Copenhagen’s Design Museum sparkles with new ideas

Dispensers of Care Gel. Photo: Gaby Mahlberg

Previously famed for its exhibition of Danish chairs, the Design Museum in Copenhagen reopened on Sunday sparkling with an exhibition about the design of the future influenced both by the challenges of climate change and the experiences of the pandemic.

The tour winding through the newly refurbished rooms takes you from soft walls made of a stiff curtain-style fabric, via sustainable building materials and ideas for an environmentally friendly wardrobe to tongue-in-cheek ideas for future living concepts.

The Flowmarket. Photo: Gaby Mahlberg

Among the items that caught my eye were dispensers evoking the omnipresent containers of hand sanitiser at every shop entrance during the pandemic, but instead containing a bright pink ‘Care Gel’ with the caption ‘What if loneliness could be removed?’, reflecting the social disconnect enhanced by Covid-19. Alongside the cabinet of dispensers was a ‘Flowmarket est. 2004’ of little medicine bottles, each labelled ‘Kindness’, ‘Passion’ or ‘Quality over Quantity’.

Close to the realities of life was also the design for a foldable float to be used in Turkey in case of an earthquake. The model, which looked like a little doll’s house, was of a tent-like structures, which would be easy to store and to set up, and designed to float on water. It could accommodate entire families who might lose their houses in a disaster and could certainly be used in other parts of the world as well.

Hope on Water – the float. Photo: Gaby Mahlberg

A bit more chilling, though not entirely far fetched, were the questions raised in a dimly-lit section of the exhibit: ‘What if you could get everything your body needed from a single pill?’ or ‘What if you could book your death via an app?’

Windows and mirrors. Photo: Gaby Mahlberg

The exhibit also contained an unsettling amount of mirrors for someone who does not like to be surrounded by their own reflection, with a wall of windows and mirrors, for instance, responding to ‘an increased porosity between the domestic interior and the world outside.’

Overall, ‘The Future is Present’ was clearly the most interesting and innovative exhibition to see, challenging the viewer to engage with current problems and envisioning their future lives. It also actively calls on us to change our lifestyles if we want to have a future at all.

Some chairs. Photo: Gaby Mahlberg

The chairs are still there by the way, albeit some of them half covered on shelves, leaving visitors to wonder whether they had only just come out of storage and then been abandoned in a corner.

Much of the remaining exhibitions was more predictable, showing different types of fabrics, patterns, furniture or household items in all shapes, sizes, colours and materials with a focus on typically Danish designs. These items are fun to look at too, but more what you would expect. But then I have always preferred ideas over reality.

More chairs and things. Pop art. Photo: Gaby Mahlberg


Design Museum Danmark, open Tue-Sun 10-18h, The 10-20h.


By thehistorywoman

Historian & journalist.

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