Design with a Conscience

The National Design Triennial in New York salutes the everyday and the ethereal

Abhinand Lath’s Scintilla for SensiTile Systems The curators at the Smithsonian Cooper-Hewitt National Design Museum in New York City want the American public to understand and respect the role design plays in our daily lives. Design, they point out in the museum’s upcoming 2006 National Design Triennial: Design Life Now, is basic to our humanity, from architecture to medicine, animation to fashion, furniture to film. According to curatorial director Barbara Bloemink, “21st-century design has a conscience.”To truly understand what Bloemink means, you’ll have to see the exhibit that presents what organizers claim are the most innovative American designs of the last three years. “It is the coming together of polar opposites,” says Bloemink of the 87 designs that highlight the extremes of 21st-century humanity: handmade versus mechanical; natural versus virtual; community versus individual.

While some of the pieces displayed may already be integral to our lives, such as Apple’s iPod, Nike’s Free running shoe or even iRobot’s Roomba, the robotic vacuum, many more are unfamiliar.Alison Berger’s old photo negatives-on-glass chandelier was chosen because of its complex, even emotional, romantic message; other pieces were selected for just the opposite reason. A quick look at Ransmeier and Floyd’s all-white rubber dish-rack and you might question the validity of the selection; but according to Bloemink, this design’s brilliance is based on its simplicity: “It is everyday generic, clever and easy.”


Alison Berger assembled 96 slides to create her Glass Side Chandelier

Curators were also intrigued by Greg Lynn’s nod to the individual in his utensil set design. Lynn used a computer program to alter the “genetics” of each fork, knife and spoon in the set. Each piece is unique, but like siblings in a family each has qualities that make it part of the family or set.

The National Design Triennial 2006 runs from December 8 through July 29, 2007. The Cooper-Hewitt is located at 2 East 91st Street in New York. For more information, phone (212) 849-8300 or visit

A prototype for an Alessi grill by Greg Lynn FORM.

Curators cited Ransmeier & Floyd’s rubber dish rack for its
clever simplicity