Design Cities blockbuster show previewed

An exhibition displaying more than 100 pieces of design, from some of the biggest names in the industry, is set to open in London this autumn at the Design Museum.

Curated by the museum’s director, Deyan Sudjic, with exhibition architecture by Ben Kelly Design and signage by Graphic Thought Facility, the show, called Design Cities, will focus on seven key cities at pivotal moments in the history of design. London, Vienna, Dessau, Paris, Los Angeles, Milan and Tokyo are all represented.

Loans from ten of the bestknown design museums in the world, including France’s Museum of Applied Art, London’s Victoria & Albert Museum and Germany’s Thonet Museum and Vitra Design Museum, have made the travelling show, which tells the story of contemporary design, possible. ‘Nego tiating the loans was tough, but we have a wide selection of design on show, from industrial pieces through to textiles and prints,’ says Sudjic.

The show, which will run first at Istanbul Modern until the end of June, opens at the Design Museum in September, taking up the first floor with a range of objects including William Morris stained glass, Christopher Dresser furniture, a Vespa scooter, an Otto Wagner table, Josef Hoffman cutlery and Zaha Hadid’s Mesa table.

Eight sections showcase work from each of the cities, investigating the link between design and the city. Ben Kelly and GTF were appointed in December 2007 by Sudjic.

GTF has designed hanging titles above each of the displays. Consultancy designer Simon Kinneir says, ‘We created a series of cardboard lamps illuminated on the inside and used a 24-colour palette for the signs relating to each city at a specific point in time.’

The reverse screen-printed labels are pink, green and yellow for Tokyo, blue, yellow and red for LA, and black and gold for Vienna, he says. Ben Kelly, founder of BKD, says, ‘We had to design a flexible display system because the pieces are on loan after negotiations with the museums involved, and we started to work on the concept before all of these were finalised.’

‘Everything can be exhibited within our structure and does not rely on the venues, because it will be moving from Istanbul to London. We have designed steel module island units that represent the cities and spread pools of light over the displays, while the gallery space is made darker,’ says Kelly.

A catalogue designed by Esterson Associates will accompany the exhibition. Design Cities will run at the Design Museum from 5 September to 4 January 2009.

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