“I’m like a curious octopus—I go in all directions,” Paola Antonelli’s director of the MoMa and the senior curator of architecture and design at the New York’s Museum, once said at a lecture, when asked what sparks her interest.
Indeed, in both acquisitions and thought-provoking exhibitions, this activist for design has expanded its definition to encompass everything from video games to United Nations refugee tarps to bullets. “I’m from Italy, where design has always been a topic of conversation,” says Antonelli, who also holds the role of director of research and development at the museum. “What’s amazing about design right now is that it is so varied. Our job at MoMA is to pull all the threads together so that people understand the connections.”
ON THE STATE OF FURNITURE DESIGN:
• So many people think design is just about decoration. I feel I have to counter that stereotype: Design is much more than that. It has a responsibility toward other human beings. It is anything that deals with at least one of the senses, including scent. I am trying to give people the critical tools to distinguish between something that is well-made and something that is not.
• I think we have exhausted furniture as a subject of design. There are two or three new chairs a year that excite me now. Maybe I’ve become more jaded, but the world has changed tremendously. One wonders who needs another chair. There is a whole digital world to build.
• That doesn’t mean there aren’t great furniture designers working today. I’m constantly looking at the work of established designers like Hella Jongerius and Konstantin Grcic, and younger ones like Joris Laarman. There is some wonderful new lighting design. But I’ve become a little more demanding.
• I don’t set an overly high bar for design in my home. I own some masterpieces, but they are simply good design: Achille and Pier Giacomo Castiglioni’s Arco lamp, a Jongerius chair, a sofa from Dune in New York. But my towels are from Century 21. My desk came from the liquidation sale of the old Dorset Hotel. I paid $40 for it.
ON MODERN DESIGN:
• So many different types of objects are modern now, in platforms ranging from digital to physical design. Curator Kirk Varnedoe told me, “Modern is everything that does not hide the process of its making.”
• An object that I find truly modern is the Autodesk Virus, or Synthetic PhiX174 bacterio phage, which attacks E. coli and stops the bacteria from replicating. It was the first DNA-based genome to be sequenced, in 1977. The museum acquired a digital rendering and two 3D-printed models of the virus for our design collection.
• 3D-printing technology has existed for a while. With desktop printers, we’re making a lot of resin tchotchkes. But there are also sophisticated printers. We’ve acquired a Kinematics dress composed of 2,279 triangular panels connected by 3,316 hinges. It is 3D-printed in a single folded piece.
• There’s a lot of buzz about connected materials. Google’s Project Jacquard is weaving interactive textiles with conductive yarns and intelligent fibers. Electronics are embedded right into the fabric.
• Designers and engineers envision a future where technology disappears. Voice operation will become even more sophisticated. Google Glass was a problem because of the way the glasses sat on your face. Some people thought it was an invasion of privacy. Our privacy is invaded all the time. What matters is etiquette.
ON RESPONSIBLE DESIGN:
• Many designers are trying to be more responsible when it comes to energy consumption and disposability. There is more focus on creating objects that are timeless and durable.
• There is also renewed attention to craft. We’ve acquired the work of Formafantasma. Their Botanica series of vessels is made using resins from the pre-oil era: materials like straw, beeswax, and insect shells.
• The share economy is having an influence. Some people are designing their homes with the intention of renting them on platforms like Airbnb. They are creating convertible spaces and places where stuff can be tucked away.
• I don’t believe technology will dehumanize us. The best domestic design will marry advanced technologies with the fact that we still like to sit around the table as a family. Maybe it will help us recapture some of these lost rituals.
• No one has had the same degree of influence on design as Steve Jobs. He elevated the threshold of the quality we expect in products.
• Philippe Starck changed the way we perceive public spaces, like hotels and restaurants, at the end of the 1980s and beginning of the ’90s. In furniture, Hella Jongerius changed design by making it warmer. She incorporated craft and the idea that things don’t have to look perfect. Her original Polder sofa had mismatched buttons. In graphics, the type designer Matthew Carter has been very influential. He created fonts like Verdana and Georgia, which are used on the Internet, and Bell Centennial, which is used in telephone directories.
ON HER WISH LIST:
• Different countries have unique design cultures. South Korea is advanced when it comes to digital and interaction design. In England, engineering and design have come together in an amazing way. There is interesting design coming out of the Netherlands and Spain. The U.S. is not in the avant-garde when it comes to design, but it is strong on interaction design, everything from video games to MetroCard machines.
• On my wish list for MoMA: a multi colored George Nelson Marshmallow sofa and a Christopher Dresser sugar bowl. We just acquired the rainbow flag, the symbol of gay pride, from Gilbert Baker, who designed it in 1978.
• My dream is to acquire a Boeing 747. My idea is to make a deal with an airline and keep it flying, as a plane wouldn’t fit in the gallery.
Original article here