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Beauty—Cooper Hewitt Design Triennial

Beauty—Cooper Hewitt Design Triennial

Tsao & McKown Architects
New York, United States
Project Year
Cultural Centres


Chris Mottalini

Beauty—Cooper Hewitt Design Triennial

Tsao & McKown Architects as Architects

We were delighted to design Beauty—Cooper Hewitt Design Triennial, the fifth installment of the Museum’s signature exhibition series.

Drawing on 335 works by 63 contemporary designers, the triennial explores seven kinds of beauty: extravagant, intricate, ethereal, transgressive, transformative, emergent, and elemental.

In an interview with Andrea Lipps (who co-curated the Design Triennial with Ellen Lupton), Calvin Tsao and Zack McKown explain the exhibition design: “The primary challenge is to sequence these themes and works so that the show constructs a narrative and dynamic procession.

We began by looking at the relationships among the themes and objects, paying attention to how the designers speak to each other both in counterpoint and/or symphony...Just as we wanted the individual and collective voices of the works to be audible, we also sought to offer the audience relationships with each piece and more contextual views.

To achieve this, we identified a strategic parti - a context and structure for the show. The concept is to create a landscape of varied platforms and volumes that float in space and meander through the Museum. All objects exist within this ribbon. Our design and curatorial concept also considers the historical character of the Carnegie Mansion. By congregating display volumes in the center of the spaces, we allow the exhibition to float in counterpart to the architectural envelope.

...As architects, we are practitioners rather than theorists. We believe that the search for meaning and answers comes from investigation, iteration, and practice. Beauty is infinite; it’s a pursuit that should never end. To find beauty is a revelation that you’ve captured a little bit of truth.”

Project Credits
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Visual Arts Building, University of Iowa
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Visual Arts Building, University of Iowa

Iowa City, IA, United States - Build completed in 2016
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