5 Must-See Design Exhibitions That Look Into the Future

© Kwan Chan
© Kwan Chan
While London’s Design Museum relaunched its curatorial direction with new premises in Kensington, other museums across Europe are quietly refreshing their positions and rethinking the power of design. Rather than looking back, the current trend is to project into the future, far or near. From imaginative ways of eating to autonomous means of moving, these are the most forward-thinking exhibitions in Europe this autumn.

Vitra Design Museum: Together!

This leading design museum, with their summer show Together!, wants you to reimagine home design. It’s not about smart-home technology or peculiarly shaped houses but, rather, the collective mode of living. Such style of habitation is not as novel or strange as we may think – in fact, it is an undercurrent in the history of architecture, experimented with by those who found conventional housing to be a dead end.

Installation view of Together! The New Architecture of the Collective, Vitra Design Museum © Mark Niedermann

The curators of Together!, Ilka and Andreas Ruby, seem to embrace this Utopian vision: using a model of a hypothetical city, they display 21 projects and invite visitors to ponder what it would be like if a whole city was based on communal living. More than pondering, however, they want you to experience it: you can wander through the 1:1 models of these ‘cluster apartments’ and envision living in a world that blurs the public and private sphere.

If you have ever wondered how we can deal with the global housing crisis, Together! may have the answers you’re looking for.

Installation view of Together! The New Architecture of the Collective, Vitra Design Museum © Mark Niedermann

MKG Hamburg: Food Revolution 5.0

Our current food habits are unquestionably problematic. Just think how alienated we are from the food production process; some kids don’t know bacon comes from pigs and think strawberries grow in the fridge. Hamburg’s applied arts museum presents Food Revolution 5.0 with the aim of helping us to be more informed about, and have a more intimate relationship with, food and its origins, while also challenging our commonsense and perception.

Hanan Alkouh’s Sea-Meat Seeweed (2016) in Food Revolution 5.0 © Hanan Alkouh/Dimi Anastassakis

Food Revolution 5.0 includes more than 30 design projects, all of which aim to stimulate questions about what can happen from the farm to the table. There is a virtual reality headset for poultry, which explores the idea of free-range space; a piece of meatloaf, 3D-printed and made from mealworm paste, which hopes to tackle our anti-insect-eating culture; and sensory cutlery to help train us in mindful eating. Many of the featured designers are also progressive thinkers and aim to change the way we think about food and design. They include design duo Dunne & Raby, ‘eating designer’ Marije Vogelzang and food designer Chloé Rutzerveld.

If you’re a self-professed foodie, Food Revolution 5.0 will satisfy your appetite with revolutionary imaginations and visions.

The exhibition runs until October 29 at MKG Hamburg, Steintorpl., 20099 Hamburg, Germany.

Rabbit made out of mealworm paste by Carolin Schulze (2014) © Carolin Schulze

Cube Design Museum: Fiets-Bike-Fahrrad, Design on Two Wheels

As the global energy crisis becomes ever more urgent, few things are more daunting than the fact that every drop of petrol used is a point of no return. In response, some people have decided to be proactive – by ‘going Dutch’. Not in the sense of splitting the bill, but by emulating the country’s popular cycling lifestyle. The Netherlands’ cycle-friendly culture has charmed the world, and the Cube Design Museum, will delve into the future of this autonomous mode of transport.

Fiets Bike Fahrrad

Fiets-Bike-Fahrrad presents the challenge that comes with balancing a bicycle’s engineering, form and safety through leading contemporary examples. For instance, the Zoombike – designed by the late German designer Richard Sapper – that can be folded and unfolded at the touch of a button; the HMK 561 electric bike that can self-generate electricity with the carbon-fibre frames of its wheels; and Welsh designer Ross Lovegrove’s bamboo bike, which demonstrates a surprising but highly practical use of the material. This exhibition does not view the bicycle as a mere object, but evaluates and demonstrates its impact on urban design and explains why there is such a fast-growing community of daily cyclists.

If you’re concerned about our the planet’s finite resources – and are looking to add independence and agility to your urban life – Fiets-Bike-Fahrrad might just persuade you to get cycling.

Fiets Design in Cube Museum Kerkrade

MAK Vienna: Hello, Robot. Design Between Human and Machine

Have you ever met a robot? Do you think your job could be done by a robot? Do we really need robots? These questions flash across mid-air in the hallway of Hello, Robot, an exhibition presented by MAK Vienna, the Vitra Design Museum and the Ghent Design Museum. The show interrogates the role of design in robotic development, questioning the discipline’s sociopolitical responsibility in shaping the relationship between human and machine.

Vincent Fournier, Reem B #5 [Pal], Barcelona, Spain, from: The Man Machine, 2010 © Vincent Fournier

With more than 200 exhibits including graphic arts, speculative design, film, literature and machinery pieces, this show challenges our ideas about – and expectations of – robots with items such as a baby-feeder toolhead, an AI chatbot and an automated scribe arm. While it is generally agreed that automation will advance and exceed our imagination, the curators, Amelie Klein, Thomas Geisler and Marliesand aim to encourage a reassessment of technology.

If you feel clueless about robots, drones or algorithms, Hello, Robot is certainly a good place to start.

The exhibition runs until October 1 at MAK Vienna, Stubenring 5, 1010 Wien, Austria, and will next appear in the Ghent Design Museum, October 27, 2017 – April 15, 2018.

Exhibition View of Hello, Robot. Design between Human and Machine, MAK Exhibition Hall © Peter Kainz/MAK

Helsinki Design Museum: Enter and Encounter

Helsinki is consistently ranked as one of the most liveable cities in the world, and its design museum might be the best place to discover their recipe for success. And its current exhibition, Enter and Encounter (a celebration of the centenary of Finnish independence) will be especially helpful, as it showcases the most visionary contemporary designers in Finland.

Exhibition view of Enter and Encounter, Helsinki Design Museum © Paavo Lehtonen

Enter the gallery and you will start to realise why the city keeps rising in the livability league table. For instance, the MaaS (Mobility-as-a-Service) concept, which helps you plan your transport routes via public means, making it more appealing than owning a car. Or the Culture and Sompa saunas – free, makeshift saunas set up in abandoned public spaces for everyone to enjoy. The 45 objects on display are connected by six themes: Techno Pastoral, Global Finn, Ecologies, Post-Industrial Crafts, Urban and Soft Systems, breaking away from traditional categories (like product, fashion and architecture). Such an approach freshens up how we understand design: it extends the discipline beyond simple ‘products’ and towards intangible innovation.

If the first four exhibitions on this list feel a bit far-fetched, Enter and Encounter will definitely lead you to a very close to the future.

Exhibition view of Enter and Encounter, Helsinki Design Museum © Paavo Lehtonen