New York

Nendo, Cabbage chair, 2008, pleated paper, dimensions variable.

Nendo, Cabbage chair, 2008, pleated paper, dimensions variable.

Why Design Now?

Cooper-Hewitt, National Design Museum
2 East 91st Street
May 14, 2010–January 9, 2011

Curated by Ellen Lupton, Cara McCarty, Matilda McQuaid, and Cynthia Smith

Shopaholics may be able to hide their Prada purchases in reusable Whole Foods bags, but what’s a designer to do during a downturn economy in the era of global warming? The Cooper-Hewitt’s Fourth National Design Triennial, titled “Why Design Now?” promises some answers. Organized around eight themes—energy, mobility, community, materials, prosperity, health, communication, and simplicity— the exhibition argues that design is ever more urgently needed during this crisis moment, not just to solve problems but to change behavior. The exhibited projects—which prioritize looking great and performing well—envisage a world where consciousness of resources, energy, and waste is a given. This triennial breaks ranks with its nationally focused predecessors by spotlighting 134 global design innovations, ranging from a condom applicator to an entire carbon-neutral city.