Finding that ad surprised me for many reasons. One of the main ones was that it was placed in local media, far from its source. It announced the 2018 National High School Design Competition sponsored by Cooper Hewitt. Neither Ruth nor I had ever been in Cooper Hewitt until our trip to New York City in autumn, 2017.
Cooper Hewitt is a Smithsonian Design Museum. It’s the only museum in America dedicated to historical and contemporary design according to New York’s original City Guide and reminded me of smaller but similar venues in Europe, especially Finland. The Finns are naturally design oriented, in my opinion the finest crafters in the world. Cooper Hewitt has amassed a collection of more than 210,000 design objects going back 10 centuries, and some of them were on display in thoughtful temporary shows.
After I thought it over, I concluded that a high school design competition is exactly what I could expect from this institution. The ad explained that “GREAT DESIGN EMPOWERS PEOPLE. YOUR NEXT IDEA COULD, TOO” and challenged high schoolers to redesign a place, process, or useful everyday object. Their designs will be seen by a jury, and the winning entry in the National High School Design Competition will be displayed in the Cooper Hewitt Museum. Its creator will go to Target Headquarters to meet design professionals. The entry deadline is February 12, 2018. The Cooper Hewitt staff didn’t know or expect me, but they worked hard to make my visit count. I left with a thoughtful, hastily arranged press kit.
The Cooper Hewitt Museum is in a distinctive building across the street from Central Park on Manhattan’s Upper East Side at 91st Street. It used to be Andrew Carnegie’s New York mansion. Founded in 1897, The Cooper Hewitt Smithsonian Design Museum has only been in the Carnegie home for the past 3 years. That amount of time was also used to renovate the building to make it as up-to-date as possible. That team must have felt like it had achieved the ultimate design dream, and they had $91 million to spend on the mansion’s transformation. Carnegie moved here in 1902 and remained until his death 17 years later. His wife Louise, whom he didn’t marry until after his mother passed away, lived here until 1946.
The best temporary show Ruth & I saw in Cooper Hewitt is about to close. It focused on furniture designed by the Joris Laarman Lab that created the first open-source 3-D printable chair. Fortunately, this exhibit will travel to Atlanta’s High Museum and Houston’s Museum of Fine Arts. Among this museum’s own treasures was the penguin Cocktail Shaker seen below. Made in Connecticut by the Napier Company, it was in an appealing show called “The Virtue in Vice” that will be up until March 25, 2018.
Cooper Hewitt is a unique, 5 Compass attraction.