“Home” Is Where You’ll Find DesignPhiladelphia This Year

The week-long festival marks its 12th year - and its first under a new leader - by tackling a comforting yet complex subject.

Is this a space for living, or for working? These days, all sorts of spaces try to conjure up the feeling of home. This year's DesignPhiladelphia festival will examine all the permutations of that culturally loaded term. | Photo: Chris Kendig for DesignPhiladelphia

Is this a space for living, or for working? These days, all sorts of spaces try to conjure up the feeling of home. This year’s DesignPhiladelphia festival will examine all the permutations of that culturally loaded term. | Photo: Chris Kendig for DesignPhiladelphia

This is the first year that founder Hilary Jay is not in charge of the DesignPhiladelphia festival, the annual celebration of design that is the oldest of its kind in the country. This change, along with some other winds of change abroad in the land, has led the festival organizers to return “Home” this year.

After all, it’s a place of comfort where one can seek shelter from the storms. It’s also been something that’s been on the minds of designers in this city for a while, said Rebecca Johnson, executive director of the festival’s producer, the Center for Architecture and Design.

“It’s been a recurring potential theme over the past few years, and the reason for that is it’s an easily understandable and digestible concept, and designers have been very involved with it. It’s something people want to talk about, it’s something designers can come up with programming about. It’s about comfort and security in uncertain times, and it’s about going back to basics, about what this festival can be in the future.”

Like the typical American home over recent years, this year’s festival has gotten bigger, with some 100 programs on the festival calendar as opposed to 80 last year. And it’s undergone some remodeling: the events have been grouped into tracks in order to make it easier for presenters to develop programming and easier for participants to figure out. Each of the tracks — Advocate, Explorer, Enthusiast, Next Generation, Patron and Practitioner — relates to a portion of the Festival’s mission and its intended audiences.

This year’s theme also gives Philadelphia’s interior design community a chance to strut its stuff. One of this year’s signature events, co-sponsored by Collab at the Philadelphia Museum of Art and Roche Bobois, is an illustrated design presentation by superstar product designer Stephen Burks, the man who put the “handcrafted” back into industrial production.

Other signature events run the gamut. A pop-up exhibition that will appear at various sites throughout the festival features University of the Arts students both sharing and inviting visitors to share their “five senses of home,” and an experimental installation called “The Beacon,” created by Jenny Sabin Studio and Thomas Jefferson University’s [email protected], will offer an interactive light show that responds to user health data provided by a mobile app and conditions at the Rail Park.

Even the festival’s opening party has been remodeled. “We’re lowering the ticket prices significantly so that it’s not just a VIP thing but accessible to everyone,” Johnson said. “Even though the location for the kickoff party is changing, the vibe will be the same. It will still be whimsical.”

The festival begins tomorrow evening (Oct. 5th) with the kickoff party at Provenance, the South Kensington architectural salvage emporium. Tickets are $60; students with ID can attend for $30. The festival proper runs from Oct. 6th through 16th, with no programs on Oct. 11th and 12th in observance of Yom Kippur. Full festival information and the schedule of events can be found on the DesignPhiladelphia website.