The Brooklyn Navy Yard, a 300-acre relic of America’s industrial past overlooking the East River, is almost eerily quiet. “Sometimes you get a real sense of being near the sea,” says product designer Todd Bracher. From the roof of the nine-storey municipal building, Bracher points out downtown Brooklyn with its Lego-like cluster of new high-rises, the bridges of New York and even faraway green hills beyond the Bronx. The ex-shipyard is a sprawling, “delinquent” world unto itself, he says. It even has its own electricity supply, causing tenants’ computers to cycle more slowly than they ordinarily would.
New York-native Bracher graduated from Pratt Institute in 1996, only to find himself designing remote control caddies and spice racks. “That was the US at the time,” he says. “The idea of working for yourself designing products didn’t exist – it was all big companies, with products fabricated in Asia.” After completing an MA in Copenhagen and starting his business, he worked in Milan, Paris and London, where he headed Tom Dixon’s design studio. Since returning to New York three years ago, he’s designed for some of the world’s most prominent brands and acts as creative director for the Danish luxury brand Georg Jensen.
“Furniture was where I found poetry,” he says. He bases every design around human experience, paring back each object to its absolute essentials. The structure of the best-selling BMW office table he designed for Fritz Hansen, for example, is derived from a fish skeleton: “I call it a Darwinian solution – you can’t say that fish looks ugly. It’s perfectly adapted.”