Home Futures

Are we living in houses the designers of the past once dreamed of? This exhibition explores today’s home through the prism of yesterday’s imagination. Curator Eszter Steierhoffer gives us the lowdown.

 Have we failed to reach the dizzy heights that designers of the past hoped for?

One might argue that technological innovation enables some of the dreams of the past that were not possible to realise before. Looking at today’s smart home devices, Silicon Valley engineers are clearly inspired by the sci-fi of the 1960s and 70s. Future predictions, however, are always most revealing of their present time and never meant to be fully accurate forecasts of what is to come.

What can we learn about how we live now from the visions of the past?

The exhibition compares 20th-century radical visions of the future with our contemporary ways of life. The discrepancies reveal the way in which political and social ideals have eventually developed and transformed our life. 

Which predictions have come true?

Way more than one might anticipate. Among the numerous smart home devices, one curious example is the automated vacuum cleaner that was first presented in 1959 at the American National Exhibition in Moscow which sparked a heated ideological debate about the future between vice-president Nixon and premier Khrushchev. Whirlpool’s precursor of today’s Roomba robot was controlled remotely from behind the exhibition set. The same exhibition also presented a nomadic washing machine which probably was not practical enough to capture the imagination of today’s engineers.

Is there anything you’ve discovered that you wish we had in our lives?

A robot slave for each home – although this is probably more scary than desirable. Also, many of the future predictions implied that work hours by the beginning of the 21st century would be radically reduced. Instead, our homes have been turned into functional offices.

  • Design Museum
  • London
  • Wednesday, 07 November 2018
  • Sunday, 24 March 2019
  • January, February, March, November, December