Museum für Gestaltung Zürich
Amongst design and architecture museums, both in Switzerland and abroad, the Museum für Gestaltung Zürich has charted its own course. The museum is a marketplace of ideas related to all design expressions, offering a program focused on the contemporary and the modern within design, visual communication, and architecture. The Museum Bellerive, a part of the Museum für Gestaltung Zürich, focuses on the specific relationship between design and art. With its exhibitions, collections, and publications, the Museum für Gestaltung Zürich is at once forum, archive, and laboratory; it engages in research, it presents, and it mediates. The museum perceives design as an expression of culture, one that represents a particular set of values. By investigating past and present, theory and practice, the aim is to show, discuss, and strengthen the position and impact of design among a broader public.
History, Locations, Connections
The Museum für Gestaltung Zürich developed out of the Kunstgewerbemuseum der Stadt Zürich (Museum of Arts and Crafts), founded in 1875. In 1933, the museum and with it the Kunstgewerbeschule (School of Arts and Crafts), founded in 1878, today known as the Zürcher Hochschule der Künste (Zurich University of the Arts), moved into the building on Ausstellungsstrasse erected by Adolf Steger and Karl Egender, a national landmark of the Modern Architecture in Switzerland. The aesthetic and functional quality of the architecture shaped the museum’s appearance both externally and internally. The building contains the hall (1,100 square meters) and gallery (330 square meters) forming the central exhibition spaces, the foyer with cafeteria and shop, the vestibule, and the lecture hall. The main building, and further on the collection archives, lie along the«culture mile» which starts at the Zurich central station. Since 1968, the Museum für Gestaltung Zürich has operated the Museum Bellerive, an attractive exhibition venue housed in a former villa dating from 1931 and located on the shore of Lake Zurich.
As part of the Department of Cultural Analysis, the Museum für Gestaltung Zürich cultivates invaluable research and educational links with the Zurich University of the Arts. Cooperation with other institutions, academics, artists, designers, and authors on specific projects, and affiliations with other national and international museums are essential institutional activities of the Museum für Gestaltung Zürich.
Exhibitions: Program and Focal Points
The exhibition program presents a wide range of themes and monographs from the areas of industrial and product design, applied arts, fashion, textiles and jewelry, graphic design, typography, poster and book art, new media and film, as well as architecture, interior design, scenography, and urban space. The analysis and presentation focuses on historical phenomena, contemporary tendencies, and innovative approaches that open perspectives on the future. Often interdisciplinary in nature, the exhibitions alternate between Swiss and interna tional themes, and contribute to the exchange of ideas and knowledge within contemporary theory and practice. With thorough research and a focus on visually and emotionally appealing presentations, the museum’s creative approach to themes and objects gene rate exhibitions boasting levels of depth that appeal to both specialists and the general public. Openness to the entire design spectrum and a dedicated approach to the exhibition as a medium give the program its continuity and distinct character.
Own Productions, Cooperation, Visiting Exhibitions
Each year the Museum für Gestaltung Zürich presents between five and seven temporary exhibitions in the hall and gallery of the main building on Ausstellungsstrasse, as well as three temporary exhibitions in the Museum Bellerive and smaller interventions within the museum or in its immediate surroundings. While most of the exhibitions by the Museum für Gestaltung Zürich are produced by the museum itself, a number of them are created in dialogue with the museum’s collections or with outside project partners. The museum also regularly initiates research projects on themes of historical or contemporary design that then lead to exhibitions or publications. In the case of more complex and extensive exhibitions, national and international cooperation plays an increasingly important role. Within its exhibition program, the museum also presents traveling exhibitions from other institutions, and increasingly sends its own to international destinations, where they reach a wider public.
Scenography and Visual Communication
The Museum für Gestaltung Zürich has special standards and objectives in the area of exhibition design. The architecture of its building and the exhibition spaces offer a continuous challenge, as well as representing an obligation to the past. An important part of the conceptual work is centered on creating the context in which the theme is to be presented. Often the services of both established and young scenographers and architects are engaged for specific projects, leading to a richly varied and forward-looking spectrum of possibilities in the area of current exhibition design.
The museum follows a similarly innovative approach in the design of its posters and advertising materials. For each project talented designers are commissioned to devise the visual communication concept. The posters not only illustrate the exhibition themes but also represent a panorama of communicative possibilities and design expressions. Advertising of this kind is a manifestation of visual curiosity and pays tribute to the high aspirations and standards of Swiss poster design, the resulting works of which have been recognized for their excellence.
The program of the Museum für Gestaltung Zürich is accompanied by a series of supporting events that take the form of symposia, panel discussions, conversations with artists, lectures, film and theatre performances, and concerts. Additional aspects of the exhibitions can thus be highlighted, questions can be explored in greater depth and presented as discussion topics, and the possibility of meeting designers and theorists is offered. Guided tours encourage direct contact with the public, and special tours in various languages can also be arranged. The variety of media used in the exhibitions provides students with a wealth of visual material. Special services provided by museum educators allow school children and those in vocational training to examine questions of design in a play-related way. The various areas of expertise such as research, curation, and communication are also incorporated into the master’s degree programs of the Zurich University of the Arts.
The collections of the Museum für Gestaltung Zürich are of international importance. The museum is the sole institution in Switzerland that, from 1875 onwards, has collected posters, graphic design, and objects that represent quotidian design alongside more artistically ambitious exemplars of the design culture. The four collections — Poster Collection, Design Collection, Applied Art Collection, and Graphics Collection — boast a number of significant works from the history of aesthetic and technical development of the industrialized age. What was originally a collection of models, teaching materials, and manuals for craft and design education, the museum developed over the years into the distinct areas of the collection, which culminated in 1987 with the establishment of the Design Collection. In addition to the international presence in exhibitions and research projects, the collections serve in the study of design solutions, materials, techniques, and styles within the Zurich University of the Arts.
The collections are seen as an integrative facility connecting practice and theory, art and industry, production and reception. The goals and methods of collecting as well as the standards of restoration and conservation are subject to continuous examination and are regularly adapted to meet current needs.