A cupboard by Charles and Ray Eames, Los Angeles, 1949
London’s Design Museum is hosting a design retrospective covering the years 1851-2008.
The show begins with London in 1851, the year of the city’s Great Exhibition, a celebration of industrial technology and design. “You have to start with London,” says Sudjic. “In the 19th century, London was the world’s biggest city. It was the capital that produced the Crystal Palace, and the whole idea of design, really.”
One of the exhibits centres on that Crystal Palace, the huge glass and iron structure built in Hyde Park that was the venue for the fair (and has since burned down). Sudjic and Clarke have secured from the V&A one of the early sketches for the building by its designer, Joseph Paxton – a rare treat. Sparkling alongside this is a claret jug by Christopher Dresser, regarded as one of the world’s first industrial designers. During his career, he acted as a consultant for companies creating swathes of mass-produced products, including textiles, wall coverings, ceramics, glassware and metalware. According to Sudjic, his combination of simple geometric forms and organic patterns gives his work a modern relevance.
Then comes 1908 Vienna, where Otto Wagner’s table for the headquarters of the Die Zeit newspaper exemplifies the creative atmosphere in the city at the time, as do the designs of Adolf Loos. Loos had participated in the competition to create a new headquarters building for the Chicago Tribune. Though his proposal, a huge Doric column 20 floors high, did not win, Loos declared that its “beauty would be a beacon for the architecture of the future” – and he was right.