This year, the Design Museum is hosting a retrospective on the work of one of the 20th century’s greatest filmmakers, Stanley Kubrick. Marking twenty years since his death, the exhibition celebrates some of the iconic director’s most celebrated films and the design decisions behind them.
The Conran Shop visited the exhibition to discover more about the design icons shown in his films.
Entering the exhibition on a replica carpet from The Shining and walking through a ‘one-point perspective’ corridor mirroring Kubrick’s renowned camera technique, it's clear from the onset that this exhibition is one to be remembered.
The exhibition takes you through a series of rooms, each themed around separate Kubrick films. Showcasing films such as The Shining, Barry Lyndon, 2001: A Space Odyssey, Full Metal Jacket and A Clockwork Orange, each genre-defining film is explored from conception to completion.
Providing an all-encompassing glimpse into the director’s mindset, iconic scenes from each film are shown on large screens, personal anecdotes are told, unseen scripts are available for closer inspection and original props and costumes are put on display. Amongst these are movie reels, shooting schedules and even Kubrick's director chair.
A Clockwork Orange
A Clockwork Orange, Kubrick’s 1971 dystopian crime film, is packed full of design influences. The furniture in the Korova Milkbar was inspired by the art of Allen Jones and Executive Conference Armchairs designed by Eero Saarinen for Knoll can be glimpsed in F. Alexander’s home.
An original Valentine Typewriter, designed by Ettore Sottsass and Perry King for Olivetti, is included in the exhibition and can be seen in Alex’s bedroom throughout A Clockwork Orange. Despite not being integral to the plot, the lipstick-red typewriter is included in the exhibition as it truly captures the mood and aesthetic of the early 1970s.
2001: A Space Odyssey
The exhibition ends with an exploration into Kubrick’s 1968 space fiction film 2001: A Space Odyssey. Out of all the featured Kubrick films, 2001: A Space Odyssey is the film with the most nods to contemporary design and cutting-edge mid-century design icons are scattered throughout the futuristic film.
From Arne Jacobsen’s minimalistic steel cutlery collection, as seen on the dinner trays used by the Jupiter Mission crew, to George Nelson’s Action Office Desk, the film demonstrates how ahead-of-its-time mid-century design was.
The most striking example is how the curved white lines of the Space Station 5 lobby are mirrored in the smooth curves of Olivier Mourgue’s vibrant red Djinn Chairs and Tulip Coffee Tables by Eero Saarinen.
These two design icons exemplify the essence of 60s futuristic design and were essential in creating one of the film’s most instantly recognisable sets. The sci-fi set has been replicated within the Kubrick exhibition for visitors to experience in closer detail.
Reconstruction of Space Station 5 in the Stanley Kubrick film 2001 A Space Odyssey | Image by Ed Reeve for the Design Museum
And what better place to host this fascinating exhibition than at London’s very own Design Museum? Spearheaded by Sir Terence Conran, founder of The Conran Shop, The Design Museum plays host to a range of temporary exhibitions as well as its permanent display.
The collection, entitled Designer Maker User, explores some of the most iconic designs from the twentieth and twenty-first centuries. From Harry Beck’s London tube map to the Xbox controller by Microsoft, the Design Museum’s permanent collection covers a remarkably broad range of design icons.