Thursday, July 13, 2006

Museum Row

The funny thing about exhaustion is that I often reach the point where I am too tired to sleep. This was one of those nights. While I felt better in the morning, it came too soon.

We were given our first assignment, to design a broadloom carpet pattern based on our sketches throughout the day. One pattern each needs to be inspired by the Victoria & Albert, the Science, and the Natural History Museums.

The first stop today was the Victoria and Albert Museum and we are only a few minutes walk away. The V&A is amazing! The building is so beautiful and you are met by a Chihuly in the entry way.


It is a striking piece in the context of the historic building. The collection spans everything from Asian art, to medieval sculpture, to fashion design, and there is so much there that it feels like you could never see it all. The textile design was beautiful as well.



The Science Museum is as sharp a contrast to the V&A as I can imagine. Across the street from the V&A, and in an equally historic building, you walk through the doors into a giant, interactive science experiment. The exhibits are contemporary and progressive. One particularly interesting display dealt with the way we perceive materials. This play on the Marilyn sofa is actually quite comfortable to sit on.

Science Museum

Also featured was a display on life-cycle assessment. I never thought I would see that!



Then it was off to the Natural History Museum next door. Back in Spaceplanning, when I was a little sophomore, we had an assignment to design signage for a building. I thought it would be easier to do something for a real location and happened across the web site for this museum. I designed new signage for them complete with their logo. Now that I’ve seen their signage in person I have to say, with all humility, that I like mine better.

Natural History Museum Signage

Natural History is a very cool museum that is more like a amusement ride than a series of displays. One room even simulates the Kobe earthquake in Japan with a shaking floor.


This is a hand-drawn map left to tell family members where to go to find each other. The approach to the design of this museum makes science an emotional experience.

We took the long way back to the flat and walked to Hyde Park. On the way we passed the Imperial College of London which features a new façade designed by Foster and Partners, the firm of Pritzker prize winner Norman Foster.


I’ve noticed that the English (and I assume Europeans in general) are not afraid to try things. They mix contemporary with historical architecture, their advertising and graphic design is edgier, food labels have vegetarian labels on them, and their news headlines are extreme. They seem to be more progressive and inclusive, but at the same time they are quite politically incorrect. I would hate to be disabled in this country. Nothing is accessible. How would you get anywhere? Warnings on tobacco products are bold and graphic, but everyone smokes anyway. I wouldn’t want to have children here either. The traffic is very scary. Pedestrians do not have the right of way. And some of the ads I’ve seen in very public places are not things I would want my children to see.

In Hyde Park we saw the Prince Albert Memorial and the Serpentine Gallery. The gallery featured an exhibit by Thomas Demand who builds entire rooms out of paper and then photographs them so that it’s difficult to tell that they aren’t real. This summer the architectural exhibit outside the gallery is by Rem Koolhaas, another Pritzker winner.



This guy hanging out in the corner looks a bit like Karim Rashid.


Nearby is the Princess Diana fountain. I remember when this opened it was a slipping hazard and children playing in it were getting hurt. The problem seems to be fixed.




Dinner tonight was a trip to Leicster Square and Wagamama’s, a fabulous Japanese restaurant that I was told I had to visit. Zach, you were right. The ginger chicken udon is incredible. I wish we had these in the states.

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