Participants are asked to examine the existing conditions of the Triplex apartment, to modify the floor plan if desired. They are asked to create an interior design scheme that responds to: the site conditions; the dramatic architectural setting; the required functions of the apartment for living, entertaining and working; and the individual tastes of the clients.

Schemes should be all-encompassing, including furniture, finishes, fabric selection, artwork, lighting fixtures, lighting design, and flooring, window, and wall treatments.

Participants are asked to examine the existing conditions of the apartment and to modify the floor plan if desired, except for obvious load-bearing walls and columns, and the exterior windows which are to remain. Small rooms may be combined to form new, larger rooms as needed.


Early one morning while driving over the Brooklyn Bridge to scout locations for a future Cirque du Soleil in Brooklyn, Jean Michele, the Creative Director saw The Clocktower building on his left. He was considering Brooklyn Bridge Park for a future site of his now iconic blue-and-yellow big top for the Fall Season.

Having spent his career developing sensational aerial acts, he imagined living in a spectacular vertical space. Fascinated with suspension and rigs since he was a child, he wondered what the building looked like inside, and if he could find there a unique home that combined comfortable living with the space to develop and rehearse his aerial performances.

He began researching the building and its history, and was delighted to find that the clock tower penthouse was for sale. It was the space that captured his imagination while he crossed the Brooklyn Bridge. He bought it!

Now, he wondered, “What will I do with it?”

Owning residences in several other cities, he had been looking for a New York base. His work as Creative Director is to develop each spectacular Cirque du Soleil show. The Penthouse would serve as a place to think, experiment, and create during his stays in New York. This would not be his full-time residence, and as such the design and collection could be whimsical and colorful.

The Penthouse would also serve as an exciting setting for entertaining both small and large groups from every corner of his world. Entertainment may include impromptu performances. Theatrical lighting throughout would be a feature, with light shows often held at the roof level.

It is important to him that everyone feels welcome in his home. Whimsy, invention and comfort are essential. Jean Michele’s patrimony is French, and therefore he enjoys all things French, including food, wine, art and furniture.

A dramatic, open kitchen would allow food preparation to be a front-of-house activity for himself, family and friends.

The living spaces on all three floors are to be comfortable and accommodating with variety in the seating for large and small groups.

The two-story living space needs to accommodate a landing pad (approximately 8 x 8) for experimenting with aerial acts. Having started his career as a street performer and acrobat, he still enjoys climbing the ropes.

Sleeping requirements are one Master Suite, a Guest Room, and a children’s room with bunk bed accommodation to sleep 3-6.

A work space with a sound mixing room nearby is required. A complex sound system requires large speakers. A committed supporter of local business (like all solid Brooklynites!) Jean Michele favors Oswald Mills Audio.


Furnishings and Art

As part of their schemes, participants are required to incorporate several existing furnishings owned by the clients. Photographs and dimensions of these pieces are included in the Required Furnishings Catalog, which may be uploaded from link below. There are no stipulations for the locations of these pieces within the apartment; participants are encouraged to find creative ways to incorporate the pieces into schemes, which may include modifying or altering the pieces.

Project Location


DUMBO is an acronym for Down Under Manhattan Bridge Overpass. It is a waterfront neighborhood that has its roots in industrial Brooklyn. The early developers of DUMBO, Two Trees Management Co, were once residents of Soho. They kept looking across the river thinking, “Here we are in Manhattan looking at Brooklyn. What if we were over there in Brooklyn looking at Manhattan?” Dumbo was born! Read here about how David Walentas created DUMBO. https://www.twotreesny.com/about-us

Project Site


This is probably DUMBO’s most famous building, the tallest and most prominent of the Robert Gair Buildings. Its clock tower, and the apartment behind it, is symbolic of the area’s new prominence as a hip, happening, and expensive residential neighborhood. But, of course, this was not always so. In the middle of the 19th century, Scotsman Robert Gair came to the US as lad of 14. In 1867 he and a partner began manufacturing flat-bottomed paper bags. Gair was a genius in inventing machines to fold and manipulate paper. In 1870, he invented a machine for making corrugated cardboard, and also patented a machine for folding boxes. The machine would cut and crease the paper, creating boxes that would go on to be used in food packaging. As one could imagine, this business was extremely successful at the dawn of the manufactured and packaged food industry. This was also the time that many of Brooklyn’s merchant princes were inventing and manufacturing all kinds of new products, from tinned coffee to soap, chewing gum, cereals, and crackers. Gair would package them all. The Gair firm became the largest manufacturer of boxes in the United States, and by 1913 was employing over 1,700 people in his buildings in DUMBO. He was also a real estate developer, and developed much of the DUMBO area. He ran his business out of some of the buildings, and some were leased. 1 Main Street was the tallest reinforced concrete building in the world when built, and has 275,000 square feet of space. By the 1920’s the building was leased to the Charles Williams Stores, a general mail order firm. The company was actually owned by John Arbuckle, Gair’s friend, and owner of Yuban coffee, another DUMBO based company. The Charles Williams Stores were similar to a Sears Roebuck, and 1 Main Street was then called Charles Williams Building Number 5, the Executive Building, holding offices for the company president and other officers, as well as general offices and the company’s apparel merchandise. The bottom two floors were used for shipping, while the rest of the building was taken up by product testing facilities, ordering and buying departments, inspection rooms, and billing and receiving. Today, of course, the building is now luxury housing, the jewel of the Walentas family’s Two Trees empire.

Source: Brownstoner


Presentation must include:

  • A written statement of no more than 500 words describing design solution, including concepts for choosing furnishings and artwork, and how visits to museums, showrooms, and/or auction houses influenced design scheme

  • Floor Plan/Furniture Plan showing entire apartment

  • Reflected Ceiling Plan/Lighting Plan to show proposed lighting throughout apartment

  • Elevations of principal rooms as required to show design intent

  • Scheme boards including images of proposed finishes, furnishings, lighting, textiles, and artworks

  • At least one three-dimensional representation of a principal room

  • Sketches and other material showing development of concept. Hand sketches and drawings are especially encouraged

Presentations will be submitted digitally, and are to comprise a maximum of four 30” x 40” presentation boards in landscape format, plus a single page written statement described above. The written statement should be the first image of the presentation, followed by the four boards.

Each presentation is to be submitted as a single digital PDF file, with a total file size not exceeding 15MB. The written statement as well as each board must be labeled with the ID code issued to the participant upon registration. The ID code must be the only visible identifying information on the submission. Presence of other identifying information will result in disqualification.

Instructions for submitting projects will be provided to each participant upon registration. Upon completion of the competition, project images will be transferred to this website, where they will be accessible for public viewing.

Since judges will be reviewing projects without the benefit of in-person presentations, participants are encouraged to make submissions as self-explanatory as possible. All boards, drawings, and other images should be clearly titled and labeled. Written descriptions should be thorough, and all graphics should be clearly legible on presentation boards.

Representation techniques for presentations are completely free, and may include two and three-dimensional drawings, pictures of models, sketches, renderings, etc., as determined by each participant to best put forth his or her design scheme. Presentations will be evaluated by the jury not only on the quality of the project, but also on the clarity and quality of the presentation.

Please note:  Winner must be present at the Gala Awards Event on April 24th in order to collect prize.

Participation Requirements


Between the registration opening date of December 18, 2018 and the submission deadline of April 8, 2019, participants must agree to visit a minimum of two of the New York City museums and trade resources listed below:


The prize will be awarded based on overall excellence of design scheme. The jury will take into consideration the creativity of the proposed scheme, attention to the functional requirements of the program, and the response to the site and the architectural setting.

Judges will pay special attention to the qualities that make for successful residential design: natural and artificial lighting; comfort of spaces and furnishings; customization of the design scheme to the clients’ personal interests, tastes and collections; and the use of furnishings, materials and finishes to enhance the design concepts for the scheme.

Participants will also be judged on the quality of their presentations, which should clearly and logically convey the design solution, including both the general concept and specific details.