Contemporary Design, a Stone's Throw from Tel Aviv

A stone's throw from Tel Aviv is Holon - a small ‘typically Israeli’ and somewhat working-class city.  Ostensibly, it seems to have nothing of interest to the tourist.  But, in fact, a 20-minute bus ride from Tel Aviv is all it takes to discover a small but incredibly special museum - a veritable treasure for anyone interested in contemporary design, architecture or multimedia. 

Opened in 2010, the Design Museum soon established itself on the international scene, promoting young designers and modern culture.  Six years later, it is continuing to showcase new talent, as well as being home to historical and contemporary collections and exhibiting a wide range of student and academic works.

The building itself was designed by Ron Arad, one of Israel’s most acclaimed architects and industrial designers and, in itself, is worth taking a look at.  Consisting of five sinuous bands of varying shades of weathered steel, they come together to form a ‘visual key.’  As Arad intended, they bring the visitors into the building, through it and then out, and the bands act as a cord that ties the entire building together (both outside and in).

The museum consists of two main galleries and then several unusual spaces in-between.  These are used for exhibitions and education.  The Upper Gallery was created to show how much natural light exists in Israel, and the Lower Gallery is taller but more intimate - giving the visitor a more personal experience.  

The collection can be divided into four sections - contemporary design, historical design, commissioned works and academic projects.  In it you can find furniture, jewellry, shoes, textiles and all kinds of accessories.  The Design Museum works on the basis that because design is ever-changing (and rapidly so) objects that, a short time ago, were seen as innovative might soon become part of design’s history.  The museum is constantly looking at trends in design, and how dramatically the influence of technology has been.  The four sections, even so, are cross-sectioned according to content, which let the visitor understand design independent of both time and place.   

The latest exhibition on deals with the Eyeglass - an object used every day by tens of millions of people around the world, and known to almost everyone. 

Vision, as the exhibit argues, has not changed over thousands of years but its cultural meaning - which is dependent on context - has.  And dramatically so.  In this exhibition, eyeglasses are looked at in terms of memory, communication and economics.   In the Upper Gallery alone, there are 400 examples of eyeglasses dating back to the 17th century,  In the Lower Gallery, you can see a project put together by Israeli designers and architects, asking “What are eyeglasses?'  In the Perhiperal Corridor is the exhibition “Vision Test,’ looking at focus, colour and distance.  Finally, in the Design Lab, visitors can be fitted with a special pair of ‘virtual eyeglasses.’ 

So if you’re curious about Israel’s design community, and want to be inspired or challenged, I highly recommend taking a morning out to visit this museum, and see for yourself what it’s all about.

Holon Design Museum - Pinkhas Elon 8, Holon; tel: 073 215 1515