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Century of the Child


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"It is something of a cliché to state that children are the future, but for modernist designers with a clear vision of the society and values they wanted to shape, children have been an obvious starting point," says [MoMA's "Century of the Child"] curator Juliet Kinchin...Over the last 100 years or so, the idea of the "modern child" was shaped by the same forces that shaped the rest of society: industrialization, urbanization, and consumerism...This may be the single most important, overriding dynamic regarding design for children from the early 20th century to today: Adults create new products for kids and kids, in turn, create new worlds.--Steven Heller "The Atlantic"

Kids had it good in the 20th century. Designers gave them revolutionary playthings like Lego and Tinkertoys and the Rubik's Cube, made to be both fun and good for them. Geniuses like Frank Lloyd Wright gave them deluxe schools..."We're looking at principles and issues that take us to the core of thinking about creativity in every aspect of our culture," says Juliet Kinchin...MoMA's curator of modern design. "You really see how fundamental design and children are to the modern world." In the tumult of the last century, governments left and right, democratic and tyrannical, invested lavishly in children and their spaces, as a way to seize the future and plant the national flag there...[Kinchin's] exhibition lays out how the children's "colonies" of fascist Italy and the kindergartens of the Soviet Union each housed their charges in shiny modern structures, away from the old-fashioned views and tastes of their parents. Schoolkids, both receptive and captive, were the ideal audiences for radical modern ideas and objects...Kinchin's show puts the Sputnik playgrounds of Czechoslovakia beside Barbie's Dream House and the wooden toys of Creative Playthings to give a picture of a culture where children were separate, but better.--Blake Gopnik "Newsweek"

This is the first published survey of the 20th-century design for children. And what an amazing publication! Taking inspiration from Ellen Key's Century of the Child (1900), this book bridges the gap between childhood and progressive design by examining individual and collective works from the world of children. Kinchin and O'Connor (both, MOMA) cover toys, books, games, and playgrounds, but also furniture, safety equiptment, and architecture, providing an exceptional overview of the history of design for the past 100 years. The book illustrates how designing for children stimulated creative freedom and encouraged experimental aesthetics... Beautiful illustrations accompany every section. An easy-to-use index and an extensive list of references are included. Given its multidiscliplinary content, this volume is a must for any collection. Art students will love it, and students involved with history, politics, health, child studies, and communication-- just to mention a few other discliplines-- will discover unique information about the world of children.--A. Zanin-Yost "Choice"

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