Extraordinary stories

A new display of the Design Museum’s extensive permanent collection of contemporary design and architecture reveals intriguing insights into some of the exceptional as well as everyday items in the museum’s possession.

Unveiled last month, Extraordinary Stories about Ordinary Things includes key pieces from the worlds of furniture, fashion and architecture, plus a selection of prototypes, models and specially commissioned films.

There are six key design stories featured in the exhibition, all of which trace the history and processes of contemporary design. The themes range from investigating the national identity through design to fashion and the impact of plastic on our lives.

National identity for example is explored through nation-defining objects, such as Britain's iconic pay telephone and post boxes, the logo of the London 2012 Olympic and Paralympic Games and the euro coin, while the plastics story explores the dominance of this material in our everyday lives through examples from the past 75 years, ranging from luxury to everyday items.

The Handlebar Table, designed by Jasper Morrison, is a recent addition to the Design Museum's collection, and is on display for the first time, and a display of fashion follows changes in clothing styles from the Seventies to the Nineties based on six occasion outfits belonging to fashion collector Jill Ritblat.

Another section profiles a single iconic design - the Anglepoise lamp - telling how an experiment by George Carwardine, a car engineer with an obsession with springs, resulted in an invention that was to become one of the most copied, parodied and collected individual pieces in the history of design.

Part of the display's focus is also on modernist design, exemplified by iconic works from the likes of Marcel Breurer, Laszlo Moholy-Nagy and Erno Goldfinger.

Extraordinary Stories about Ordinary Things will be on permanent display, with some elements being changed every year.

When the Design Museum relocates to the former Commonwealth Institute building in Kensington in 2014, the entire top floor will given over to display the museum's collection of 20th-century design.

This article was first published in fx Magazine.

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