Often credited as the first minimalists, the Shakers designed furniture that has influenced countless Modernist and contemporary designers all over the world. Despite this, it is rare that designers have the opportunity to experience Shaker objects in person and in context. Furnishing Utopia’s mission is to provide designers with added insight by providing direct exposure to artifacts and original Shaker sites. In collaboration with the Hancock Shaker Village and Mt Lebanon Shaker Museum, a weeklong workshop was conducted at two preserved Shaker sites, giving a group of designers access to an extensive archive of artifacts and engaging them in a dialogue with the museum’s curators. Following the workshop, the designers were invited to produce designs that translate the ingenuity and aesthetics of Shaker objects into modern forms relevant to contemporary life.
The results from Furnishing Utopia have been organized into an exhibition at Sight Unseen OFFSITE that will pair the new designer’s work with original artifacts on loan from Hancock Shaker Village Museum. The exhibition aims to highlight the designers’ work while increasing public awareness of the Shakers’ continued influence on contemporary design and culture. Exhibited work will range from small home goods to large furniture arranged in composed vignettes to illustrate use and context. Historic Shaker artifacts will be incorporated to highlight the lineage of designs and concepts. The show’s layout will be curated to evoke the austere simplicity of Shaker built environments.
The debut will also mark the release of a Furnishing Utopia publication photographed and edited by Charlie Schuck. The publication will feature the project’s new works styled and photographed in situ at Hancock Shaker Village. The featured designers include Studio Gorm, Studio Tolvanen, Norm Architects, Hallgeir Homstvedt, Tom Bonamici, Charlie Schuck, Gabriel Tan, Christopher Specce, Jonah Takagi, Ladies & Gentlemen Studio, Darin Montgomery, and Zoe Mowat.