The Home Futures exhibition which has opened at the Design Museum in London rivals how past generations imagined we might live in the future, to today’s actuality.
More than 150 objects, films and images from days beyond recall and present are on display, exploring a range of themes such as the issue of home privacy, the minimum amount of space one can live in, how to make a home numerous sustainable and the concept of the home as a machine.
Eszter Steierhoffer, curator of the exposition, says: “In the face of all the technological, economic and societal changes of the last few decades, our concept and mental picture of what home is is changing quite drastically.
“There hasn’t been a foremost museum exhibition for quite some time about the home and we were indubitably keen to put it back on the cultural agenda.”
While the architectural “shell” of many homes still looks like to the past, she says, it is in fact our “domestic behaviour” and “perception of the home” that has silvered the most.
“It was the biggest challenge of the exhibition… how to exhibit behaviour,” she adds.
The exposition is split into six themes presented in six makeshift rooms: “living harm”; “living on the move”; “living autonomously”; “spending with less”; “living with others”; and “domestic arcadia”, each enquire into a different topic.
“We decided to look at how the 20th century imagined the future, which is our dole out,” she says.
“What I hope visitors can take from this is to match all these alternative possibilities of how we might have been living today, or how prior generations imagined we would be living and to compare and contrast,” she adds. “It is verging on like a distorted mirror.”
The show features historical works alongside new phenomena, with important pieces including Smithsons’ House of the Tomorrow (1956), Home Environment by Ettore Sottsass (1972) and an original exemplar of Total Furnishing Unit by Joe Colombo (1972).
One highlight is The Telematic Business by Italian designer Ugo La Pietra, which appears in the “living with others” component and explores the idea of a screen or camera in every piece of furniture in the proficient in.
“One image is an axonometric drawing that shows armchairs in a living lodgings arranged like in an airplane,” Steierhoffer says. “At the back of each armchair is an joined screen so you would not look at another person but sit one behind the other and interact throughout the screens.
“I think in some ways this is quite an apt representation of the way we are employing our mobile phones. We do not have screens in all our furniture, but we do have a screen which we take everywhere.”
Other key pieces in the show include Supersurface by Italian form group SuperStudio, which was first presented in 1972 at a Museum of New-fashioned Art (MoMA) exhibition in New York called “Italy: The new domestic landscape”. The forms now appear in the “living on the move” section.
Steierhoffer votes: “The idea the designers had was that all of the man-built environment would be replaced by this pandemic grid which would cancel all the previous hierarchies and instate a new institute in which there would be no labour and where no object ownership is essential because everything is equally redistributed. People will be able to animate in a truly nomadic manner.”
“Though it sounds wonderful as an idea, the twins look quite dystopian,” she says, explaining that the piece was engendered when Italy was going through “political and economic turmoil” and was in view more as a statement than an actual prediction.
It has become “quite an apt symbolism of how we live today”, she says, due to the internet “redistributing knowledge” and making people sundry “globally connected” and “mobile” than before.
Juxtapositions of similar impressions from then and now feature throughout. In the “living with less” department, a model of Joe Colombo’s Total Furnishing Unit, a hybrid piece of accoutrements which can be transformed for multiple different uses is presented next to a more late film by Hong Kong-based architect, Gary Chang, who explores easy design by reconfiguring his small apartment by pushing walls around, to invent 24 different rooms.
Other highlights take in a “mobile office” inside an inflatable bubble designed in the 1960s. “I mark this very much encapsulates what we are doing today with our laptops,” the curator votes.
“The bubble is not there but there is an invisible infrastructure … we live in algorithmic carbonations.”
The three-dimensional (3D) design of the exhibition, by So-il design studio, references the “porousness” and “fluidity” between the inside and excluded worlds with the use of “semi-transparent walls that are almost breathing,” Steierhoffer communicates.
“As you walk around you can hear sound and see light bleeding through from other elbow-rooms. You will see people’s shadows moving across the space and pick up on scintillae of conversations behind the wall.”
The exhibition is designed as a series of different compartments, with signs that resemble doormats on the floor at the entrance to each lacuna.
“The architecture evokes different feelings and different experiences in each compass of the exhibition” she says.
For example, a video for The One Blood 2030 project by IKEA-funded “future living lab” Space10, which looks at how we capability live in the future, is presented in a large bed.
“You are watching a film about pay out in domestic space while you are sharing a bed with other visitors and aliens,” she says.
Florian Idenburg, co-founder at So-il, says the aim was to create an “immersive” savoir vivre that people feel they can “inhabit”.
“It was important in the layout to not fool a fixed, singular route but that people could wander between the unlike sections,” she says.
There are many interactive elements throughout, with raffles of furniture to try such as a seat resembling a giant bird’s nest. Preservationist fibre-grate panel furniture is used to display items, which concerns the Guaderna furniture by SuperStudio that is in the show, according to Idenburg.
There are 40 covers in the show, with many of the historic videos presented on old-fashioned tvs on tall legs and others shown as projections.
John Morgan Studio manufactured the two-dimensional (2D) design, graphics, wayfinding and the exhibition catalogue for the show along with a series of six broadsides presented on the walls to introduce each section.
Reflecting on the message of the appearance, Steierhoffer says: “We realise we have a very different relationship to the expected than there used to be in the 20th century. There is perhaps much minute of a vision for the future than there once was.
“It is really to make individual think a little bit about the way we live today and suggest that there strength be other alternatives.”
The exhibition is created in partnership with the IKEA Museum in Älmhult, Sweden and resolution be presented there after the show finishes at the Design Museum.
Domestic Futures runs until 24 March 2019 at the Design Museum, 224-238 Kensington Principal Street, Kensington, London W8 6AG.
All exhibition photos © Felix Speller for the Blueprint Museum.