Paola Antonelli is an Italian-born curator at the Museum of Modern Art in New York and one of the world’s foremost experts on contemporary architecture and design. She received her MA in Architecture from Milan Polytechnic in 1990, and worked at the design magazines Domus and Abitare before coming to MoMA in 1994. At MoMA, where serves as curator for the Department of Architecture and Design, Antonelli has been a strong of advocate of treating design as art: she’s written that "everything is designed, one way or another.” Antonelli is known for her eclecticism, and has curated well-received shows such as Workspheres (2001), devoted to the workplace of the near future. Her recent exhibit SAFE included – among other materials – a UN refugee tarp, camouflage cream, and a baby buggy. Antonelli has taught design history and theory at UCLA and Harvard and is the author of Humble Masterpieces: Everyday Marvels of Design, and co-author of 2008 book Design and the Elastic Mind.
Question: Which designers are you watching?
Antonelli: There are many designers that are just irresistible, and they’re all over the world. What really has happened, which I find great, is that you can have voices from all over the world right now because the means of production have become much more flexible. You don’t need anymore $50,000 mold to make a plastic chair. You can make it for much less even if you’re, you know, in New Zealand, or if you’re in South Africa. So voices are . . . Voices come from everywhere. It’s hard to pinpoint designers. You know there are several that I could talk to you about that are already famous. Constantine ______________. Oh my god. I would have dozens. What I find really interesting is to look at the pools that are represented by schools. There are some schools that are truly amazing to me. And every time there’s a students’ show I go and I’m stunned. One is the Royal College of Arts in London. There are designers there, and teachers like Tony __________ . . . like Ron Arad that really stimulate students to challenge the newest technologies, including nanophysics. They collaborate with scientists, and they really try to do what I told you about – to make . . . to find out what the revolutions are so they can be translated. So the Royal College is one. The __________ Academy of Art and Design in Holland is also fantastic. They have this focus on humanism, so they make sure that any kind of course always refers back to the scale of the human body, and to human needs and human emotions. Or the __________ in Switzerland also with a focus on caring about human beings. The ITP at NYU, which is about electronic arts and media. And the same at UCLA. There are so many schools that are fantastic. __________ in Jerusalem. So I always have . . . I always try to maintain contact with these schools because the students really are breathtaking sometimes in the way they think about the future. Because instead of just thinking about the present, they think of the future. But since they’re designers and not artists, they don’t think of science fiction. They think five years from now. That’s what I love about them. They keep their feet here, but their sights are five years away.