A Multifaceted Designer Gets a New Platform


Name: Emmanuel Olunkwa

Age: 27

Hometown: Los Angeles

Now Lives: In a one-bedroom apartment in the Stuyvesant Heights neighborhood of Brooklyn.

Claim to Fame: Mr. Olunkwa is a filmmaker, independent magazine editor and furniture designer who was just named the new editor of Pin-Up magazine. He views his cross-disciplinary practice as keeping with the mantra of Marshall McLuhan, the communication theorist who taught that “the medium is the message.” “I am of the Tumblr generation,” he said. “I have always been able to kind of curate my world.”

Big Break: Growing up in Los Angeles, Mr. Olunkwa first became interested in design by looking at his hometown’s real estate with a critical eye. “I was always engaged in who built friends’ houses or what extensive remodels had been done,” he said.

He moved to New York in 2014 to study race and architecture at the Eugene Lang College of Liberal Arts at the New School. In 2019, he enrolled in a prestigious, multifaceted program at the Graduate School of Architecture, Planning and Preservation at Columbia University.

During that time, he also oversaw November Magazine, a cerebral “publishing and programming endeavor” he helped found in 2020, and was an editor for The Broadcast, a virtual publication by Pioneer Works gallery. “Everything pretty much picked up for me over the last year,” he said.

Latest Project: This month, he took over as editor of Pin-Up, a cheeky biannual architecture publication based in New York. (Felix Burrichter, the magazine’s founder and former editor, moves into the new role of creative director.) “Pin-Up prides itself on its rigorous optimism, so I want to continue complicating what this idea of ‘architectural entertainment’ can mean,” he said.

Next Thing: As a furniture designer, Mr. Olunkwa is known for flower-shaped side tables and sculptural chairs made from high-grade plywood (starting at $650 and sold on eandko.com, and at Picture Room in Brooklyn). A new capsule collection of furniture will be sold by Ssense this fall. “When I started living alone last year, I began making furniture because I wanted my space to reflect myself for the first time,” he said.

Deep Play: For his graduate thesis at Columbia University (he graduated with a Master of Science degree in May), he dissected the spatiality of “Slave Play,” the Tony-nominated production by Jeremy O. Harris about racism and sexual kinks. “It’s a really incisive work that allows people to examine how we position ourselves as spectators to art and identity,” he said.


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