Smithsonian’s Cooper-Hewitt, National Design Museum Presents “National Design Triennial: Why Design Now?” A short film on the Eco Machine at the Omega Center for Sustainable Living is included in the area of 'Health' (see pg 9).
Smithsonian’s Cooper-Hewitt, National Design Museum Presents
"National Design Triennial: Why Design Now?"
Cooper-Hewitt, National Design Museum will present the fourth exhibition in the National
Design Triennial series in spring 2010. "Why Design Now?" will be on view from May 14, 2010,
through Jan. 9, 2011, and will explore the work of designers addressing human and environmental
problems across many fields of design from architecture and product design to fashion, graphics,
new media and landscape design. Organized by Cooper-Hewitt curators Ellen Lupton, Cara McCarty,
Matilda McQuaid and Cynthia Smith, the Triennial will be global in reach for the first time, reflecting
the connectedness of design practices and the need for international cooperation to solve the world’s
The exhibition title asks the question "Why Design Now?" to examine why design thinking is an
essential tool for solving some of today’s most urgent problems; what draws creative thinkers,
makers and problem solvers to this crucial field of discovery; and why business leaders, policy
makers, consumers and citizens should embrace design values. Key developments across design
disciplines will be presented through eight themes: energy, mobility, community, materials,
prosperity, health, communication and simplicity.
Inaugurated in 2000, the Triennial series seeks out and presents the most innovative,
forward-thinking designs at the center of contemporary culture from the previous three years. The
exhibition showcases design solutions that promote environmental stewardship, social equity,
accessibility and creative capital in more than 125 projects.
"This groundbreaking exhibition gives voice to a revolution taking place within all areas of
design practice, from how materials and products are planned and conceived to how goods and
services are manufactured, distributed and reclaimed worldwide," said McCarty, curatorial director of
the museum. "‘Why Design Now?’ takes a positive look at the intriguing and ambitious projects
shaping this revolution."
The curatorial team chose the designers and firms by group consensus and also collected
nominations from the public through a dedicated Web site, which brought in nominations for projects
such as Trove wallpapers and Etsy.
Around the world, scientists, engineers and designers are seeking ways to harness energy
from the sun, wind and ocean tides and create new products and structures that use energy
efficiently and self-sufficiently. Among the projects on view in this section are the Z-10 concentrated
solar-panel system, which intensifies the solar energy harnessed through the use of mirrors and
tracking devices; the bioWave, an enormous underwater machine that mimics the swaying motion of
seaweed and is designed to capture the kinetic energy of ocean turbulence; the Power Aware cord,
which provides a real-time way for consumers to visualize their energy consumption; and the
experimental desert city Masdar in the United Arab Emirates, which will be the largest and most
advanced carbon-neutral community.
Allowing people to travel across town or over a continent while conserving resources
requires fresh design solutions and an examination of mobility patterns and components. The
exhibition will feature works such as Coulomb Technologies’ ChargePoint—a broad network of
vehicle charging stations connected to the energy grid and installed in public and private lots; ondemand
electric vehicles like MIT’s CityCar; urban transportation forms such as foldable bicycles and
DIY bicycle trailers; and France’s recently designed AGV high-speed self-propelled train.
In response to ever-expanding sprawl in the developed world and escalating urban density in
developing areas, architects are creating rooftop villages, urban farms and mixed-use housing
developments that employ local materials and encourage harmonious, energy-efficient living at close
quarters. Highlights of the design projects on view include the H20tel in the Netherlands, the first
hydrogen-powered hotel; Oslo’s new, environmentally friendly opera house, which provides city
residents access to the waterfront for the first time; vertical farming initiatives such as the
Eco-Laboratory; and the Mapungubwe National Park Interpretive Center, built using local materials
Great efforts have been made in the past decade to address the need for more sustainable
materials, which reduce the amount of energy and fossil fuels used in manufacturing. Chemists,
engineers and designers are inventing everything from biodegradable, petroleum-free plastics to
foam insulation that grows in the dark like a mushroom, requiring minimal energy to produce.
Products are also being made with post-industrial and post-consumer recycled content, ranging from
IceStone’s colorful and durable pre-cast concrete slabs that contain 100 percent recycled glass to
items by fashion designer Martin Margiela who repurposes used objects into couture clothing. New
information systems, including Ecolect’s Product Nutrition Label, are also helping consumers find
goods with a clean biological record, such as materials made from reclaimed waste, from non-toxic
substances or from rapidly renewable agricultural products.
Progressive designers and entrepreneurs are building engines of prosperity that enable local
communities to use their own resources to create their own wealth, as well as to participate in the
global economy. Projects on view include a number of items that address basic necessities, such as
a pearl millet thresher and a low-smoke stove developed for use in India; examples of slow design
such as hand-made, limited-edition clothing by Alabama Chanin; and works made in collaboration with
international designers and local craftspeople like the Witches’ Kitchen Collection, Design with a
Conscience Series, manufactured by Artecnica.
From creating prosthetic limbs controlled by the human mind to devising new ways to deliver
health care to remote rural populations, designers are improving physical, mental and social wellness
for everyone. Among the featured projects in this section are the Solvatten Safe Water System,
which uses UV light to make water potable; affordable corrective eyewear that is self-adjusted by
injecting various amounts of fluid into the lenses of thick glasses; a low-cost neonatal incubator made
from car parts; a condom applicator; and the Zon Hearing Aid, which is nearly invisible when placed
behind the ear.
Smart phones, digital reading devices and social networks are changing the way people use
and produce information. Designers are helping people understand the world’s problems by
visualizing complex data and by delivering urgent messages about safety, equality and the
environment. Works on view include industrial designer David Chavez’s prototype for a Braille
wristwatch; One Laptop per Child’s XOXO laptop, designed by Yves Béhar, which is targeted
specifically for the developed world and can be held flat, angled or like a book; Amazon’s Kindle,
which offers a new way to experience books; Etsy, a global online marketplace for craftspeople,
artists and designers; and the Etón FR 500 radio, an emergency radio charged via hand crank or
solar panel, which works when or where the grid fails to function.
As designers strive to simplify production processes and consume fewer materials in smaller
amounts, the quest for simplicity is shaping design’s economic and ethical values. On view will be
Shigeru Ban’s 10-Unit system, which employs a single L-shaped component that can be used to
construct a table, chair and bench; Karin Eriksson’s Gripp glasses, which help people comfortably
grasp the vessels and hold them steady; the Return to Sender artisan, eco-casket; affordable
products by MUJI; and the adjustable height AlphaBetter student desk, which allows students to sit or
stand while working.
"Why Design Now?" will be accompanied by interpretive tools that extend the exhibition
beyond the museum galleries. Developed in collaboration with the museum’s curators and educators,
iPod touches will supplement the visitor experience with one-on-one interviews and behind-the-scenes
footage, and will be available for use free of charge.
The exhibition was designed by Tsang Seymour Design. It features clean modular platforms
constructed of eco-friendly, recyclable materials with natural finishes. Explanatory object labels, wall
text and graphic panels will be presented on organic and eco-effective materials.
A fully illustrated catalog of approximately 200 pages, featuring 180 color illustrations, will
accompany the exhibition. The exhibition catalog was designed by Michael Bierut, a partner at the
New York design firm Pentagram, a 2008 Design Mind honoree of Cooper-Hewitt’s National Design
Awards and designer of the Green Patriot Poster project, which is featured in the exhibition.
"National Design Triennial: Why Design Now?" is sponsored by GE.
Generous support is provided by Agnes Bourne, the Norwegian Consulate General in New
York, the Esme Usdan Exhibition Endowment Fund, the Ministry of Culture Denmark, and public funds
from the New York State Council on the Arts, a state agency.
Additional funding is provided by Leonard Polonsky and Georgette Bennett, The Consulate
General of Switzerland in New York, and the Office of Cultural Affairs, Consulate General of Israel in
About Cooper-Hewitt, National Design Museum, Smithsonian Institution
Cooper-Hewitt, National Design Museum is the only museum in the nation devoted exclusively
to historic and contemporary design. Founded in 1897 by Amy, Eleanor, and Sarah Hewitt—
granddaughters of industrialist Peter Cooper—as part of the Cooper Union for the Advancement of
Science and Art, the museum has been a branch of the Smithsonian since 1967. The museum
presents compelling perspectives on the impact of design on daily life through active educational
programs, exhibitions and publications.
The museum is located at 2 East 91st Street at Fifth Avenue in New York City. Hours are
Monday through Friday, 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.; Saturday, 10 a.m. to 6 p.m.; and Sunday, 11 a.m. to 6
p.m. The museum is closed on Thanksgiving Day, Christmas Day and New Year’s Day. Public transit
routes include the Lexington Avenue 4, 5 and 6 subways (86th or 96th Street stations) and the Fifth
and Madison Avenue buses. General admission, $15; senior citizens and students ages 12 and older,
$10. Cooper-Hewitt and Smithsonian members and children younger than age 12 are admitted free.
For further information, please call (212) 849-8400 or visit http://www.cooperhewitt.org. The
museum is fully accessible.
GE is a diversified global infrastructure, finance and media company that is built to meet
essential world needs. From energy, water, transportation and health to access to money and
information, GE serves customers in more than 100 countries and employs more than 300,000