This fall the Institute of Contemporary Art/Boston will present a large-scale exhibition of innovative contemporary American design. Organized by the Smithsonian's Cooper-Hewitt, National Design Museum, Design Life Now: National Design Triennial is part of an ongoing series that presents the best work from the prior three years in product design, architecture, furniture, film, graphics, new technologies, animation, science, and fashion.  Design Life Now: National Design Triennial will be on view at the ICA from September 28, 2007, through January 6, 2008.

"As we've learned from working in our exceptional new building, design profoundly affects the way we experience the world," says Jill Medvedow, Director of the Institute of Contemporary Art. "Design Life Now continues this exploration in a variety of disciplines and follows in the ICA's long tradition of presenting exemplary exhibitions and programs on design."

Organized by Cooper-Hewitt curators Ellen Lupton and Matilda McQuaid and former curatorial director Barbara Bloemink, along with guest curator Brooke Hodge of the Museum of Contemporary Art, Los Angeles, the exhibition features the work of more than 80 designers and firms, from emerging designers to established brands such as Apple and Nike. Featured architect Michael Meredith, Assistant Professor of Architecture at the Harvard University Graduate School of Design, has designed and adapted the exhibition for the ICA's galleries.

"This exhibition encompasses the wide range of design objects affecting our culture, from the advanced technologies of robotics and artificial intelligence to the things that are part of our everyday lives, like pill bottles, iPods, and Google," says Emily Moore Brouillet, Assistant Curator at the ICA.  "At the same time, we can see our society reflected back in the design world in trends like blogging and do-it-yourself projects."

Among the themes of the exhibition is design that emulates the natural world. Objects such as Apple's iPod are highly adaptive, while others mimic natural organisms, from Dr. Joseph Ayers's Robolobster, an underwater robot which behaves like a real crustacean, to Nike's Free running shoe, which simulates the range of motion that occurs in the toes and feet when running barefoot.

Design Life Now also investigates the role of community, whether online communities that come together through blogging about design, the collaborative practice of firms like Field Operations, who integrate art, architecture, ecology, urbanism and economic development for their landscape projects, or Herman Miller's workplace environments which seek to foster creativity and teamwork.

Another group of objects shows the renewed appreciation for hand-crafted and do-it-yourself design.  Examples include prefab housing such as Charlie Lazor's FlatPak house and Craig Konyk's Up!House, the intricate handwork of Ralph Rucci's couture gowns, and publications and resources that are part of a broad social movement encouraging design education for everyone, like Readymade magazine and Howtoons, a science web site for children.

Other works in Design Life Now examine how design can be used to transform materials and objects. Toshiko Mori, Chair of the School of Architecture at Harvard's Graduate School of Design, created the Newspaper Café, a reading room featuring hundreds of daily newspapers-as the newspapers change each day, so does the structure.  Computers and design software also transform more traditional media-artist Joshua Davis writes code in Flash ActionScript to generate compositions of hand-drawn imagery randomly selected from a database, while Lia Cook combines computer-aided technology and jacquard looms to create her textile designs.

The exhibition is accompanied by a catalog, Design Life Now, published by Cooper-Hewitt's new self-publishing venture. The publication includes a foreword by Cooper-Hewitt director Paul Warwick Thompson; original essays by co-curators Barbara Bloemink, Brooke Hodge, Ellen Lupton, and Matilda McQuaid; a designer profile of each of the 87 designers featured in the exhibition; and more than 300 color and black-and-white images.

Cooper-Hewitt, National Design Museum, a branch of the Smithsonian Institution since 1967, is the only museum in the nation devoted exclusively to historic and contemporary design. Cooper-Hewitt programs and exhibitions demonstrate how design shapes culture and history-past, present and future. Holdings encompass one of the most diverse and comprehensive collections of design works in existence, tracing the history of design through more than 250,000 objects spanning 24 centuries.

At Cooper Hewitt, National Design Museum, the exhibition was made possible by Target.

Generous support was provided by Maharam.

Additional funding was provided by Agnes Bourne.

The exhibition's presentation at the Institute of Contemporary Art/Boston is made possible by Wilmington Trust.


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