The Great American Modern Design Roadtrip, or What I Wish I’d Done On My Summer Vacation

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I’ve always wanted to drive across the country. If I had the time and money, I would. The freedom of it, getting to see all kinds of new things.

Even better would be if I could combine my love of travel with my love of design. If I could choose to do it, these are the stops I would make. (This is by no means an exhaustive list of all the fantastic design destinations in the country, but in my opinion they are definitely a good place to start.)

My theoretical journey begins in Southern California…

Pacific Design Center

West Hollywood, CA

Pacific Design Center in Hollywood, CAWith its bright, glossy exteriors, the Pacific Design Center’s complex of buildings brings out the design kid in you before you even enter. First built in 1975, the “Blue Whale” was joined in 1988 by the green building and in 2012 with the red one. Altogether it’s 1.6 million square feet, with showrooms for nearly 100 boutiques and international brands, representing over 2000 furniture, lighting, kitchen and bath products, etc. Public and private spaces—including multiple galleries, a theater and conference center—are available for local art and design communities to exhibit, conduct lectures and other special events.

Museum of Modern Art

San Francisco, CA

After being closed for 3 years for renovations and expansion, the San Francisco MoMA recently reopened this past May. With nearly 3 times more gallery space, it is able to accommodate dozens of exhibitions. The architecture of the renovated space alone would be worth the trip, but everything it contains—paintings and sculpture, photography, architecture and design, media arts—are what will keep you wandering around for hours in wonderment. Its 45,000 square feet of free art-filled public spaces makes sure that art and design are available to all.

Center for Architecture and Design

Seattle, WA

Center for Architecture and Design in SeattleDesign is more than just aesthetic; it is how we live, and determines how we can live better. That’s what drove American Institute of Architects (AIA) of Seattle, Design in Public, Seattle Architecture Foundation and AIA Washington Council to create the Center for Architecture and Design. It’s a shared home for professionals and the public to explore how all forms of design—architecture, landscape, graphics, products, etc.—influence quality of life, done via a variety of exhibits, speakers and other programs. Coming up in September is the 2016 Seattle Design Festival, “Design Change,” celebrating Seattle’s vibrant art and design scene.

Chicago Design Museum

Chicago, IL


Chicago Design Museum exhibition, Unfolded: Made with Paper

In 2012, the Chicago Design Museum debuted as a pop-up institution, and temporarily occupied a 6,000 square-foot loft in Humboldt Park. This sort of humble, anti-establishment business model continues to inform the museum’s thought-provoking exhibitions. A lot is packed into the current permanent location on N. State Street, including singular comprehensive exhibits, lectures and workshops. Such an approach, as the museum puts it, “strengthens design culture and builds community by facilitating the exchange of knowledge through dynamic experiences.”

Cooper Hewitt, Smithsonian Design Museum

New York, NY

cooper-hewittWhen it comes to showcasing top modern design, you have many, many options to choose from in New York. But if you really want to educate yourself on design, the Cooper Hewitt stands out for its comprehensive collection; nearly 30 centuries of design are represented, including just about every imaginable area that design affects (otherwise known as everything). As part of the Smithsonian, the museum also supports a variety of educational programs for families, students and educators. There’s no better way to engage the next generation of designers.

Wynwood Arts District

Miami, FL

Since 2009, the Wynwood Arts District has become one of the largest and most visible art communities in the country. It boasts more than 70 art galleries, performing art spaces, retail shops, restaurants and bars. But Wynwood’s most outstanding feature has to be its prolific display of street art. Blocks and blocks of this amazing graffiti are available for public viewing in the part of Miami formerly occupied by dilapidated former warehouses and factories. You can feel the creative pulse from miles away.


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