The New Cooper Hewitt

December 12, 2014 3:57 PM

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In an essay on the work of Charles and Ray Eames, the design critic Ralph Caplan fixes upon a quote from Charles: “The details are not the details. They make the product. The connections, the connections, the connections.” “Connections between what?” Caplan then asks rhetorically, answering, “Between such disparate materials as wood and steel, between such seemingly alien disciplines as physics and painting, between clowns and mathematical concepts, between people—architects and mathematicians and poets and philosophers and corporate executives.”

If that’s the task of the designer, imagine the task of the design museum that must explain all the connections—a design problem itself. How to bring together building models and slide rules and folios and quill pens and executive desks from over the centuries, explain their origins, tell the storie...

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