Modern Propositions At MoMA

BY Nada Bokhowa / Feb 1 2017 / 16:35 PM

The Museum of Modern Art (MoMA) presents How Should We Live? Propositions for the Modern Interior examining the various contexts of interior spaces from the 1920s to the 1950s

Modern Propositions At MoMA
Photo credit: Martin Seck
Installation view of How Should We Live? The Museum of Modern Art, New York, October 1, 2016- April 23, 2017

Since its inception in the early 1930s, the Department of Architecture and Design at the Museum of Modern Art (MoMA) has concentrated its efforts towards showcasing the impact which design has on society. How Should We Live? explores the realm of modern interiors within domestic, retail and exhibition spaces including the influence of aesthetic, social, technological and political circumstances from the 1920s to the 1950s and takes place until April 23, 2017 at the MoMA.

The showcase addresses the relevance of presenting a retrospective of interior design. “Over the last century the modern interior has not only presented a nexus of changing styles,” says Juliet Kinchin, curator of How Should We Live? “but it also has been a site for competing visions – aesthetic, economic and ideological – of how people should live. Design has the potential to inspire, and to transform and choreograph our daily lives physically and spiritually,” she explains. The timeline from the 1920s to the 1950s was selected for the exhibition due to the impact which pivotal political and economic upheavals had on the design industry – from the Great Depression to World War II.

“Many architects and designers talked of the feeling of entering a new world, of breaking with narrow traditions, explains Juliet. “The international focus in these three turbulent decades on the potentially formative and restorative influence of interior environments resonates deeply with the current global challenge of creating safe, comfortable and sustainable homes for all,” she says. The historic showcase at the MoMA aims to provoke visitors to question the various contexts of living. “This in turn has a bearing on discussions, now as then, about what is necessary, and what is equitable in the way we live,” notes Juliet. She adds, “How do we as a society want to structure social relations within the family and in the larger community? How can technological advances, materials innovation and industrial productivity be brought to bear on day-to-day living in supportive, accessible ways that enhance the quality of life?”

The exhibition has segmented over 200 interior objects into three chronological timelines – the late 1920s to the early 1930s, the late 1930s to the mid-1940s and the late 1940s to the 1950s. Among the highlights include Grete Lihotzky’s Frankfurt Kitchen, conceived from the late 1920s, which constructed modern amenities such as electricity and gas and materials including heat-resistant glass and aluminum throughout kitchens in Frankfurt, Germany – the innovation led to emancipating women from what Juliet identifies as, “an unremitting grind of household drudgery.”
Presented for the first time is Charlotte Perriand and Le Corbusier’s bedrooms designed in 1959 for the Maison du Brésil student residences at Cité Universitaire Internationale in Paris, which merges traditional materials with innovative plastic elements. The showcase also presents a prominent weaving by Benita Koch-Otte and a selection of tubular steel furniture by Marcel Breuer. Visitors are invited to Lilly Reich’s 1927 Velvet and Silk Café where they can sit in a reproduction of the designer’s signature tubular steel chairs while being served a cup of coffee to savour the experience of iconic interiors.  
How Should We Live? Propositions for the Modern Interior runs until April 23, 2017 at the Museum of Modern Art (MoMA).