Architecture & Design

Old City Events Explore the Sensory (And Sensual) Side of Design

How does your desk make you feel? Do you want to caress that fabric, or even make love to your vase? A series of exhibits at Philadelphia Design District galleries seek to answer many questions like these.


sensory design wharton esherick sofa

This Wharton Esherick-designed sofa is one of several sensual pieces of furniture on display at Moderne Gallery in Old City as part of the Philadelphia Design District’s “Sensory Design” exhibit series. | Photos courtesy Philadelphia Design District

Design — good, bad, and otherwise — is meant to provoke reactions in the viewer or user of an object beyond a simple “I love it” or “I hate it.” There are objects out there that invite you to kick up your heels and dance, others that entice you to lie down and relax or curl up with a good book or romantic partner. Still others may lead you to take a deep breath and inhale the scents that surround you. And then there are those objects that you’d just as soon make love to as use.

These and other stimulants are being showcased this week at the 12 showrooms, galleries and studios that together comprise the Philadelphia Design District in Old City. Decorative objects, indoor and outdoor furniture, works of art, and environments are all on display through the end of the festival on Saturday, Oct. 13th.

Special events tied to the exhibits will pair the works on display with things like food and drink from around the world, workshops that let you design your own sensory delights, and readings both historic and erotic.

“Each exhibition deals with the role the senses play in design,” says PDD spokesperson Lindsay Devine.

Explorations of the erotic and the exotic

The journey into the erotic takes place at tonight’s special event at Biello Martin Studio, 149 N. 3rd St. Amidst the erotic sculptural work of studio co-owner Michael Biello, rarely seen works by “pleasure activist” Annie Sprinkle and sensual pillows from across-the-street neighbor Kellijane, Susanna Meyer, founder of the Erotic Literary Studio, will read from a selection of works that celebrate the sensuality of furniture, textiles and objects and our erotic relationship to them.

sensory design roche bobois globe trotter collection

Items from Marcel Wanders’ “Globe Trotter” collection, which Roche Bobois will officially unveil Oct. 11th. | Photo: © Didier Delmas for Roche Bobois via Philadelphia Design District

Tomorrow night’s event takes participants on a virtual world tour without leaving the confines of the Roche Bobois showroom at 311 Arch St. The French luxury furniture maker officially takes the wraps off Marcel Wanders‘ “Globe Trotter” collection with a launch event featuring artwork, music, food and drink from the various countries Wanders’ designs evoke.

You can learn about the groundbreaking New York design gallery that launched Wanders on his own journey on Friday, Oct. 12th, at Minima, 131 N. 3rd St. Its “Touched by Design” exhibit focuses on how touch shapes objects and objects you can touch. In connection with the exhibit, the modern furniture gallery will host life partners Murray Moss and Franklin Getchell, who together turned the New York design world on its ear with their Soho design and art emporium that bore Moss’ name. The pair will read excerpts from their new memoir, “Please do not touch (and other things you could not do at the design store that changed design),” and sign copies of their book.

sensory design shiftspace barnes installation

Shift’s picnic tables were a central element in Shiftspace’s pop-up outdoor terrace next to the Barnes Foundation. Shift’s founders will speak at Petit Jardin en Ville Oct. 12th.

Meet the makers — and become one yourself

Also on the 12th, the outdoor-living and floral design studio Petit Jardin en Ville will host an open house featuring a talk by the founders of Shift, the Brewerytown-based maker of commercial-grade outdoor furniture for businesses and residences. Shift was created by the Shiftspace design studio to give its ideas about blurring the lines between indoors and outdoors, public and private, social and personal, a more portable solid form.

“Sensory Design” wraps up Oct. 13th with “Discovering Design Through Simple Platonic Elements,” a workshop for children and adults sponsored by Pentimenti Gallery, 145 N. 2nd St. 30 participants “from 9 to 99” (children must be accompanied by an adult) will get a kit of wooden pieces with which to assemble the object of their dreams — or maybe their desire. Architects and artists will be on hand to help get the participants’ creative juices flowing, and afterward, the participants will get to take their creations home with them. No prior drawing, design or model making experience is required.

All 12 Philadelphia Design District members are sponsoring exhibits in their stores through the end of the DesignPhiladelphia festival. Reservations are required for some events. For more details about the “Sensory Design” events and information about the exhibits, visit the Events page on the Philadelphia Design District website.



IN THIS SECTION