Smithsonian’s Cooper-Hewitt, National Design Museum Presents “Design for the Other 90%”
In May 2007, the Smithsonian’s Cooper-Hewitt, National Design Museum will present “Design for the Other 90%,” an exhibition in the Arthur Ross Terrace and Garden that highlights the growing trend among designers to develop solutions that address basic needs for the vast majority of the world’s population not traditionally serviced by professional designers. On view May 4 through Sept. 23, 2007, the exhibition features more than 30 works that demonstrate how design can be a dynamic force in transforming and, in many cases, actually saving lives.
“Design for the Other 90%” explores the variety of affordable and socially responsible objects designed for the more than five billion people across the globe (90 percent of world’s total population of 6.5 billion) who often lack the means to purchase even the most basic goods. The exhibition will feature design solutions for the poor and marginalized around the world, ranging from the LifeStraw, a mobile personal water purification tool, to furniture made from hurricane debris through the Katrina Furniture Project, which works to rebuild the economic and social capabilities in New Orleans.
“By showcasing the work of designers who use their skills and ingenuity to produce architectural and design solutions that really affect quality-of-life issues, Cooper-Hewitt will raise awareness of the critical need for humanitarian design,” said Director Paul Warwick Thompson.
Organized by exhibition curator Cynthia E. Smith, along with an eight-member advisory council, the exhibition is divided into sections focusing on water, shelter, health and sanitation, education, energy and transportation and highlights objects developed to empower global populations surviving under the poverty level or recovering from a natural disaster.
Among the featured objects in the exhibition include the Pot-in-Pot Cooler, a storage container that doubles the amount of crops saved while extending their shelf life; the Big Boda Load Carrying Bicycle, which can easily carry hundreds of pounds of cargo or two additional passengers at a substantially lower cost than other forms of human-powered utility vehicles; MoneyMaker Pumps, which families can use to irrigate fruits and vegetables during the dry season, allowing greater crop yields year-round; and Nicholas Negroponte’s One Laptop per Child project, an inexpensive, universal laptop computer to be used as an educational tool for children.
“Design for the Other 90%” will focus on the design world’s response to the devastation of natural disasters. On view will be furniture recycled from hurricane debris and produced by the Katrina Furniture Project, an organization that trains individuals in furniture craftsmanship and facilitates workshops that function as neighborhood-based places of work, sites of learning and community centers. Finally, “Design for the Other 90%” will feature examples of shelters used throughout the world, including Global Village Shelters, which are used as temporary homes and rural clinics; Mad Housers Huts, which are built by volunteers to house the homeless; Day Labor Station, a mobile worker center; and the Seventh Ward Shade Structure, which provides a gathering place for planning reconstruction efforts while the Porch Cultural Center in New Orleans is being rebuilt.
The exhibition also will include a garden with a low-cost drip irrigation system, which reduces water use by 30 to 70 percent and increases yields by more than 50 percent by extending the growing season, improving crop quality and cultivating high-value, marketable crops. Also installed in the garden will be a treadle water pump made from bamboo, which enables farmers to move beyond subsistence farming and grow enough produce to sell at market.
“Design for the Other 90%” recognizes the growing urgency for designers to develop affordable and sustainable solutions that address basic necessities such as shelter, food, drinking water and sanitation for a majority of the world’s population. “Ninety-five percent of the world’s designers focus all their efforts on developing products and services exclusively for the richest 10 percent of the world’s customers,” said Dr. Paul Polak, president of International Development Enterprises and a member of the exhibition’s advisory council. “Nothing less than a revolution in design is needed to reach the other 90 percent,” he added.
The exhibition will be accompanied by a fully-illustrated publication.
“Design for the Other 90%” is made possible by The Lemelson Foundation. Additional funding is provided by public funds from the New York State Council on the Arts, a state agency; the Esme Usdan Exhibition Endowment Fund; and the Ehrenkranz Fund.
Editor’s Note: There are close to 5.8 billion people whose low purchasing power parity has kept them from being targeted as consumers for whom products are produced and marketed, according to C.K. Prahalad and Stuart L. Hart, “The Fortune at the Bottom of the Pyramid.” Strategy + Business, no. 26 (2002): 2-14.
Exhibition Advisory Council
• Bryan Bell, founder and executive director, Design Corps
• Barbara J. Bloemink, former curatorial director, Cooper-Hewitt, National Design Museum
• Martin J. Fisher, executive director, KickStart International
• Cheryl Heller, chief executive officer, Heller Communication Design
• Sergio Palleroni, visiting professor, Center for Sustainable Architecture at the University of Texas at Austin, and co-founder of Basic Initiative
• Dr. Paul Polak, president, International Development Enterprises
• Cameron Sinclair, co-founder and executive director, Architecture for Humanity
• Amy B. Smith, instructor, Massachusetts Institute of Technology’s Edgerton Center
• Cynthia E. Smith, exhibition curator and traveling exhibitions manager, Cooper-Hewitt, National Design Museum
About The Lemelson Foundation
The Lemelson Foundation uses its resources to recognize and celebrate accomplished inventors, mentor young people and support their scientific curiosity, and research and disseminate information and technologies that help people help themselves. To date, the foundation has donated or committed more than $130 million in support of its mission in the United States and developing countries.
Cooper-Hewitt, National Design Museum, Smithsonian Institution is the only museum in the nation devoted exclusively to historic and contemporary design. The museum presents compelling perspectives on the impact of design on daily life through active educational programs, exhibitions and publications. Founded in 1897 by Amy, Eleanor and Sarah Hewitt—granddaughters of industrialist Peter Cooper—as part of the Cooper Union for the Advancement of Science and Art, the
museum has been a branch of the Smithsonian since 1967.
Cooper-Hewitt is located at 2 East 91st Street at Fifth Avenue in New York City. Hours are Mondays through Thursdays, 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.; Fridays, 10 a.m. to 9 p.m.; Saturdays, 10 a.m. to 6 p.m.; and Sundays, noon to 6 p.m. The museum is closed on Thanksgiving Day, Christmas Day and New Year’s Day. Public transit routes include the Lexington Avenue 4, 5 and 6 subways (86th or 96th Street stations) and the Fifth and Madison Avenue buses. General admission, $12; senior citizens and students ages 12 and older, $9. Cooper-Hewitt members and children younger than age 12 are admitted free. For further information, please call (212) 849-8300 or visit www.cooperhewitt.org.
The museum is fully accessible.
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