Our friendly weather people told us it was going to rain last Sunday (it ended up being a nice day). So we suited the girls up in sneakers and jeans and visited the Cooper Hewitt, Smithsonian Design Museum on 91st and Fifth. Right now, the Museum has several interactive exhibits appropriate for the younger set of museum goers.
The Cooper Hewitt is “dedicated to historic and contemporary design.” Since 1970, it’s been located in the gorgeous former mansion of Andrew Carnegie - the space is worth a visit in its own right. In late 2014, the Museum was renovated to be what it is today. I loved the juxtaposition between the Mansion’s historic nature and the Museum’s high tech features and contemporary designs.
Regarding those high tech features, visitors at the Museum are given a Pen that they can use during their visit on interactive tables stationed all over the Museum to do things like design their own building or table and chairs. Anything you design with your Pen can then be saved and accessed at home using a unique code the Museum gives each visitor with his or her admission ticket. Needless to say, the interactive table and Pen combination went over very well with my kiddies.
The Senses: Design Beyond Vision
We were directed at the admissions desk to start on the Third Floor at The Senses: Design Beyond Vision exhibition because it was the most interactive.
An exhibit about the interplay of our senses, this was indeed interactive: We heard music when we touched a very fuzzy black wall. We smelled soft “snowballs” that we saw hanging from a ceiling. We read words that were simultaneously said to us in headphones while we sat in a chair that vibrated and moved along with the words. We scratched and sniffed wallpaper and smelled all kinds of candle scents intended to invoke very specific feelings and life moments. We touched Braille and felt the difference between several prototypes of handrails.
The Exhibit was small but held our kids’ attention for a good 30 minutes. A few parts had “do not touch” signs that were too inconspicuous for a small child to understand. And even with this particular exhibit being what it is, the Cooper Hewitt is by no means a “Children’s Museum”; little ones still need to be watched, and may inevitably get bored in sections that are not immersive.
Senses is at the Cooper Hewitt through October 28, 2018.
Saturated: The Allure and Science of Color
On the Second Floor of the Museum right now is Saturated: The Allure and Science of Color. I really loved seeing a “history” of color expressed through design. It was interesting to read (when the girls let me think long enough to read) about how color is used in consumer advertisements and to identify brands.
The Cooper Hewitt is known for its wallcovering collections. Several wallpapers were on display as part of Saturated and they were truly awesome.
Landscape No. 1 is a wallpaper by Carnovsky that appears on three walls in a corner of the Exhibit. The wallpaper has three overlapping images, each printed in a single red, green or blue color. When shown under pure red, green or blue light, one of the images comes into focus. This was gorgeous and if I could, I’d install this in my house (with the lighting) tomorrow.
Another wallpaper called Bloom, made as a collaboration between the Pratt Institution and (CT’s own!) Twenty2 wallpaper company, is a permanent part of the Cooper Hewitt’s collection and currently featured as part of Saturated. Bloom is a 3D or anaglyph wallpaper - its black and white roses became 3D when we put on the 3D glasses offered with the Exhibit.
For sure my girls’ favorite part of the Second Floor, and a popular installation generally, is the Immersion Room. Here, you use those same Pens to design your own wallpapers that then can be broadcast on the huge wall-to-wall screens in front of your eyes (like a real wallpaper). This was really awesome and fun. The Immersion Room is permanent and can be visited any time the Museum is open.
Saturated is on view through January 13, 2019.
Hear, See, Play: Designing With Sound
The last interactive exhibition we visited is unfortunately closing this Sunday.
Hear, See, Play: Designing With Sound allowed visitors to see how sound and music play an important role in branding and marketing. We got to design our own soundtrack for “Trash Bot” as he went about his day cleaning streets. There were lots of buttons to touch and sounds to hear. There was also a keyboard whose strokes produced light images on a screen.
Arthur Ross Terrace and Garden
Out back at the Cooper Hewitt is the recently renovated, free and open to the public Arthur Ross Terrace and Garden. Right now the Color Factory’s Manhattan Colorwalk can be seen out here as part of Saturated. But even once that’s gone at the end of this month, the Garden and Terrace is a really pleasant area to relax in for a bit or grab some snacks from the attached cafe. Kids will enjoy the uniquely designed chairs and benches and the ping pong table.