Cooper Hewitt On Creative Responses To Epidemics

Ellen Lupton: The Designer’s Role In Times of Crisis

This December, Cooper Hewitt, Smithsonian Design Museum is presenting “Design and Healing: Creative Responses to Epidemics,” an exhibition examining design’s role in times of crisis. Organized during the COVID-19 pandemic, the exhibition will feature the work of communities and individuals who came together to aid each other, push for change and create new spaces, objects and services. Architectural case studies and historical narratives will appear alongside creative responses to current pandemics.

On view in the Design Process Galleries on the first floor from December 10 on, the exhibition is curated and designed by MASS Design Group with the Cooper Hewitt. According to Ellen Lupton, Cooper Hewitt’s senior curator of contemporary design, “The exhibition features a variety of artifacts gathered by Cooper Hewitt’s Responsive Collecting Initiative, a process launched in 2020 to document the crucial challenges of our time.”

Epidemics  – past and in the present – have triggered the discovery of new ways to treat and prevent disease while exposing gaps and failures in cultural, social, physiological, and infrastructural systems. In response to COVID-19, designers, artists, doctors, engineers and others collaborated to create design innovations that address community and individual needs. Using practices such as open-source collaboration, rapid-response prototyping, product hacking, and social activism, they created medical devices, protective gear, infographics, political posters, architecture, and community services — all with the shared aspiration to reduce structural barriers that keep us from accessing the care we all deserve.

Don’t Let Racism Go Viral Poster, 2020, Kayan Cheung-Miaw

To accompany the exhibition, the second edition of Health Design Thinking: Creating Products and Services for Better Health (February 2022) will contain current design projects born from the frontlines of the COVID-19 pandemic. The book is authored by Bon Ku, MD, and Ellen Lupton, and co-published with MIT Press.

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