Zurich Design Collection goes beyond mere appearances

"Rex" aluminium peeler 1947. Zurich Design Museum

The Design Collection in Zurich, the first of its kind in Switzerland, places what might appear to be the most mundane artefacts of everyday life onto a cultural pedestal.

This content was published on July 25, 2000 - 09:17

Vegetable peelers, toasters, computer mice, teapots and tape recorders: there isn’t much the managers of the collection think is unworthy of display as a treasure of design.

The only restrictions are that they should be the products of Swiss industry produced in a series in the 20th century.

Norbert Wild, the deputy curator of the exhibition, says items have been collected not only for their aesthetic importance, because design is not concerned solely with appearance. The collection, which is part of the Zurich Design Museum, aims to link design features with historical, economic, technological, sociocultural and ecological considerations.

"We think it’s important to show how Swiss design and industry work," said Wild. "This means that we collect such material as aluminium, which has been a very important material for Switzerland."

Wild says the Design Collection wants to follow the process involved from the idea stage to the final product, including such phases as sketches, models, advertising and publicity.

Although the collection concentrates on Swiss products, there are similar objects from Italy, France, Germany and other countries on display. The idea is to give the viewer a chance to compare.

Until the 1980s no public institution in Switzerland concerned itself with modern everyday culture on a continuous basis. The Design Collection is intended to fill that gap.

Besides purchases and donations, it includes exhibits on permanent loan from the Swiss Confederation in the field of product design.

by Paul Sufrin

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