A light that responds to silence? A table that knows where it is? A pig farm the size of a skyscraper? Strangely Familiar: Design and Everyday Life brings together more than 40 such innovative projects, drawn internationally from the fields of architectural, product, furniture, fashion, and graphic design, that range from the sublime to the uncanny. Through works that question the habitual, transform the commonplace, alter our expectations of dwelling, and blur the boundaries of form and function, the exhibition challenges our assumptions about the design of objects and spaces around us.
Some works explore the role of the user in their creation and function: Thomas Bernstrand’s do swing, a light you can swing from, provides both illumination and exercise; the multiple components of Dunne & Raby’s Placebo Project explore our often anxious relationship to electronic goods; and www.fortunecookies.dk’s Felt 12×12, a set of flexible, modular building blocks, enables individuals to create their own garments and accessories. Other contemporary designs embrace multiple functions, as evinced in Paolo Ulian’s Cabriolet/Occasional Table, which converts from a table into a storage chest or a bench. Pointing to the dynamism of mobile architecture are several works that offer the possibility of a nomadic existence, such as Martín Ruiz de Azúa’s Basic House, a personal shelter that fits into your pocket and can be deployed when needed; or Shigeru Uchida’s modernist updates to the traditional teahouse, which give the structure the paradoxical feeling of both exposure and enclosure. The transformation of the everyday can be seen in a number of projects ranging from Buildings of Disaster, a series of miniatures depicting sites of famous calamities, to Doug Garofalo’s Markow Residence, a radical alteration of a typical suburban ranch house. This exhibition debuts several new projects, including Mobile Dwelling Unit by LOT-EK; Dialog, an interactive multimedia table designed specifically for the Walker that allows multiple users to simultaneously obtain information about artworks; and Free Play, a new customizable shelving system by Minneapolis-based Blu Dot.