2019 Year in Review

2019 Year in Review

Educating, inspiring, and empowering people through design

A woman in a white jacket with short blonde hair stands within a cloud of oversized incandescent lightbulbs suspended from the ceiling.

Design is a force for change

From everyday objects to entire cities, thoughtful design enables humanity to be more sustainable, inclusive, and imaginative, and vastly improves the way we live.

Through innovative exhibitions, education programs, thought leadership, and more, Cooper Hewitt creates opportunities for everyone to discover the importance of design and its power to change the world.

A woman in a mustard yellow dress stands in front of an audience, appearing to give a presentation. Behind her is a large screen showing people navigating in wheel chairs.

2019 was an extraordinary year at Cooper Hewitt

From our home in New York City to the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland to Title I schools in Detroit, we inspired important conversations across the globe on critical topics ranging from accessibility and inclusivity to climate change.

Everything we do is made possible thanks to the passion and support of our donors. Thank you for joining hands with us to design a better future for all.


Nature shows us a post-consumption future, in which the urgency of restoring ecological function trumps the allure of the latest gadget.”

The New York Times

A bare tree stands in the middle of an indoor gallery. On display nearby are objects that appear to be made of natural materials, and a manikin wearing a white dress.

Nature—Cooper Hewitt Design Triennial

May 10, 2019–January 20, 2020

Our sixth triennial, critically acclaimed by The New York Times, features more than 60 groundbreaking designs inspired by nature and driven by the urgency of climate change. In 2020, a selection from the exhibition will travel to the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland.

Three manikins stand in the middle of a gallery, wearing red and white clothing with paisley patterns. Displayed on both sides of the manikins are large textiles with paisley motifs.

Nature by Design: Selections from the Permanent Collection

May 10, 2019–Spring 2020

Complementing the triennial are rotating selections from the museum’s expansive collection of nearly 215,000 historic and contemporary objects, celebrating nature as a global, long-continuing source of design inspiration.

A woman wearing a cream-colored scarf and glasses gazes at a bright blue taxidermied bird at her eye level.

Rebeca Méndez Selects

October 5, 2018–June 16, 2019

In the 17th installment of the guest curator series, designer Rebeca Méndez explored humanity’s complex relationship with nature and our ties with other species, particularly birds.

A woman in a gallery points to a futuristic, chrome-colored scooter, which is on display alongside a folded red scooter, a large bike, and a vehicle that looks like a small bus.

The Road Ahead: Reimagining Mobility

December 14, 2018–March 31, 2019

Featuring design projects at the cutting edge of mobility innovations, this exhibition explored how new automation technologies might make future streetscapes safer, more equitable, and more sustainable.


“Cooper Hewitt provides a foundational understanding of how design can be used to solve problems and communicate critical ideas.”

—Michael Ellsworth, co-founder and principal, Civilization, 2018 National Design Award winner for Communication Design

A man stands at a podium that says Cooper Hewitt, holding a blue trophy and appearing to give a speech. Behind him is a large clock with a pink and purple gradient.

National Design Awards

October 17, 2019

Twelve outstanding design pioneers were recognized at the 20th annual National Design Awards for their innovation and lasting impact on the world. The gala honored the longstanding legacy of past and present award winners, and celebrated the power of design to build a better future for us all.

People gather at a table, in a festive room surrounded by balloons, creating postcards using bright colors.

National Design Week

October 12–19, 2019

Learners of all ages participated in free education programs—from talks and workshops to career fairs and hands-on activities—led and inspired by National Design Award winners. Visitors enjoyed free museum admission all week, thanks to generous support from Target.

Kids gather in a classroom, each holding a piece of paper with colorful typography, smiling for a group shot.

NDA Cities

Cooper Hewitt traveled to Boston, Los Angeles, San Francisco, and Detroit over the year, connecting underserved communities across the country with National Design Award winners and engaging hundreds of students, educators, and the general public with the power of design.

Five teens stand on a grass lawn in front of a large mansion, smiling for a group shot.

National High School Design Competition

The 2019 competition challenged high school students around the country to design a nature-based solution to a global problem. Out of 365 entries, three finalists were selected to participate in mentoring workshops with leading designers and experts in the field.


At home and abroad, Cooper Hewitt elevates the power of inclusive design to serve all of us and improve daily life.

A group of people are gathered in an area labeled “Exhibition Dialogue Space” next to a blue and white wall full of images, video, and text.

World Economic Forum

January 22–25, 2019

We kicked off the year at the World Economic Forum’s annual meeting in Davos, Switzerland. In addition to a special installation of the Access+Ability exhibition, Cooper Hewitt Director Caroline Baumann gave a talk about inclusive design to an international audience.

A group of people gather around a large horizontal digital screen, using their fingers to interact with it.

Interaction Lab

In 2019 we also launched the Interaction Lab—a lab without walls, designed to reimagine the museum experience for the various audiences we serve. Through collaborative workshops, research, public programs, and more, we are inviting visitors to co-create and test out ideas with us.

A drag queen with long hair, a black bikini top, elbow length gloves, and an iridescent jacket tied around her waist performs on a grass lawn. A crowd gathered around her are taking photos.

Cocktails at Cooper Hewitt

June 13–August 15, 2019

It was another memorable year for the summer performance series. There was something for everyone, including Pride Night with the Brooklyn drag collective Bushwig, Young Patrons Night with DJ duo Coco & Breezy, and Juilliard Nights with talented alumni from The Juilliard School.

Two pairs of dancers perform on a grass lawn in front of a large mansion. An audience watches from behind, sitting on orange chairs.

Arthur Ross Terrace and Garden

Cooper Hewitt is home to the Arthur Ross Terrace and Garden, one of the largest enclosed gardens in New York City. Open to the public year-round, the garden continues to be a cherished community resource and green space for all to enjoy. It also provides a stunning backdrop for weddings, receptions, photo shoots, and more.

What’s next?

Cooper Hewitt’s upcoming exhibitions will champion the crucial role of design in promoting diversity and inclusivity. We invite everyone to come engage with design, understand how designers are addressing today’s challenges, and imagine how we can design a better tomorrow, together.