21 questions

Adam Charlap Hyman Thinks His Epitaph Will Mention a Cheese Booth He Designed

Photo-Illustration: Curbed; Photo: Andre Herrero

New York’s “21 Questions” is back with an eye on creative New Yorkers. Adam Charlap Hyman is co-founder, along with Andre Herrero, of the bicoastal architecture practice Charlap Hyman & Herrero, known for a wide range of commissions, from interior-design projects and exhibition and installation designs, to high-concept opera sets and large mixed-used renovations. He and Herrero just curated the group show “House for the Inhabitant Who Refused to Participate” at Chelsea’s Tina Kim Gallery, on view until January 21. In 2020, his firm won the AIA’s L.A. Emerging Practice Award.

Name: Adam Charlap Hyman
Age: 33
Neighborhood: Turtle Bay
Occupation: Architect and principal at Charlap Hyman & Herrero

What’s hanging above your couch?
It’s a big 17th-century tapestry that depicts a far-off, distant place. There’s turkeys and palm trees and pagodas — a mix of things. It was my grandmother’s.

What’s the first job you had in New York?
I worked for the creative director of the home department at Ralph Lauren doing image research.

What color are you always drawn to? 
I’m always drawn to light blue. A very powdery light blue. It’s a joke in my office. People are like, “Oh, I know. We should make it light blue.” And I’m like, “Oh my God, yeah!”

What work of art or artifact are you most surprised you own?
I assume that it’s quite valuable at this point — I bought a copy in college at a used bookstore of a first or early edition of Anaïs Nin’s book Delta of Venus, her famous pornographic book. I’ve wound up showing it to people who are really blown away that I got it for like $10 in the used-book section of a store.

Which New Yorker would you want to hang out with?
Do they have to be alive? I was thinking that, actually, I’d really like to hang out with John Hejduk.

What’s the last thing you made with your hands?
It was a birthday card for my mom that had a pop-up element. There were these images of glass peapods and mushrooms that I bought for her in Venice from this really amazing glassmaker named Bruno Amadi. He’s one of the last great glassmakers in Venice and he makes these incredible vegetables and insects and they’re very hard to get. I was shipping them from Venice and I didn’t have them and her birthday was happening, so I made her a card to show them.

Is there one thing you own multiple versions of?
I guess I have a few of these problems. I own a bunch of popcorn-makers, annoyingly.

What New York museum do you always go back to?
I love the Cooper Hewitt so much. And then, kind of in a tie, I really, really love the Renee and Chaim Gross Museum. I don’t think it gets enough airtime. He was this incredible sculptor, and it’s a real piece of New York history. He had an incredible studio and home on La Guardia Place, and his personal art collection is displayed in the house above the studio. It’s just absolutely fantastic. Such a great wealth of inspiration and a cool way to learn about all sorts of people who lived in New York and were making art in the 1930s through the ’70s. It’s just a dream.

What do you always have next to your computer? 
I usually have a portable charger and a glass of water.

Where is the best view of the city?
I really love the view from the Dumbo waterfront when you’re underneath the Manhattan Bridge. The water is so close to you and you’re so low down and you see the structure of the bridge and all of Manhattan. It’s like a Piranesi.

What building or object do you want to redesign every time you see it?
I would really like to take a stab at designing light switches and outlet covers.

What’s one thing you would change about your field? 
I would change the way people value the time of architects and designers, and I would bring more awareness to the misvaluation that has been made historically. We’ve done some weird thing where we’ve combined the struggle of artists that we think is sort of necessary for creativity with the field of architecture and design, and it’s really unhealthy. People should pay more for their architects’ and their designers’ time. People would get better work from their architects and designers.

If you could live anywhere in the city, where would it be?
I live in Turtle Bay, and I would live in Turtle Bay.

What would you hoard if it stopped being produced?
I wear these black sneakers that are the cheapest Nikes that you can get. I just rebuy them every few months, and I don’t know what I would do if they stopped being produced. I would buy a lot.

What do you do to get out of a creative rut? 
This is so Eat Pray Love, but I definitely travel. I love traveling for this exact reason. I just always feel so energized.

Where was your first NYC apartment, and how much was the rent? 
I shared it with two people, so it was the three of us. We were in Carroll Gardens, and it was $1,100 each.

Where in the city do you go to be alone?
I go on walks in Turtle Bay. You don’t really run into anyone over there. So even if there are people there whom you know, it manages somehow to be quite anonymous.

Worst piece of career advice you’ve ever gotten? 
Somebody told me not to start my own firm. I think that was bad advice.

What have you given away to someone that you wish you could get back? 
I find really amazing gems of art and design history all the time for my clients that are really well priced. And there’s a long list of things that I wish I had bought for me. Just honestly, so many deals of the century that I have found for other people. But something that I lent to someone that I never got back, which kind of sucks, was Kaputt, this book by Curzio Malaparte. It was signed and somebody gave it to me as a gift. I lent it to someone else and then they lost it.

What’s your favorite NYC restaurant and regular order? 
I’m going to choose Gennaro on the Upper West Side. I pretty much always order the beef carpaccio.

What descriptive phrase do you want on your obit headline?

Andre Herrero and I made this booth at Design Miami maybe five or six years ago for Dean & DeLuca, which that year was the sponsor of the fair — and now it doesn’t exist. The booth was kind of an homage to the original store that was started by Giorgio DeLuca called Cheese that all these Soho minimalists were really into. Like Donald Judd was always going there. Gordon Matta-Clark was really into the cheese store. And actually Joel Dean worked at Food, which was Matta-Clark’s socialistic, artist-run food project. Anyway, the booth was like a mirror infinity grid of plinths with blocks of cheese on them, all this Parmesan, and it looked amazing. It was kind of the early days of the mirror selfie, and it both managed to go slightly viral and piss everyone off in the entire fair because it smelled so bad. It’s this thing that manages to follow us around to this day. Of course, no one remembers any of the nuances of the design, just that we designed the cheese booth. So we’ve joked that it’s going to say on our tombstones that we designed the cheese booth at Design Miami.

Adam Charlap Hyman Owns a Lot of Popcorn-Makers