It should go without saying that Zurich is home to some of the most beautiful architecture in the world. It is a city where the Old World meets the New: Hundred-year-old buildings and landmarks provide a timely reminder of Switzerland’s rich past, while modern structures and designs provide a striking aesthetic counterpoint.
Swiss builders have long been at the forefront of design and innovation. Which is why it was such a pleasure to be shown around the Museum of Design, Zurich, by faculty from the Zurich University of the Arts. Formerly a milk processing facility, the Museum is now the country’s leading design and visual communications museum.
Known locally as the Museum für Gestaltung, the Museum of Design is part of efforts by the city council to rebuild and revitalize Zurich West. As a country long renowned for design-driven initiatives, we immersed ourselves in the exhibitions and artifacts on display to find inspiration from Switzerland’s past.
Some of the exhibitions we saw at the Museum of Design were of tremendous importance. What originally started as a small collection of models, manuals and objects meant for the instruction of design eventually grew into four collections containing over half a million pieces. Today, the collections boast a number of historically significant works and continues to guide students in the education of design techniques and applications.
We were particularly inspired by the Design and Applied Arts Collections.
The Design Collection was dedicated to understanding the philosophies behind mass-produced items during the twentieth-century. Boasting over 10,000 products and 20,000 examples of packaging, the collection also includes prototypes and limited edition objects. In addition, the Design Collection serves as an archive of Swiss Design. Many of the objects compiled within the collection have now become reference points for serious academic research.
While the Design Collection was incredible for its compilation of historically significant works, our personal favorite was the Applied Arts Collection. Along with the Grafiksammlung (Graphic Art Collection), the Applied Arts Collection is the oldest collection in the Museum. Featuring a dizzying array of ceramics, textiles and glass art, the collection also features an internationally renowned Art Noveau section that houses works by William Morris, Emile Gallé, René Lalique, Hermann Obrist, and Henry van de Velde.
As far as learning experiences go, the Museum für Gestaltung was a real intellectual treat. As a designer, it was definitely an eye-opening place, and one that we hope to return to again one day.