Design Cities, London
According to Deyan Sudjic - the curator of the Design Cities exhibition running at London’s Design Museum until January next year - since the mid 1800s there have been seven key metropolises which have played a significant part in the evolution of design. These are Design Cities. And according to Sudjic, London was the first and London, at this particular point in time, is the last.
Click here to see more from the Design Cities exhibition
Starting in 1851, the London of the Great Exhibition; the exhibition takes the visitor on a tour through the Vienna of Adolf Loos in the years around 1908; Dessau in 1924 for the Bauhaus movement; Le Corbusier’s Paris in the years before WW2; Eames and Van der Rohe’s Los Angeles during the forties and fifties; Milan’s golden years when Achille Castiglioni, Gio Ponti, Ettore Sottsass and Vico Magistretti were making their mark; and Tokyo - which emerged as the capital of the first modern industrial power in Asia with the Olympic games of 1964.
It comes full circle back to London for the present day, reasoning that the generation of designers that includes Ron Arad, Zaha Hadid, Jasper Morrison have all converged in the city because it is “Europe’s only real world city”, and a creative melting pot as has never before been seen.
Sudjic is not a man to shy away from a challenge. The director of the London Design Museum, author, and ex-editor (often times founder) of a number of design and architecture publications is quite used to taking highbrow design and architecture concepts and presenting them in ways that are accessible to the layman without dumbing them down. Not too far anyway. Therein lies his success and with this exhibition he does it again.
What is telling, however, is that Design Cities opened its global tour at Istanbul Modern, where it ran all summer, not in London. It seems an odd choice given that Turkey’s capital does not feature in the show, but as the first design exhibition the young contemporary arts institution has hosted it has been very well received. It begs the rather obvious question: when London’s party quietens down, which it inevitably will eventually, where will take its place as the Design City?
We went to see the show in Istanbul. Flanked Swarovski installations by Hussein Chalayan (a Turkish-Cypriot based in London) either side of the entrance, we left the show and went on to a dinner at the new W Hotel (Europe’s first for the luxury chain). We sat on sofas by up and coming Istanbul designers Autoban, and we couldn’t help but feel that maybe Sudjic might be trying to tell us something.