Safwat Riad Designs Spaces That Bring People Together
“If it wasn’t for music, I wouldn’t be doing the type of work I do right now.”
Safwat Riad is a designer who creates spaces to be used. Very much embedded in the NYC design scene, his spatial work has taken him all over the city – from the Governors Ball to the 70s-inspired lounge at the Elsewhere club in Brooklyn. But his beginnings are rooted some 5,400 miles away in the Egyptian city of Alexandria, where he was born and raised.
Riad, who now works out of a studio in Queens, moved to the US when he was in middle school. Contextually, the States was reeling from 9/11, with anti-Islamic rhetoric unfolding in its aftermath. “The first day in the cafeteria, nobody would accept me,” he says in a video interview with Hypebeast, “but all these weird, dark moments help me to shape a stronger mentality.”
Indeed, Riad has risen up – bringing elements of his culture to some of New York’s most vibrant spaces along the way. “I’m trying to build a language using shapes, elements, and technology,” he says while showing us around his workspace – where a self-built sofa intended for contemplation sits meters away from a complex CNC machine. “Back in the day, we didn’t have any technology and look what the Ancient Egyptians did. I’m bringing Ancient Egypt to the modern day.”
One of those spaces he looks back on with particular pride is Paragon, an electronic music venue set inside a multi-story space on Broadway in Brooklyn’s Bed-Stuy neighborhood. For this particular project, he looked to spiritual architecture, referencing buildings that possess a transformative nature through use of scale and form. “It felt incredible to do a structure that was bigger than me,” he says. “It’s cool to see people being themselves without worrying [in there]. If it wasn’t for music, I wouldn’t be doing the type of work I do right now. People go out there and get to enjoy my work.”
These days, Riad works alongside a team of makers who are adept in bringing the latest technology to design fabrication – from 3D VR rendering, CNC routing, plasma laser cutting, robotic milling, 3D scanning and printing, and good old-fashioned carpentry. But from his spaces to his one-of-a-kind pieces, an experiential nature is a golden thread. “Every project is like a new learning experience, I’m not always doing one thing – it’s always something new.”
Check out the film on Safwat Riad in the gallery above and let us know your thoughts in the comments.