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Emma Leigh Macdonald

Emma is a writer, exhibition organizer, and editor based in New York. Her work has appeared in for Le Dépanneur, Pin-Up, and W, among others. She has contributed editorial and image research to publications including Paths to Prison: On the Architectures of Carcerality (Columbia University Press), Race and Modern Architecture (University of Pittsburgh Press), and Radical Pedagogies (RIBA Publishing), and provided curatorial and production support to the Canadian Center for Architecture, Het Nieuwe Instituut, and the New Museum.

Emma Leigh Macdonald's Articles


Courtesy Phaidon

Danish Design Firm HAY Heralds Its 20th Anniversary With a Superb, Highly Tactile Book

While the Danish design firm HAY is just celebrating its 20th anniversary this year, it has achieved a rarefied place in the design lexicon that’s more often associated with brands many decades older. This standing is defined, in part, by being often imitated, yet maintaining a certain level of quality and integrity. HAY originals can always be told apart from those trying to knock it off.

Photo: Marco Galloway

Willo Perron’s Debut Furniture Show Makes the Case for a “No Coasters” Design Movement

With everything he does, the Los Angeles–based designer and creative director Willo Perron always considers the macro and the micro. From the L.A. headquarters of Roc Nation, to Stüssy stores around the world (including in Kyoto, Milan, and Shanghai), to the set build-outs for Rihanna’s and Drake’s latest tours, to album art for those same artists, to the branding and art direction for the non-alcoholic aperitif company Ghia, Perron has an adroit ability to work across many scales.

“Common Good Through Crisis”  exhibition

With Art and Altruism, an Exhibition Explores the Strength and Beauty of Interconnection

The nonprofit collective MASS Design Group astutely understands how to promote equity and hope through the built environment. From its dignified design for the Equal Justice Initiative’s National Memorial for Peace and Justice in Montgomery, Alabama, to its thoughtfully integrated hospitals in sub-Saharan Africa—some of which feature in MASS’s upcoming book, The Architecture of Health (Cooper Hewitt, Smithsonian Design Museum), as well as the upcoming Cooper Hewitt National Design Museum exhibition “Design and Healing” (December 10–August 14, 2022)—MASS understands how architecture can impede or advance our collective human rights. (The firm’s founding principal and executive director Michael Murphy elaborated on the links between design and public health on Ep. 13 of our At a Distance podcast.)

Designer Yves Béhar

Twenty Years On, Yves Béhar’s Designs Still Challenge the Status Quo

The title of Yves Béhar’s new monograph, Designing Ideas (Thames & Hudson), gets straight to the heart of the Swiss designer and entrepreneur’s 20-year career. After founding his San Francisco and New York–based studio Fuseproject, in 1999, Béhar went on to create objects that could transform the lives of those in underserved communities, such as the XO computer, the centerpiece of nonprofit group One Laptop Per Child, which aims to provide learning opportunities to youths in developing countries; and customizable, ergonomic eyeglasses for kids that are distributed through Fuseproject’s See Better to Learn Better program, which provides free optical services to families who can’t afford them. He has also designed pieces for BMW, Microsoft, and Swarovski, among other brands. Reading about the stories behind Béhar’s efforts, it’s clear that he has never stopped challenging the status quo.

Florae exhibition in Paris

These Photographs Bring Van Cleef & Arpels’s Floral Jewelry Into Full Bloom

Floral jewelry has been a tradition of the French jewelry house Van Cleef & Arpels since it opened its first boutique at the Place Vendôme, in 1906, resulting in wearable blooms formed by precious materials that accentuate their charm. More than 100 pieces from this history currently shine at at the Hotel d’Evreux, the regal exhibition space next to the Ritz Hotel in Paris, in the company’s new exhibition “Florae” (on view through November 14), presented alongside floret-filled photographs by Japanese photographer and film director Mika Ninagawa.

Perfumer Mackenzie Reilly

Up-and-Coming Perfumer Mackenzie Reilly on the Architecture of Fragrance

“Most of my memories are strongly shaped by smells,” says Mackenzie Reilly, who became captivated by the fragrance world around age 17. “That’s when I discovered the stories being told by niche perfumers, who have very distinct concepts behind each scent, and began to see perfume making as an art form.” Now a junior perfumer at New York’s International Flavors & Fragrances, Reilly routinely thinks about aromas in terms of a specific field of creative expression—architecture—as she builds a new bouquet. Here, she discusses her path to perfume, and the parallels she sees between physical structures and scent.

Curator Wassan Al-Khudhairi

At the Armory Show, an Exhibition Where Artists Share Visions of the Future

Wassan Al-Khudhairi, the chief curator at the Contemporary Art Museum St. Louis, is the curator of this year’s Focus, a recurring section of the Armory Show—one of America’s biggest art fairs, on view from September 9–12 at New York’s Javits Center—that features contemporary solo and dual artist presentations. A destination within the fair itself, Focus allows for involvement in the event through subsidized rates for galleries that might not be able to participate otherwise. And for the first time, in its upcoming iteration, Focus will be in the same building as the main fair (instead of an off-site location), providing increased visibility.

Black denim fabric with pink cross stitches

In Minnesota, a Denim-Repair Shop Celebrates Wear and Tear

“There should be as many clothing repair shops as there are gas stations,” says Satchel B. Moore, founder of the Saint Paul, Minnesota-based denim service and mending shop Science and Kindness. “After all, there are more pairs of pants in the world than there are cars.” Moore started the initiative, which he runs out of his apartment, following his work at the local menswear boutique BlackBlue, where he sourced high-quality Japanese selvedge denim from brands including A.P.C., Left Field, Baldwin, and Raleigh. Many of his clients developed a connection to the jeans and, wanting more wear out of them, would often return to ask him for alterations or repairs. In an effort to reduce waste and extend the lifespan of clothing, Moore—who grew up in the Waldorf school system, where knitting, crocheting, and sewing are integral to the curriculum—decided to take on the stitching himself.

Perfumer Yann Vasnier

Yann Vasnier on the Fragrance World’s Renewed Interest in the Outdoors

Chances are, you’ve smelled perfumer Yann Vasnier’s work without even knowing it. The French fragrance virtuoso, who has crafted perfumes for the likes of Comme des Garçons, Marc Jacobs, Moschino, and Alexander McQueen, is among the most prolific figures in the industry. Given that his curiosity spills over into many other realms, too, the chances are even greater. Collaborating with visual artists such as Bianca Bondi and the Perrotin art gallery, as well as creating innovative new fragrance technologies, Vasnier continues to build on his virtually omnipresent, multidimensional body of olfactory work. Speaking over Zoom, we recently had the opportunity to discuss his thoughts on what’s next for his generous—and ever-generative—practice.

Cellist Arlen Hlusko

Montana’s Tippet Rise Art Center Goes on Tour With a Four-Day Virtual Classical Music Festival

For Cathy and Peter Halstead, the co-founders of Montana’s sprawling Tippet Rise Art Center—the kind of awe-inspiring environment that requires visiting to truly experience it—the notion of creating a virtual festival, given the ongoing unknowns of Covid-19, served as an opportunity that otherwise might not have arisen. As they put it, the virus provides “an occasion to open up new and surprising experiences.” Paradoxical as it might seem, pandemic-led restrictions have in some ways resulted in expanding (digitally, anyway) this spectacular sculpture park nestled in hilly Big Sky Country. A spirit of generosity drives both Tippet Rise’s physical spaces, which have been based on a working Stillwater County ranch since 2016, and its new virtual festival, comprising films that capture classical music performances at particularly special or unusual off-site venues. (From its inception, classical music programming has been a core part of Tippet Rise, which also features sculptures and structures by artists and architects including Mark di Suvero, Alexander Calder, and Diébédo Francis Kéré.)

The Neue Nationalgalerie in Berlin

David Chipperfield Sets a New Stage for Mies van der Rohe’s Neue Nationalgalerie in Berlin

When architect Mies van der Rohe first used the now infamous—and often riffed-on—phrase “Less is more,” it was in reference to a factory in Berlin in the early 1900s. The story goes that there was very little room for experimental or creative design for the utilitarian building that he was renovating, and his mentor at the time advised that doing less might be the answer. Regardless of how the phrase came about, the idea is visible across van der Rohe’s work—as well as in his influence on contemporary architects.

The Amant Foundation in Brooklyn.

In Brooklyn, a Creative Campus Designed to Slow Artists and Visitors Down

Earlier this month, a stately structure covered in angled white bricks opened its doors in the East Williamsburg area of Brooklyn. It serves as one of four buildings that comprise the New York home of the Amant Foundation, a nonprofit arts organization that values a slow, focused approach in making and viewing art. (It has a sister location in Chiusure, a village in central Italy.) The campus, designed by the New York–based architecture and design studio SO–IL, includes a bookstore, a café, a courtyard, and several galleries—all accessible free of charge—that offer a tranquil environment in which visitors can take in the work on view. Artists’ studios, located across the street, provide time and space for residents to hone their crafts. The foundation’s inaugural exhibition,“Heroines, Birds, and Monsters” (on view through October 31), features works by Berlin-based Portuguese artist Grada Kilomba in video, earth, and other media that speak to one another across the spaces, and with the people and nature invited inside. Here, SO–IL co-founder Florian Idenburg explains how the firm’s design reflects Amant’s aim to serve artists and the public, and describes the materials used to bring its vision to fruition.

Two Grounded Packaging "stand up pouches" in black and white.

This Australian Company Aims to Make Packaging Easy—and Actually Sustainable

“Sustainability” is stamped on so many products these days—having become corporate America’s go-to buzzword throughout the 2010s—that it’s effectively meaningless at this point. Indeed, because of this, the word is even on The Slowdown’s “banned words” list (though for this particular piece, given the context, we’re making an exception). At its most basic, “sustainability” is simply meant to refer to operating in a way that is compatible with the natural world, and that could continue to operate without depleting the planet’s resources. Global supply chains in 2021 are so complex, though, that it can be hard to know if describing certain businesses as “sustainable” can ever truly be done. Just ask Austin Whitman, founder and CEO of the climate certification nonprofit Climate Neutral, with whom we spoke earlier this year on Ep. 103 of our At a Distance podcast; he’s trying to tackle this issue head-on through data and analytics.

A diptych of a painting of cherry blossoms

Damien Hirst Presents an Evocative Forest of Cherry Blossoms at Paris’s Fondation Cartier

As Paris emerges from lockdown and its streets come alive, the Fondation Cartier pour l’Art Contemporain, an art center located in the capital’s 14th Arrondissement and operated by a philanthropic arm of the famed French jeweler, is simultaneously in bloom. This week, it opened “Cherry Blossoms” (on view through January 2, 2022), an exhibition of expressively impastoed, large-scale oil paintings by British artist Damien Hirst that portray the flowering tree. The show, which marks Hirst’s first solo presentation in France, builds on the institution’s history of celebrating the natural world within its exhibition spaces—including the perennial plant–focused group show, “Trees” (2019–2020), and a 2019 survey of Japanese architect Junya Ishigami’s biomorphic, landscape-centric designs—as well as Hirst’s knack for making visceral, attention-grabbing creations, such as his notorious menagerie, preserved in tanks of formaldehyde. His massive canvases maintain the same riveting quality, depicting flowers through gestural brushstrokes and garish, dense, immersive masses of color. “I always just try to keep reinventing myself,” Hirst recently told the BBC. “My mum used to say, ‘There’s enough horror in the world. Why can’t you just paint flowers?’ So maybe she got to me.”

A church with stained glass window and rows of lit candles

A New Series of Essays Unpacks Public Grief and Loss

Earlier this month, Francesca Johanson, editor of the Architectural League’s online publication Urban Omnibus, launched “Memory Loss,” a new series with Guernica magazine. These essays seek out sites of remembrance in New York City, addressing a “continuum between private and public grief,” as in the work of artist and anthropologist Abou Farman, whom writer Olivia Schwob aptly quotes in the series’ first essay. The series aims to expand the inquiries of public memorials into the private, the quotidian, and our less monumental but no less significant ways of paying tribute to loss.