Entering Broken Land: Workwhile Design Talks Explore Dutch Brooklyn


When the Hoxton told us that they were opening their fifth location this September in Williamsburg, Brooklyn, we decided to collaborate on a Workwhile Design Talk that would take us to the heart of what Brooklyn once was: Breukelen.

Way, way back, before there were hipsters with thick-rimmed glasses, Puff Daddy & the Family, or thousands of takeaways with pizza-by-the-slice, Brooklyn was populated by the Dutch. An extension of the original settlement of New York (known as ‘Nieuwe Amsterdam’), ‘Bruekelen’ was one of six original neighborhoods founded by the Dutch that eventually became one single borough of New York and the fourth largest city in the world.


So during this seventh and once again sold-out Design Talk, we at Workwhile decided to do what we always do: get to the heart of design by getting to Brooklyn’s roots.

To help us explore Dutch Brooklyn, we invited four incredible designers to take us on a neighborhood tour through design. Each picked a neighborhood, researched its culture and history, and designed a poster inspired by their findings.

(Prints available for pre-order through 11th October via this link.)

Kicking off the tour was illustrator Calvin Sprague of Pavlov Visuals, who explored the original neighborhood of ‘Breukelen’. He took us deep into the neighborhood’s early history, and unveiled his vintage travel poster-inspired print of Breueklen. The print plays with layers and depth of field to seamlessly mix the old and new worlds of Breukelen across time and space.


Next, designer/illustrator/art director Marta Veludo took us to Red Hook, founded as ‘Roode Hoek’. Marta shared her inspiration - the visual culture of Red Hook’s brick structures and poster-layered buildings - that brought her design to life. With her bold color palette driving her design, she also sought to bring a more human feel to the poster, which she concealed in abstract shapes that she then layered on top of the print with vinyl adhesives.


We then headed south to Coney Island with motion designer Yael Weiser to explore America’s Playground. Her playful, colorful style matched perfectly with Coney Island’s legendary amusement park, while she also paid homage to Coney Island’s earliest days when ‘Konijnen Ijland’ was simply farmland over-populated by rabbits. She took us through her process, where she started in in real life with found objects such as a small Swiss-style house and toy rabbit. Using a three-dimensional printer, Yael brought the scene together with popping words and signs, and finally photographed the model to create a print.


Finally, (typo-)graphic designer Ivo Brouwer brought us back into the heart of Brooklyn to Bedford-Stuyvesant. A neighborhood with a dynamic cultural history and a shifting ethnic makeup, Bed-Stuy was brought to life by Ivo through type. Ivo approached the project by trying to understand the people of Bed-Stuy, which resulted in a thorough and thoughtful design. He developed a custom font that played on the absence and presence of space and the interplay of black and white. Using his talent as an animator, he showed us the development of the print, which reads: “Welcome Stranger”. The print, which Ivo screenprinted himself, is bold, abstract, and almost psychedelic.


The night ended with a final round of the Hoxton’s specialty cocktail - ‘No Sleep ‘Till Brooklyn’ - while the audience enjoyed an exhibition of the final prints. With new inspiration, connections, and artwork to take home, the audience filed out of the apartment as the Design Talk came to a close with laughter filling the dark autumn night on the Herengracht.


Want a print for your wall? Pre-orders are open for one more week until 11th October.

Click here for pricing and purchase information.

Workwhile Design Talks at the Hoxton

Big thanks to our sponsor, The Hoxton, for supporting this seventh edition of the Workwhile Design Talks.

Text: Amanda Cardinale
Photography: (C)  Shannon Kanhai