A new design district can dramatically shift the dynamic of a city, whether it’s a multi-million dollar development that becomes a hub for creatives or one led by a small community of like-minded individuals. Here, Emma Love introduces six making their mark globally
Port Baku Mall, Baku
Best for A luxury fashion fix. Part of a complex that also includes the Port Baku Residences and Port Baku Towers office space, this is the luxury destination shopping mall in Baku. Designed by leading British architects Broadway Malyan and opened in 2014, Port Baku Mall features flagship stores by many of the major international high-end fashion brands including the likes of MaxMara, Balenciaga, Stella McCartney and Ralph Lauren. Flying the design flag is KnockKnock Interiors and Chelebi, which specializes in furniture, textiles and ceramics.
Don’t miss The vast Emporium concept store. It stocks more than 300 brands, covering everything from kidswear to accessories and ready-to-wear, and is present on all three floors of the mall.
Victoria Dockside, Hong Kong
Best for Game-changing green spaces.
A US$2.6 billion art and design district on the Tsim Sha Tsui harbour front, which, when it is fully finished next year, will have been a decade in the making. Masterminded by Adrian Cheng of New World Development, who collaborated with more than 100 designers and artists, it will feature the K11 Musea shopping mall; the Salisbury Garden with lush vertical planting designed by landscape architect James Corner (he was behind New York’s High Line park); a new Rosewood Hotel and the regeneration of the Avenue of Stars, Hong Kong’s version of the Hollywood Walk of Fame.
Don’t miss The rotating art on display in K11 Musea’s sunken amphitheatre. Look out for Van Gogh’s Ear, a sculpture of a 30ft-high upright swimming pool.
Dubai Design District, Dubai
Best for Global homeware brands.
The concept behind the initial two phases of the sprawling Dubai Design District was to provide a community for the city’s designers, creatives and start-ups. Already home to luxury interior showrooms such as Armani Casa and Ligne Roset, plus art galleries and design-led restaurants (The Lighthouse, for instance, is a concept store and restaurant in one), the next step is this autumn’s opening of the Dubai Institute of Design and Innovation. It will offer a single degree – the Bachelor of Design – with a curriculum developed in collaboration with MIT and Parsons School of Design. Downtime happens at The Block, which features a skate park, climbing walls and an urban beach.
Best for Danish architecture exhibitions. With its much-anticipated opening in May, this new design and architecture hub has regenerated a previously little-used section of Copenhagen’s harbour front. Designed by internationally renowned Dutch practice OMA, the building is a series of staggered, stacked glass boxes surrounded by urban squares, bridges and passages that link different parts of the city and a promenade along the water. At its heart is the Danish Architecture Centre, which hosts world-class exhibitions, but there is also Blox Hub (a co-working space for creatives), a gym, flats for rent and a restaurant with a canalside terrace.
Don’t miss The DAC Design Shop, which sells a carefully curated selection of coffee-table tomes, art prints and objects.
Philadelphia Design District, Philadelphia
Best for Vintage 20th-century furniture.
This spring a collective of craftspeople, independent art galleries and interior design showrooms launched the Philadelphia Design District within the historic Old City neighbourhood. A kind of permanent version of the much larger, annual Design Philadelphia festival, the idea is to shine a spotlight on the area as a design hub by hosting regular talks and special events. The 10 founding members include French-inspired garden design store Petit Jardin en Ville; Mode Moderne, which sells vintage mid-century furniture by the likes of Herman Miller and Finn Juhl; and Minima, a contemporary furniture and lighting showroom. You’ll also find custom-made cabinetry by Society Hill Kitchens & Custom Interiors and hand-woven rugs at Parisa Rugs & Décor (below).
Don’t miss The Moderne Gallery, which specializes in 20th-century furniture, lighting and ceramics. Go for pieces by woodworkers Wharton Esherick and George Nakashima.
Silo District, Cape Town
Best for Home-grown African design.
The star of the new Silo District in the V&A Waterfront is the re-imagining of a historic grain silo building by architect Thomas Heatherwick, which now houses Zeitz MOCAA, a museum showcasing 21st-century art from Africa and its diaspora. But that’s not all that’s here: the Southern Guild gallery is a platform for the best of South African design representing, among others, woodworker Adam Birch, architect and furniture designer Cheick Diallo, and designer Porky Hefer (renowned for his limited-edition, suspended leather seats inspired by weaver-bird nests). Plus, retailers include florist Opus, and luxury leather accessories designer Kat van Duinen.
Don’t miss The Yard, a Pan-Asian restaurant and concept store selling South African-made artisanal goods such as homeware, fashion and fine jewellery.
Images courtesy of Rasmus Hjorshøj, Koerie, Stockimo and Alamy