Inner City Sanctums
Escape Your Day at AMOA: Downtown's Good Design
Working downtown can be stressful. High rise offices. Noisy construction. Tight deadlines.
Everyone needs a low-key, weekday escape once in a while, and the Austin Museum of Art on Congress provides just that, though the current exhibit Good Design: Stories from Herman Miller is more of a reflection of than a departure from the fast-paced, modern work environment.
The exhibit showcases the evolution of Herman Miller and how his innovative team created design masterpieces of the 20th and 21st centuries--like the Goetz sofa that you might recognize from episodes of Mad Men or the Mirra chair, an ergonomic office staple--while adapting to the changes within the modern workplace itself.
In the 60s, Herman Miller’s designs confronted the reality of a radically altered economy and workforce by catering to new questions of comfort, individual contentment and increased productivity brought on by new jobs in the advertising, commercial artistry and mass communications industries. Miller's creative designs advocated for the future by reflecting the needs and desires of a generation of young, active-minded workers. The company wasn't just making new furniture; it was shaping a new way of life.
The AMOA exhibit’s focus on the evolution of the modern work environment reminded me of the scene, “Dinner with the Culvers,” in David Byrne’s progressive 1986 film, "True Stories," in which Mr. Culver, the leading financial and civic leader of a small Texas town, comments about the new generation of work:
“They’re starting their own companies, marketing new inventions! They don’t work for money anymore… they’re working and inventing because they like it!" he cries triumphantly. "They don’t seem to see the difference in working and not working. It’s all become a part of one’s life. There’s no concept of weekends anymore!"
So, in the midst of a hectic workweek, take a moment to walk to the AMOA and examine some of the integral designs of what we now know as the modern workplace. You might gain a refreshingly different perspective on what you--and millions of other people--do everyday from nine to five. You’ll return to your office chair as an enlightened part of the design evolution.
(And be sure to check out the Mona Lisa Project by Rino Pizzi located in the “New Works” wing.)