Gent is a city in the Flemish region of Belgium, 35 mins from Brussels by train. What attracted tourists were the restored medieval architecture, a romantic canel in the city centre, and the walkable environment free from pollution of vehicles. It was indeed the first time for me to see a city like Gent, but I have to say it was not the medieval atmosphere that impressed me the most. Wherever I go I visit museums and I think I can say I have been to quite a few, but it was in Gent I found my all time favourite.
We found the entrance of Design Museum Gent on a small but touristily crowded road. We were a bit tired of walking around without a clear destination so we decided we would give it a shot so we entered. I am so happy we did.
On the ground floor and the basement it was an exhibition about the Danish designer Arne Jacobsen and his signature butterfly chair . The exhibition was eye opening because there were a lot of interesting and fun content. Firstly we were enjoying a how-it’s-made video (I LOVE how-it’s-made videos) of the butterfly chair sitting on a butterfly chair. The video was also on YouTube but it feels totally different watching it in the museum and watching it on your laptop. It was a great start to the exhibition because nothing is better than understanding how designers and technicians work together to produce the classic designs people consume today.
In the basement there were displays of artworks inspired by the classical design. The artworks were all secondary creations, and artists all over the world input their imagination and special techniques into the original, practical butterfly chair. Two of the remakes were my favourite, one being a movable (roller) butterfly chair attached with a vaccum cleaner, the other one being a toilet seat. While the first one perfectly satisfies my pursuit of comfort and cleaniness in my lifestyle, the second one promotes the virtues of the original design to another level. One reason why the butterfly chair is so popular is that because “the chair is comfy”, and the reason for this is because the design pays attention to ergonomics such that when the back of the chair urges the person to sit straight, the person is actually in the best sitting position. The toilet seat design promoted this idea to the next level because apparently we need to sit straight not only when we work, but also when we respond to mother nature’s requests.
Enough of dark humour, the Arne Jacobsen exhibition was truly amazing. Apart from the attributes of the orginal design, it is facsinating to see how one person and one idea inspires designers all over the world, becoming the timeless piece of the century. And of course, the butterfly chair is indeed a very pleasing chair to sit on.
There were also other floors in the museum and the exhibitions covered a variety of themes. While I must admit I am not bothered to review every exhibition, I feel obliged to explain a bit further on why the Design Museum Gent is my favourite of all time. It is in fact the first museum I have been to that dedicates all attention to design. Personally I prefer design to fine arts because good designs are always practical but there barely is one single, universal standard on good art. While I appreciate the freedom and unlimited capacity in both forms of creation, design seem more appealing to me because within boundaries of usability, designers somehow still find a way to make a statement and express their ideas. Most importantly, good designs simply give more of a sh** than good art to real human lives. I know people will disagree and I welcome any discussion on this topic, but I will not deny my admiration to design, designers and this Design Museum I found in Gent. Even though I don’t intend to develop my career in this direction, I guess I can still say that it was actually the Design Museum Gent who found me. Haha.