The Metropolis Guide to Emerging Design Neighborhoods

An insider's look at 18 up-and-coming design districts from around the world

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This “Peace Street” serves as the unofficial home to Latvia’s Young Talents.

Exhibit at Tabakas Fabrika

Courtesy Vents Aboltins

Situated at the mouth of the Duagava River on the Baltic Sea, this port city has a long multicultural history, with its sheltered natural harbor making it a trade hub since Viking times. More recently, Latvia changed hands several times (from German to Polish to Swedish to Soviet control) before declaring independence in 1990. This diverse history makes itself felt in Riga’s architecture, with Art Nouveau buildings rubbing shoulders with ancient stonework and modern structures, and several blocks of well- preserved nineteenth-century wooden architecture still standing in the center of town.

Throw in decent rail connections and an international airport, and Riga draws creative types from all over the Baltic States. Events like the Blank Canvas Street Art Festival and Riga Fashion Week—which celebrated its 20th season last April—bring a global mix of artists, designers, architects, and urban planners.

With Latvia’s admission to the Eurozone in January 2014, and a recent EU forecast predicting its GDP growth as the highest in the union, things are heating up. Riga is this year’s European Capital of Culture. “Latvian design has developed greatly in the last couple of years,” says Daina Ruduša, project coordinator for the Latvian Institute. Miera Iela, or “Peace Street” in Latvian, is the epicenter. “It is a creative quarter, run largely by young artists and entrepreneurs,” Ruduša says. —LKH

Neighborhood Picks

Tabakas Fabrika
The 118,000-square-foot former tobacco factory is now a multidisciplinary arts space.

A workshop that sells glasses, bowls, and mugs made from upcycled wine and beer bottles; guests can bring in their own glass to have it transformed. 

This store has handmade clothing, design, and craft items with a nod to traditional Latvian techniques. 

A source for handmade wool sweaters, bags, and pillows with a Bohemian flair

BIP/ZIP, Lisbon

An innovative neighborhood-funding initiative has helped spread the gospel of design.

Courtesy A Vida Portuguesa

Shortly after its introduction in 2010, the city of Lisbon’s BIP/ZIP program became a lifeline for architects and designers faced with Portugal’s austerity-led recession. BIP/ZIP, which stands for Neighborhoods and Areas of Priority Intervention, aims to provide dozens of urban sore spots with social (and often design) solutions, while promoting long-term involvement and investment. As each project needs at least two stakeholders to apply for city funding, NGOs, foundations, universities, parishes, and boroughs must work together on proposals to improve public space, services, or intergenerational integration. Last year, 49 proposals out of 108—everything from boat-building workshops for teenagers to town square designs and “made in the ’hood” product lines—received about two million euros in public funds. Why focus on a single neighborhood when opportunities for design are everywhere? —Frederico Duarte

Neighborhood(s) Picks

Andreia Salavessa and Tiago Mota Saraiva run a cross-disciplinary platform for the development of ideas, research, and design.

Arquivo 237
The leading contemporary art and design gallery was founded by João Abreu Valente, a graduate of the Design Academy.

A Vida Portuguesa
This store has products typical of the old Portuguese way of life. 

JARDIM, São Paulo

The upscale district is a magnet for design connoisseurs.

Exterior of Decameron Design

Courtesy Pedro Vannucchi

Brazil is in the midst of a design boom. Rich in natural resources and fueled by Italian, Japanese, and German cultural influences in a heady, postcolonial mix, this equatorial nation is blessed with a tropical climate, a recovering economy, and a young population that fuels demand for the work of a talented generation of young Brazilians —architects and designers steeped in the particular brand of warm, luxe, relaxed Modernism for which Brazil is famous.

The vanguard of the design culture is centered in São Paulo—only fitting for a city whose motto translates as “I am not led, I lead.” São Paulo boasts the largest economy in the Southern Hemisphere, and the atmosphere is urban. But a recently implemented ban on outdoor advertising has begun to lend the cityscape a slightly more settled appearance. Home to several 2014 World Cup matches as well as a world-famous gay-pride parade, São Paulo is too large and diverse to take in without breaking it down to the human scale.

The district of Jardim is a place to do just that. A constellation of upscale neighborhoods richly veined with consulates and museums giving it a quietly cosmopolitan vibe, this quarter offers an impeccable roster of international design brands. For a strictly design-centric experience, start your walking tour on the Alameda Gabriel Monteiro da Silva, considered the heart of the “design district.” —LKH

Neighborhood Picks

Decameron Design
This award-winning furniture retailer presents the work of Brazilian heavy hitters like Marcus Ferreira and Aristeu Pires. 

Furniture by Estúdio Cipó and lamp by avaf

Courtesy Galeria Nacional 

Galeria Nacional
Founded and curated by Marcelo Maia Tilkian, this store promotes Brazilian design. 


In 15 short years, the district has reinvented its scruffy and quiet image.

Work by M-S-D-S Studio

Courtesy M-S-D-S

In the past five years, a vibrant design and art scene has flourished in the Junction, an impressive fact given the West End Toronto neighborhood’s history. Fifteen years ago, it was both scruffy and neglected. The place was dry: A law prohibiting the sale of booze was enacted at the turn of the twentieth century, when the Junction was a raucous railway and meatpacking district called West Toronto, teeming with late-night carousers.

After that rule was overturned in 1998, the sad, vacant storefronts began to fill up with bars, and young creatives snapped up the still-affordable rental units and studio spaces around them. The biggest transformation has occurred along the major intersection of Dundas West and Keele. In 2009, Mjölk set up shop, selling exquisite Japanese and Scandinavian pieces out of a Victorian building revamped by Studio Junction. Meanwhile, Smash and Metropolis Factory offer up ever-popular industrial vintage. The newest of the stylish coffeehouses and eateries include the indie café Full Stop—its walls filled with supergraphics and coat hooks—and The Passenger, a locavore restaurant infused with Art Deco and steampunk. The neighborhood’s metamorphosis came full circle with the recent opening of the mid-rise Duke Condos.—Elizabeth Pagliacolo

Local Talent

M-S-D-S Studio
Designers Jonathan Sabine and Jessica Nakanishi recently debuted their terra-cotta planters for Umbra

Interior by Mason Studio

Courtesy Peter A. Sellar/Photoklik

Fugitive Glue
Jano Badovinac’s products merge industrial heft with high design. 

Mason Studio
Ashley Rumsey and Stanley Sun designed the Duke condos show suite.

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