Furnishing Utopia

Direk­toren­haus presents the third round of “Furnishing Utopia”: the collec­tive opens a new, topical dialogue on the aesthetics of the Shaker move­ment, whose furni­ture impressed at world exhi­bi­tions as early as the 19th century.

Twenty six inter­na­tional design studios are invited to debate about the values and daily rituals of the »Believers«. The results of this research, that bring the history of design and modern design-aesthetics together, will be presented in Berlin for the first time. »Furnishing Utopia« is presenting the collec­tion of more than fifty objects, that refer to the lifestyle of the Shakers, based of the virtuous hand­craft. This way the exhi­bi­tion involves designers and viewers in the dialogue about our daily life and the objects of our everyday use. »Hands to work« offers a new view of this rela­tion­ship between the man and the object.


The utopian Ideal

Utopian exper­i­ments spec­u­late a holistic inte­gra­tion of society to create a perfect world. Many attempts have been made to realize this dream within distinct commu­ni­ties, gath­ering under a banner of govern­ment, reli­gion, economics, and many other orga­nizing belief struc­tures. One of the most successful attempts to realize a utopian ideal was the Shakers. It could be argued that the sect’s success was in part related to their pursuit of perfec­tion connecting the spir­i­tual with the prac­tical. Their aspi­ra­tion to create heaven on earth rested on a foun­da­tion of clean floors, well tended gardens, and devo­tional work — each chore putting them closer to their God.


The Chores

It takes persis­tent, dili­gent effort to main­tain the intended condi­tion of the constructed world. Throughout human history, count­less solu­tions have been proposed to relieve the pains asso­ci­ated with these tasks. Just as the earliest forms of brushes and brooms are the prede­ces­sors of the elab­o­rate vacuum cleaners of today, humanity has created and reimag­ined these types of util­i­tarian objects in order to provoke or adapt to changes in how we live, to tech­no­log­ical advances, and to broader cultural shifts.

Chores are conven­tion­ally under­stood as tedious, burden­some work to be avoided, but these activ­i­ties can also have an asso­ci­a­tion with mindful rituals that have zen-like poten­tial for clearing one’s mind, connecting with one’s body, and confronting the indif­fer­ence of the natural world. Sweeping a floor clean or chop­ping and stacking fire­wood can repre­sent both compul­sory, onerous drudgery and an authentic, medi­ta­tive expe­ri­ence. For designers, the objects that enable effec­tive perfor­mance of chores can be an oppor­tu­nity to engage with either (or both) the easing of burdens and the poten­tial of a ritu­al­istic prac­tice.

Running Time:
Begin: October 2019
End: February 2020

Direktorenhaus, Berlin