Metro Weekly

By Design

Artisphere presents a months-long festival celebrating design as art

Douglas Burton has spent well more than a decade focused on showcasing and celebrating the latest designs and designers.

”I’m passionate about design, and I love sharing the new things that are out on the market,” Burton says. He’s specifically talking about industrial and product design. ”Industrial design is pretty much everything you see around you, everything that we come in contact with throughout the day.” This would include everything from lighting to chairs to tools to sheets.

Clouds by Ronan and Erwin Bouroullec France

Clouds by Ronan and Erwin Bouroullec France

(Photo by Kvadrat)

During the first decade of the 21st century, Burton shared the latest designs at Apartment Zero, the Gallery Place retail store he ran with his partner – in business and in life – Christopher Ralston. In addition to consumer sales, the store regularly collaborated with international embassies and area museums to highlight the work of select designers, all part of Burton’s push to make ”people understand that design was the new art.”

Three years after closing the storefront and shifting Apartment Zero’s focus to chiefly serving those in the design trade, Burton is still pushing for artistic recognition of the design field. This Thursday, Feb. 21, Burton kicks off the Washington, DC International Design Festival, which runs for three months at Arlington’s Artisphere. The multidisciplinary festival, co-presented by Artisphere and Apartment Zero, includes various events focused on design, from film screenings to symposia to a photo competition, all free and open to the public.

Nuance chair by Luca Nichetto

Nuance chair by Luca Nichetto

(Photo by Casamania)

But the centerpiece is an exhibition, ”The Next Wave: Industrial Design Innovation in the 21st Century,” which features products from local designers and retail stores. Burton’s criteria for selection was simply ”those I think are the most interesting or unusual, or have a great story.”

While there is a small shop within the exhibition selling a few of the more affordable pieces on display, Burton notes that ”we really wanted this to be a museum-quality exhibition, more than one focused on sales. [It’s] an exhibition to learn about design, to be educated about it.” ‘

The Washington, DC International Design Festival opens with a reception Thursday, Feb. 21, from 7 to 10 p.m., and runs to May 19, at ‘Artisphere, 1101 Wilson Blvd., Arlington. Call 703-875-1100 or visit

Doug Rule covers the arts, theater, music, food, nightlife and culture as contributing editor for Metro Weekly.