Last weekend we went to see an exhibit called “Design Life Now” at the Cooper Hewitt National Design Museum. This museum is in the beautiful old Andrew Carnegie mansion on 5th Avenue with halls and halls of creaky deep dark wood inside. This exhibit, in stark contrast to the museums very walls, was a collection of the best design from the past 3 years in architecture, furniture, jewelry, product and miscellaneous. Shiny new efficiency against polished old opulence.
A prevailing theme was that there were several items that wanted to look like something that they werent.
A chair with fake silver duct tape embroidered onto it to make it seem like an old worn out piece of furniture that was taped over. Vases that looked like they were not made from ceramic, but almost cloth because they bulged all over in places irregularly. Another vase of crunched metal was descibed as “run over by a car”, but it wasnt. Things that looked like the way one material might act, but made out of another.
Now maybe I just dont appreciate or understand the innovation, but is this design? One could argue that its provocativeness alone gives it worth, but is it simply just a curious looking item? What is its function? It seems like a hybrid of art and design. Is function optional in design? and now that I have gotten myself into this questioning tangle–how does one define design anyway?
These objects seem to have the ingredients of design, intent, materials, slickness, but then as the designer breathes life into it, its idealess structure causes it to it act like a paper airplane made out of steel.
But maybe thats cool.