By Tim McKeough
The inaugural Design Excellence: New Generation award and exhibition celebrates the ingenious furniture of Oki Sato, Faye Toogood and Zanini de Zanine.
For the past three decades, the Philadelphia Museum of Art has presented an annual Design Excellence Award and exhibition honoring some of the biggest names in the industry — MARC NEWSON, FRANK GEHRY, ZAHA HADID, MARCEL WANDERS and Bruce Mau among them. Organized by Collab, a museum membership group comprising design professionals and enthusiasts, the program celebrates those who have risen to the top.
However, studying only the giants can sometimes start to feel stale. This year Collab is hoping to shake things up by introducing a new award and exhibition that dig a little deeper into contemporary design and highlight the careers of professionals whose work is still on the upswing. The Design Excellence: New Generation award and its accompanying “DESIGN CURRENTS” show, running through March 12, are intended “to give the museum more flexibility to capture the stuff happening now with younger designers,” says Colin Fanning, a Philadelphia Museum curatorial fellow who co-curated the exhibition with architect, freelance curator and former museum staffer Kate Higgins. “We hope to connect with a new audience and show a younger spirit within the design profession.”
For the first award and exhibition, Collab selected three designers whose creations seem dramatically different but who share some working methods: Tokyo-based Oki Sato, of NENDO; London-based FAYE TOOGOOD; and Rio de Janeiro–based ZANINI DE ZANINE. “It’s surprising to find people from such diverse geographic backgrounds emerging with a very similar viewpoint on how to approach design,” says Higgins. “We were especially drawn to these three designers’ use of local histories as rich sources for their work, and the productive link between context and creativity.”