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20th-century Nordic design for children goes on display in Copenhagen


Starting on Jan. 17, the exhibition “Century of the Child: Nordic design for children – from 1900 to today” settles in for a long run at Designmuseum Danmark. It continues to Aug. 30.

As well as reflecting the prevailing attitudes towards children of the time, design for children reflects the phenomenon of childhood itself. “Century of the Child” allows you to step into a children’s universe and explore 20th-century Nordic art, architecture and design for children. The exhibition covers all aspects of child-centred design, from posters, toys and children’s books to furniture, school design and playgrounds – with a particular focus on Danish design.  

The exhibition takes its name from the Swedish author Ellen Key’s book of the same title from the year 1900. Key’s philosophy of promoting children’s development, creativity and rights serves as a thematic common thread throughout the exhibition, which shows the paradigm shift that took place at the beginning of the 20th century. The exhibition is also inspired by the 2012 “Century of the Child: Growing by Design 1900-2000” exhibition, which was held at MoMa in New York, but has a specific emphasis on Nordic child-centred design.

From small adults to children with the freedom to play and learn
As well as showcasing the best of good Nordic design for children, the exhibition aims to shed light on an important chapter in our cultural and social history. During this time, attitudes shifted from regarding children as small adults to an insistence that all children be allowed to enjoy a free childhood.

Says Anne-Louise Sommer, museum director and exhibition curator, “’Century of the Child’ aims to provide us with a deeper appreciation of the privileges enjoyed by children today and at the same time show how the approach to design has developed throughout the period to meet the needs of the users – in this case, the children.”

An exhibition for both young and old
Not only does “Century of the Child” give adults the chance to explore child-centred design, it also includes numerous play areas. Here, children can express their playfulness by producing stop-motion films using Kay Bojesen’s wooden figures, romp around bObles “tumbling furniture,” or design their own favourite chairs while seated at Peter’s chairs and tables – a classic of Danish children’s furniture design. “Century of the Child” reacquaints children, parents and grandparents with the toys, everyday objects and design enjoyed by successive generations of children throughout the century.

“Century of the Child” with a new perspective
The “Century of the Child” exhibition is the result of a collaboration between Museum Vandalorum in Sweden, Helsinki Design Museum and Designmuseum Danmark. The exhibition has already been a great success in Sweden, where it attracted record numbers of visitors, and is now at Designmuseum Danmark, where after it will continue to Finland. A new element of the exhibition in Denmark includes play areas, events and workshops for children, which also will feature a specially designed item of ‘tumbling furniture’ by Danish children’s furniture design company bObles. All of these new inclusions give even more room for children and the young-at-heart to indulge their playful sides – the entire raison d’être of the “Century of the Child” exhibition.  

For more info, visit http://www.designmuseum.dk/