Third Triennial taking place in Manhattan

X Design Lab
Natalie Jeremijenko’s robotic “dogs” sniff out polluted gases.

Washington Post spotlights the “Design Life Now: National Design Triennial 2006,” which brings together experimental designs and emerging ideas—including animation, new media, and fashion, robotics, architecture, product, medical, and graphic design.

There’s fashion built around pared-down, “futuristic” shapes straight out of the 1960s, flatware that looks like something from a Klingon battle cruiser, circa 1979, and a system of giant sci-fi lighting panels that turn on as you walk by them up the stairs. (A bank of cooling fans, tucked out of sight, gives some idea of how much energy the lighting units use — or waste — just to get us up a staircase.)

This trade fair isn’t at a convention center, and it’s not — at least officially — organized by industry. (Though it is sponsored by Target.)

It might as well be called “Cool Stuff That Sells.” Many of its 87 projects don’t question the design world’s status quo or move beyond it. They just rehash the slick lines of modern design — now almost 100 years old — to make another consumer product for us to buy, then throw away when something newer comes along. 

The exhibition also presents a few objects that depend less on style than on performing important functions well: a storage unit for transplant organs, NASA’s Mars rover, a new kind of underwater “plane.”

The exhibition runs until July 29.

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