Mariela Alvarez is an architectural designer, writer and teacher.

Mariela-AlvarezMariela AlvarezIn 2012, she joined New York-based ICRAVE design and has played an instrumental role on projects through every phase of design, from concept to construction. Her latest project is Le District, a multifaceted marketplace-dining destination opening this spring in Lower Manhattan. She shares a few trends and products on her radar right now.

Beyond Open Kitchens

No-1-Devocion-Botica2Devocion BoticaLike restaurants, food factories are opening their back-of-house spaces to reveal the complex mechanisms behind making the best products available. From great coffee shops with exposed roasteries, (i.e., Devocion Botica), to chocolate makers (i.e., Mast Brothers), and the best distilleries in the city, we are moving toward a vertical integration of production and consumption of food. Located in both urban and industrial zones, these spaces are transforming neighborhoods while producing awesome products.

Tech-Integrated Dining

No-3-Adaptable-lighting-3Adaptable lightingThe tech industry is making its way into restaurants with some interesting innovations that redefine how we pay (i.e.,, reserve tables (i.e., and order take-out (i.e.,

Adaptable Lighting

This piece at left, for instance, is very contemporary — expressive and sculptural, yet adaptable and functional. The series allows you to use a set of modules to “build” a light fixture that accommodates a space’s particular needs.


Health-Focused, Innovative Fast Food

The popularity of some fast foods over others in the past couple of years reveals a fascinating shift in the market. People not only demand better food but a better experience. As a response, venues like sweetgreen, The Little Beet and Dig Inn offer an integrated, well-designed experience that starts online and ends with deliciously crafted meals. The vertical integration of branding, design and technology are changing how we interact with food and retail at every touch point.

No-5-TheLittleBeet1The Little Beet

Well-Designed and Accessible

No-6-Well-designed-accessible-2Young product and furniture designers redefine luxury with beautifully designed pieces that are affordable and versatile. I love contemporary pieces like these for their simplicity and timelessness.

Market Restaurant

From food halls like Hudson Eats or Gotham West Market to markets like Le District or Eataly, the traditional sit-down restaurant is giving way to casual, more varied and spontaneous experiences. These diverse, intricate concepts use different materials to create a less designed but more organically developed ambiance.