and lecture hall, where A/D/O’s Design Academy hosts a recurring series of talks, is open to the public. “We are convinced that meaningful design cannot happen in isolation,” said Esther Bahne, head of brand strategy and business innovation at MINI.