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Design Gets Its Due at Cooper-Hewitt Gala

Individualistic design, from how a person dresses to Space Age-type buildings and artists' takes on textiles, was celebrated at Thursday's National Design Awards at the Cooper-Hewitt National Design Museum in Manhattan.

Individualistic design, from how a person dresses to Space Age-type buildings and artists’ takes on textiles, was celebrated at Thursday’s National Design Awards at the Cooper-Hewitt National Design Museum in Manhattan.

Party planner David Stark proved he was of the same ilk by transforming 6,000 pounds of the museum’s recycled paper into fireproofed topiaries for the Target Corp.-sponsored event. Even singer Paul Simon, who presented the Communications Design award to his friend Chip Kidd, played to the design-minded crowd. Dressed in a light-colored business suit, Simon said, “I would like to apologize first of all for my attire and specifically its lack of festiveness.”

Kidd, whose book jackets can be seen on the works of Cormac McCarthy, Orhan Pamuk and John Updike, said essentially everyone is a designer based on their fashion, music, cars and other personal adornments. “You get one life to design,” he said. “Strive to do it with care, compassion, intelligence, honesty and love.”

Before handing Rick Owens the fashion award, interior specialist Jonathan Adler noted how the designer is inspired by everything from Brâncusi sculpture to rock ‘n’ roll. The Paris-based Owens said he was thankful for the people he works with who helped him receive the honor, while Product Design award winner Jonathan Ive, the Apple executive who created the iconic iPod, the candy-colored iMac and other innovative designs, was equally humble.

Lifetime Achievement award winner Antoine Predock told the crowd he sported Owens-designed clothes from top to bottom, including a pair of quilted leather pants. At work at the forthcoming National Palace Museum in Taiwan and the Canadian Museum for Human Rights in Winnipeg, the architect has been running his own practice for 40 years and has no plans to ease up.

“This is going to be a kickoff for me,” Predock said. “My son keeps me hip, so watch your backs, you young guys.”

Other winners included Maharam, a fourth-generation textiles business now run by brothers Michael and Stephen Maharam, which received the Design Patron award; Landscape Design winner Peter Walker; People’s Design award winner Toms Shoes, and architecture firm Office dA. The company’s Nader Tehrani, who along with his wife and business partner, Monica Ponce de Leon, took home the Architecture Design award, referenced another sensitive subject. Noting how a White House visit is part of the prize, he said, “You can’t imagine what a privilege it was to have the front doors of the White House opened to an Iranian and Venezuelan.”

This story first appeared in the October 22, 2007 issue of WWD.  Subscribe Today.