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Home Futures at the Design Museum

Last updated on March 16th, 2019

Fans of Jacques Tati’s Mon OncleTomorrow’s World  (which returns to BBC4 later this month) and sci-fi film Back to the Future  will be delighted with the Design Museum’s latest immersive exhibition: Home Futures. It’s not about the future, but rather about how we once imagined design would impact the world in and outside the home. And there isn’t a hint of Hygge in sight, even if the Scandinavians over at the Ikea Museum are involved.

Home Futures, Design Museum

Tomorrow’s World

Home Futures looks at yesterday’s tomorrow, questioning if we live today in the way that pioneering architects and designers thought we would back in the 1950s, 1960s and 1970s. 150 objects and experiences explore home mechanisation, living without objects, ‘Big Brother’ and privacy in the home, micro-living and natural living. The exhibition showcases important works by Ettore Scottsass, Joe Colombo, Hans Hollein, Ugo la Pietra. Jan Kaplicky and Archigram, to name a few.

Home Futures, Design Museum

Thunderbirds are go: Jan Kaplicky’s House for a Helicopter Pilot includes a rooftop landing deck, lunar module feet and integrated solar panels (courtesy of The Kaplicky Centre).

Avant-garde twentieth century prototypes are juxtaposed next to objects in the modern home. These question whether these objects have evolved and how these are used in today’s fast-moving technological world. Rare works on display include original furniture from the Smithsons’ House of the Future and original footage from the General Motors Kitchen of Tomorrow.

Home Futures, Design Museum

It’s going to be a bad hair day after one of these. The 1968 Environment Transformers were satirical prototypes for headsets that would alter one’s perception of the world (reproduction of photograph by Gerald Zugmann, Vienna).

Home Futures highlights the far-reaching cultural shifts that have taken place in the home in the last 70 years. It’s an exhibition that will please the design savvy, the curious and techno geeks alike. I guess what makes uncomfortable viewing is how predictive these designers, manufacturers and thinkers once were.  Is the 1950s dream of the fully automated home a dream or a nightmare? Has technology made the world a better place or are we living in a total Alexa-led dystopia? I think I have a good inkling what Jacques Tati and George Orwell would say.

Home Futures, Design Museum, Mon Oncle, Jacques Tati. Villa Arpel

Jacques Tati’s satirical film, Mon Oncle pokes fun at consumer society in 1950s France. The Villa Arpel, which takes centre stage, is the mother of all ultra-modern, high tech homes. There isn’t a spot of dust in sight in this clinical, geometric environment.

Home Futures is on from 07 November to 24 March 2019 at the Design Museum.

P.S If you haven’t seen Mon Oncle,  please watch it. And if you’ve never heard of Tomorrow’s World,  tune in on 22 November to BBC 4. It’s making a one-day comeback after a 15-year snooze, and it’s out of this world.

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A London arts and culture blog featuring articles about art, theatre, opera, dance, music and design.


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