There are two fabulous exhibits at the Cooper Hewitt Museum: 


the first, Provocations: The Architecture and Design of Heatherwick Studio,  is an exhibition of models and photographs of some of the innovative and fascinating architectural projects—and other projects (Thomas Heatherwick has designed everything from furniture to handbags, buses to boats)—by this London-based designer; the exhibit ends 3 January;


the second,  David Adjaye Selects: Works from the permanent collection, is the 12th in a series in which the Cooper Hewitt asks major figures from the world of art and architecture to create exhibitions by selecting items from its prodigious permanent collection; in it, architect David Adjaye has chosen some exquisite textiles—and hats!—from West and Central Africa; the exhibit ends 14 February.


The wonderful, newly-renovated, Cooper Hewitt Museum is at


2 East 91 Street

(between 5th and Madison)



Weekdays and Sundays: 10 AM – 6 PM

Saturdays:                       10 AM – 9 PM


Details about and images from both exhibitions follow below:



David Adjaye Selects: Works from the permanent collection


19 June 2015 through 14 FebRUARY 2016


Architect David Adjaye has chosen 14 magnificent West and Central African from the museum’s great textile collection, and they are on display on the first floor in the Cooper Hewitt’s renovated Marks Gallery:



Below is a selection of images from what is on display:


Adire Wrapper (Nigeria), ca. 1960

Kente Prestige Cloth (Ghana), early–mid-20th century

Kente Prestige Cloth (Ghana), early to mid-20th century

Adinkra Ceremonial Wrapper (Ghana), mid-20th century

Man's Cap (laket) (Democratic Republic of the Congo), late 19th–early 20th century

Man's Hat (ashetu) (Cameroon), mid- to late 20th century


From the Museum’s online description:


Architect David Adjaye presents 14 West and Central African textiles from the museum’s permanent collection in the latest installment of the Selects series. On view in the renovated Marks Gallery on the museum’s first floor, the exhibition is the 12th in the ongoing series, in which prominent designers, artists and architects are invited to mine and interpret the museum’s collection.


Hailed as an architect with an artist’s sensibility and with projects underway on four continents, Adjaye is known for combining the aesthetics of his African heritage with classic, modernist design. In exploring Cooper Hewitt’s collection, he has created a dialogue between the museum’s textiles and his own “library of patterns” that he draws on as a source of inspiration in his work. Having lived in Africa as a child and visited each of the continent’s 54 nations as an adult, Adjaye is deeply affected by the importance of textiles in the visual culture of Africa, whose forms and patterns are often reflected in his buildings.


Highlights of the works on view include:


·        an Asante kente cloth from Ghana

·        a bògòloanfini mud cloth from Mali,

·        a Dyula ikat wrapper from Ivory Coast

·        a Yoruba indigo dyed wrapper from Nigeria




Provocations: The Architecture and Design of Heatherwick Studio

June 24, 2015 through January 3, 2016


[this exhibit had been at the Nasher Sculpture Center in Dallas (13 September 2-14 – 4 January 2015) and at the Hammer Museum in LA (15 February – 24 May) before coming to NYC]


The title of the show, “Provocations,” is apt, as Thomas Heatherwick’s designs challenge our expectations and push the borders of our aesthetics—in a wonderfully creative, and usually (but not uniformly) successful way.


The title piece from the exhibit, Provocations, is an industrial, futuristic sculpture at the entrance to the exhibit that invites visitors to crank out a 4”-wide printed description of the exhibition (detail below the main photo)






The studio’s first permanent project in 2000-2 in London, the Paternoster Vents, is presented by the exhibit in the following way:



There are two models, both presented below.  The first gives more of the sense of the above ground part of the completed project:



the second gives a better sense of its scale:




There were examples of a Spun (2007-11): a spun metal, circular object designed to answer the question:  “Can a rotationally symmetrical form make a comfortable chair?”


Al Fayah Park, Abu Dabi (2010- ).  “Can you make a park out of the desert?”  The solution is to preserve and celebrate the existing environment by raising cracked portions of the desert surface on columns top form a shade canopy for the people and vegetation beneath.





One of Heatherwick’s justifiably most famous projects is his Rolling Bridge (2002-4) in London, used by pedestrians to cross an inlet behind Paddington Station, but which rolls up into a ball to allow the passage of boats





Even more well-know was his UK Pavilion in Shanghai for the 2010 World Expo.  Known as the “Seed Cathedral,” it had 66,000 acrylic rods extending outward from its surface.  On the outside (according to the exhibit), it formed “a shimmering dandelion-like surface.  Inside, the rods’ tips displayed the collection of 250,000 seeds” from the Millennium Seed Bank at London’s Kew Gardens. The rods channeled sunlight into the building, but also contained tiny fiber optic lights for when it was dark outside.  What follows are two models and a photograph of the seed on the inner ends of some of the rods on the building’s interior:


And a very controversial project in NYC, Pier 55 (2014- ), a park built out over the Hudson River:




There were a couple of good articles written when the show opened:  James Russell’s “The Price of Thomas Heatherwick’s Imagination” in the NY Times of 30 July; and “Review” by Julie V. Iovine on 13 July in the Wall Street Journal.



From the Museum’s online description:


Provocations is the first museum exhibition to introduce the imaginative work of British designer Thomas Heatherwick and his London-based studio to an American audience. Heatherwick is known for his unique design concepts ranging from products, infrastructure and temporary structures, to large-scale architecture projects around the world.


Highlights of the work on view include:


the Learning Hub at Singapore’s Nanyang Technological University

the 2014 Bombay Sapphire Distillery in Laverstoke, England

the 2012 redesign of London’s double-decker buses, known as the New Routemaster

the cauldron for the London 2012 Olympic Games torch

architectural models and large-scale renderings for Pier55, a public park and performance space to be constructed in the Hudson River on Manhattan’s West Side


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