60 years of design history in Essen: Ruhr Museum and Red Dot Design Museum Essen present first joint exhibition

60 years of award-winning design in Essen, Germany – what began as “Ständige Schau formschöner Industrieerzeugnisse” (‘Permanent Show of Elegant Industrial Products’) in Villa Hügel in 1955 has now become the world’s largest exhibition of contemporary design. The Red Dot Design Museum currently houses around 2,000 international design objects in the former boiler house of the Zeche Zollverein Coal Mine Industrial Complex. Back then, like today, all of the exhibits were assessed by an independent expert jury and awarded for their outstanding design quality.

On the occasion of this anniversary, the Ruhr Museum and Red Dot Design Museum Essen are presenting an exhibition on 60 years of design history in Essen. With the title “Enduring, not ultimate form”, the exhibition by the two major museums on the Zollverein UNESCO World Heritage Site will place a spotlight on the rich history of the Design Zentrum Nordrhein Westfalen. Known under the name “Verein Industrieform” until 1990, the institution has been organising the internationally renowned competition for product design, now the Red Dot Design Award, since 1955.

Professor Dr Peter Zec, President Design Zentrum NRW and founder of the Red Dot, is looking forward to the first joint project: “In the same way that design has constantly changed and developed over the years, so too has our institution always kept abreast of change. This is why this journey into the past, back to the roots of the Red Dot, is something very special and extremely exciting. As neighbours on the ground of Zollverein, we have had a close relationship with Ruhr Museum for many years. I am all the more delighted, then, that this year brings a wonderful occasion relevant to the history of the city to combine our competencies and curate a joint exhibition.”

This exhibition will show current as well as historical exhibits and will reconstruct highlights from past presentations and document the eyewitness accounts alongside posters and photographs from 60 years of design history.

Professor Heinrich Theodor Grütter, Director of Ruhr Museum, is well aware of the long tradition of good design in Essen: “Building on the presentations from the first half of the 20th century, which in Essen primarily took shape through Peter Behrens’ arts school, the Margarethenhöhe garden city as an overall work of art and the Folkwang idea, after the Second World War the city became one of the most important representatives of industrial design and found a suitable location at which to present this at the Zollverein World Heritage Site”.

From 29 June to 23 August 2015, the Ruhr Museum and Red Dot Design Museum will present the joint exhibition on 60 years of design history in Essen. Visitors to Hall 5 of Zollverein can expect a journey through the history of award-winning design – from “Industrieform” to Red Dot.

The title of the exhibition “Enduring, not ultimate form” is a quote originating from journalist Clara Menck in the 1950s in relation to the design exhibition at the time and refers to the timelessness of the basic form of day-to-day objects.  This “enduring” quality is only made complete through constant change and optimisation. For example, while the design of a chair is entrenched in people’s lasting collective memory, there will never be the “ultimate” chair.

“Enduring, not ultimate form”
60 years of design history in Essen – from “Industrieform” to Red Dot
A joint exhibition by Ruhr Museum and Red Dot Design Museum Essen

Exhibition duration
29 June – 23 August 2015

Exhibition location
Zollverein UNESCO World Heritage Site
Areal A [Schacht/Shaft XII], Hall 5 [A5]
Gelsenkirchener Straße 181
45309 Essen