April 30, 2016

Plastic Icons - and other exciting designs

Plastic Icons at NRW-Forum

Did you know that Düsseldorf has a museum for synthetic materials and plastics?
Photo of red plastic chair and the text Plastic Icons

Neither did I. But we do! Deutsches Kunststoff Museum, a museum with a spellbinding collection - however without a house of their own where they can show what became important across the globe after WWII - products made of plastic.

Yes. I know. We have new knowledge now and realise there are challenges with plastics, not the least from a sustainability point of view, but never the less, plastics have played and plays a very important role in our lives.  

AND! Right now you can see the exhibition Plastic Icons at NRW-Forum in Düsseldorf - an absolutely fascinating exhibition if you ask me. It is full of design icons and other items most of us will recognise, if not from our own homes from the homes of our parents or grandparents. 

Plastic Icons may not be as big as the main exhibition at NRW-Forum right now, but it is very rich in content - and it is even more fascinating as there is something for everyone, it is going to be difficult to find a person who can't connect to at least some of the items in the exhibition. We use plastics when we go on picnics, we use plastics in toys, in building materials, when sitting, when travelling, there are plastics in our smartphones and our computers. 

And we sometimes dress in plastics!

Three bobbycars (a red, a black and a stylish yellow) with an Itera/Volvo bicycle in the backgroundOne of the first things I noticed myself is displayed in the "transport" part of the exhibition - a red Bobbycar. Seeing it meant taking a time machine back to when I was a kid, my brother had a red Bobbycar and seeing it I visualised him in front of our parent's house, laughing, and I could hear the sounds of the other kids, and smell the sun on the asphalt, and the morning dew on the grass - it's fascinating what objects from our childhood can do and how they can bring back memories. 

One of the more fascinating objects, from an art- and design point of view, is (to me) the Itera bicycle in the background, that beige, clumsy looking bicycle that you actually still see from time to time, mostly in camping sites where people just need something to move from spot A to B without having to worry too much. The Itera is originally from the team around Volvo, and it is a bicycle  made out of plastic. It was never a hit, as it was as heavy as other bikes, was wobbly - plastic doesn't do very well in warm weather - or would crack - cold is also not the best for plastics, unless the plastic has been treated to sustain cold. This means that the Itera, although built in three different models, never really was mass produced.

Never the less rumours has it that there are Itera fan clubs in the UK, and in Tanzania they even made a stamp featuring the Itera bicycle. Interesting!

What actually makes an icon an icon? Maybe you'll find your answer at NRW-Forum Düsseldorf - the exhibition runs until May 26 (2016, that is). 


Different hairdriers on a row, hanging from their power coards - a square one in the foreground, then one that looks like a dildo and then variants of classic driers
I of course recommend seeing the exhibition live, at NRW-Forum (there is also the possibility to get a tour, more about that on NRW-Forum's website - tours are FAR less expensive than you'd think).

However: If you can't make it to Düsseldorf or if you want to see more from Deutsches Kunststoff Museum you can also enjoy the virtual part of Deutsches Kunststoff Museum online. 

And for the people in the region there should be an extra big interest -  many of the products are connected to the Düsseldorf and surrounding areas in one way or the other - Hoechst and Herberts, BASF, DuPont, Axalta, Bayer - chemical companies that were part of developing the materials, and had it not been for the materials, many of these items would never have been produced!  Plastics and synthetic materials was definitely a sign of the time especially after WWII and onwards. 

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