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July 25, 2012

MoMA’s Century of the Child: Growing by Design, 1900-2000 may be the world’s most engrossing toy box. Sadly, you can’t play with the 500+ items on exhibit July 29 through November 5, 2012, but to linger over each for a few minutes is enough to transport the viewer to her childhood and today dream of what a youth spent in another era may have looked like (spoiler alert: primary-colored with tubular steel furniture).

Inspired by Swedish design reformer and social theorist Ellen Key’s 1909 tome The Century of the Child, in which she declares children’s well-being and rights to be the defining mission of the next century, Juliet Kinchin, Curator in the Department of Architecture and Design, amassed a collection of toys, books, posters, and furniture representing the path of design philosophy over the course of the last 100 years—no small feat. Of the exhibit, Kinchin says it will "hopefully engage people of any age."

She won’t have to worry about that. On our way out, a line was queuing for Philip Worthington’s interactive piece Shadow Monsters. A real-time transformation of everyday shadow puppets into growling monsters with spikes and teeth, it was hard to resist. The opportunity to climb into the larger-than-life Peter Opsvik Tripp Trapp chair is reason enough to visit.

The exhibition will be on view through November 5, 2012, at the Museum of Modern Art in the The Joan and Preston Robert Tisch Exhibition Gallery, sixth floor. And, courtesy of MoMA, visitors can download a family guide.

Wheelbarrow by Gerrit Rietveld
This wheelbarrow by Dutch architect and furniture designer Gerrit Rietveld embodies key elements of the De Stijl movement: basic geometric shapes and primary colors. Gerrit Rietveld, Child’s Wheelbarrow, 1923. Painted wood.
Courtesy of 
Digital Image © MoMA, N.Y.
1 / 10
School Desk by Jean Prouvé
With a shortage of materials following WWII, designer, engineer, and metal-worker Jean Prouvé’s resourcefulness made him a fine candidate to develop school furniture as society’s attention turned from conflict towards children’s education. Jean Prouvé, School desk, 1946. Enameled steel and oak.
Courtesy of 
Digital Image © 2009 MOMA, N.Y.
2 / 10
While studying for her medical degree, Maria Montessori began taking courses in pedagogy and developed innovations in teaching. The Montessori method is still practiced today in nearly 20,000 schools. Her teaching materials embody the ethos of many pieces in the exhibit, described by curator Juliet Kinchin as a “synergy between play, creativity, education and design.” Maria Montessori, Teaching materials conceived and commissioned by Maria Montessori, 1925. Painted wood and various materials.
3 / 10
Schaukelwagon (Rocking car) by Hans Brockhage and Erwin Andra
Here's a two-in-one any parent can get behind. Children used the Schaukelwagon as a toy car and likely wore themselves out. Flip it over and voila! A rocking chair to lull them to sleep come naptime. Hans Brockhage and Erwin Andra, Schaukelwagon (Rocking car), 1950. Beech frame and birch plywood seat.
Courtesy of 
Digital Image © 2011 MoMA, N.Y.
4 / 10
Geopark, Stavanger, Norway
Waterfront youth park and outdoor science center in Stavanger, Norway, designed by Helen & Hard. The park is located in the administrative center of Norway's petroleum industry, and this formerly abandoned site was transformed into a “geo-landscape” that hosts activities like biking, climbing, exhibition, concerts, jumping, ball play, and “chill-out” areas. Geopark, Stavanger, Norway. 2011.
5 / 10
Kinder Verkehrs Garten by Werner John
In this poster advertising a children’s traffic school, we see the school referred to as a garden. Some designers evoked plant imagery when describing children, as they saw them as plants in a garden, eager to grow. Werner John, Kinder Verkehrs Garten (Children’s traffic garden), 1959. Lithograph.
Courtesy of 
Digital Image © 2011 MoMA, N.Y.
6 / 10
Glass desk by Gio Ponti
The only drawback for a student with a desk made by famed architect and designer Gio Ponti is there’s nowhere to hide chewing gum! Gio Ponti, Glass desk, 1939. Glass, metal, and wood.
7 / 10
Chica demountable child’s chairs by Giorgio DeCurso
Stackable chairs, a potentially troublesome two-in-one. Child’s first stack of chairs or child’s first broken bone? Donato D’Urbino, Jonathan De Pas, Paolo Lomazzi, Giorgio DeCurso, Chica demountable child’s chairs, 1971. ABS plastic.
Courtesy of 
Digital Image © 2009 MoMA, N.Y.
8 / 10
Detail from Stahlromöbel
Detail from Stahlromöbel (Tubular steel furniture), loose-leaf sales catalogue for furniture offered by the Thonet Company, showing Marcel Breuer’s B341/2 chair and B53 table. 1930-31. Lithograph, gravure, and letterpress.
Courtesy of 
Digital Image © 2012 MoMA, N.Y.
9 / 10
Prototype for Build the Town building blocks by Ladislav Sutnar
Creating blocks based on forms and structures found in functional architecture designer Ladislav Sutnar hoped to impart “mental vitamins” to the children who would build with them. Sadly, they were never put into production. Ladislav Sutnar, Prototype for Build the Town building blocks, 1940-43. Painted wood.
Courtesy of 
Digital Image © 2008 MOMA, N.Y.
10 / 10
Wheelbarrow by Gerrit Rietveld
This wheelbarrow by Dutch architect and furniture designer Gerrit Rietveld embodies key elements of the De Stijl movement: basic geometric shapes and primary colors. Gerrit Rietveld, Child’s Wheelbarrow, 1923. Painted wood.

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