Touring Design for a Living World

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By Rachael Grad
Design for a Living World is a new "green" exhibition at the Smithsonian Cooper-Hewitt National Design Museum in New York City. For the show, the museum commissioned ten leading designers to create innovative products out of sustainably grown and harvested materials. The designers, who include Maya Lin, Kate Spade, and Isaac Mizrahi, each chose a different geographic region.
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The exhibition includes the designers' finished projects, drawing plans, and video interviews of the designers explaining their design and manufacturing process. Photojournalist Ami Vitale went to each chosen location to document the local people and their relationship to nature. Her stunning photographs are beautifully printed on aluminum and line the exhibition walls.

Walking into the exhibition, we were immediately mesmerized by the beautiful bamboo furniture designed by Israeli Ezri Tarazi and made in China's Yunnan Provence. Ezri Tarazi kept the hollow pole bamboo structure to make totem pole-shaped items that serve as magazine racks, floor lamps, and TV stands.  To make chairs he cut the stalks into shorter tubes, which he used to form the seats and backs. We were also amazed by the salmon leather clothing designed by Isaac Mizrahi and made in Southwest Alaska. Salmon skin is a byproduct of the fishing industry but Isaac Mizrahi had pelts of it turned into sequin-like disks, which he used to create gorgeous evening wear.

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Design for a Living World is on view at the Smithsonian Cooper-Hewitt National Design Museum until January 4, 2010. Learn more about the exhibition by visiting the Design for a Living World website.

Images: Ellen Lupton (top and left vertical), Rachael Grad

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