Harry Allen is an American industrial and interior designer. In 1993, he founded Harry Allen Design, located in New York City’s East Village. Allen has designed furniture, lighting, products and interiors for a variety of international clients. Notable designs include the interior of the design store Moss, the Reality line for Areaware, including the Bank in the Form of a Pig and the bottle for Marc Jacob’s Bang perfume. His work is in the permanent collection of the Museum of Modern Art, the Brooklyn Museum of Art and the Philadelphia Museum of Art.
BELLEVUE NYC Cotton Blanket by Harry Allen X ZigZagZurich
The Bellevue blanket is made from a pattern that is one in a series that Harry Allen appropriated from the buildings of New York City. Most architecture has an internal geometry. The image on the Bellevue blanket was taken at 23rd St and the FDR Drive. It borrows the windows and vents from a building that is part of Bellevue Hospital.
After photographing the buildings, Allen isolates and abstracts features and then creates a repeat from these elements. The designer tries to do as little manipulation as possible, but of course images are not always perfect and patterns need to repeat precisely, so he adjustes them accordingly.
Because they start from photographs, these patterns come laden with information. Bellevue, for instance, is the oldest hospital in the USA, and ‘The Cube,’ as this building is known, was completed in 1974. The building was designed by Pomerance & Breines in association with Katz, Waisman, Weber, Strauss, and Joseph Blumenkranz.
"When I took the image of the building I was only after the texture. I love the varied architectural landscape of New York and the Brutalist façade of the Bellevue Cube, with its coffered windows, caught my eye. However, it has not always been so admired. Despite the critics, I love the pattern it yeiled for this blanket. Cement translated into woven cotton. It speaks of sunlight and pure geometry. It also speaks of all the lives that have passed through the rooms. Most of my NYC building patterns honor the people behind the windows, and that brings my thoughts poetically back to this warm woven blanket, and the comfort it may provide." - Harry Allen
Who are you?
Where do you live?
New York City and Bedford, NY.
What do you do?
I am an Industrial Designer although I have much experience designing interiors and providing creative direction.
Who & what inspires you?
Right now I am fascinated by craft and making. Of course I studied design and love art, but a recent residency at the Haystack Mountain School of craft got me back in touch with my craft roots. I was an avid potter in High School. The craft landscape in the USA was very different then; now it feels very optimistic.
What doesn’t inspire you?
What projects have you been recently working on?
In addition to my designs for ZigZag, I have been working on a line of mass-produced beverage containers. I am a bit of a chameleon, but I really love the promise of industrial design and mass-production; it is so democratic, allowing everyone access to great design.
What projects in your lifetime have the most significance in both of your work?
I love all of my babies, but some of my greatest hits are:
1) The design for the Moss Store, sadly gone, in Soho NY. It was my first independent interior and my systematic cases paired with Murray Moss’s vision made for an amazing retail experience.
2) My ‘Kila’ Lamp for Ikea was my first really mass-market product.
3) The ‘Bank in the Form of a Pig’ made by Areaware, has become an icon.
4) The ‘Bang’ fragrance bottle I designed for Marc Jacobs took my REALITY aesthetic to the masses.
5) I have a special place in my heart for ‘Shed,’ a cedar closet I designed for MatterMade. It like this project takes an architectural element and brings it intop the home.
Where is design & art heading?
I keep hoping that the whole system will break down. That cities will become less important, that we will start manufacturing locally again, and that small pockets of design will spring up with unique perspectives.
What’s wrong with design?
Not enough consumers.
Who do you think are the most influential artists & designers in recent years?
I am usually most influenced by art and design shows I see. I loved the Ettore Sottsass and Come des Garcons shows at the Met last summer, and more recently the David Hockney show, also at the Met, fed my brain.
What artists and designers have inspired you in your lifetime?
I was weaned the work of all of the great 20th century modernists and minimalists. I love Donald Judd and Sol Lewitt and all the great modernists. But that is all past and really I am inspired by whatever is in front of me. I am currently fascinated by the work of the potter, Legardo Tackett, and the last piece of art I bought was by a young textile artist named Samantha Bitman.
What would be your best destination in the world?
Anywhere for snowboarding. I would like to ride horses in Mongolia. Colombia is probably my next big trip. Antarctica before it all melts.
Stuck on a desert island, three things that you couldn’t be without?
Food, fresh water, and my husband, John.
What is your favourite colour & why?
I definitely do not have a favorite color. I love all colors in different contexts. I am always surprised that people have favorite colors – how does that happen? It feels so arbitrary to me. I mean maybe if you have a certain skin tone you might like the way a color looks next to your skin. But they are all good in the right context. That said, I love Pantone 185 Red, sky blue, dark grey, and leafy green.