Cooper Hewitt Transformed
By Bobbie Leigh
Good news for Central Park bikers, runners, walkers! The legendary garden of Cooper Hewitt will be open to the public…no fee and no charge, except for the coffee and croissants which you can buy starting 8am. The redesigned Cooper Hewitt with a new entrance to the garden on 90th Street is scheduled to open in December, but until then you will be reading a lot about how it plans to lure you back. The museum is determined to avoid being a “been there, done that” experience. Its new design goes way beyond visitor friendly.
Perhaps, the most intriguing new addition — and there are lots of them —- is the pen. When you enter the museum, you will be given a ticket and a Pen, about as high-tech as anything you can find in a museum or perhaps, anywhere else. The electronic pen can be used to collect information from the various exhibitions. You just need to tap a wall label and the information will be loaded into the pen as it reads data from the labels. You can transfer what you have “collected” to interactive tables, make changes and in effect, become your own designer. You can also use the digital Pen for drawing, storing information that can be loaded onto your home computer. According to a press release, the “Pen will enable members of the public to collect objects, discover and explore information and ideas and become designers in their own right by creating their own digital drawings.”
Another novel aspect of the redesign is the immersion room, a new high-tech space where you can select images from the museum’s wallpaper collection— or sketch your own designs – which can then be projected on the walls of the room. What is essential is that the new improvements – circulation, lighting, renovations of landmarked spaces, and opening up new gallery spaces –will make a visit totally new. Even the name has changed: now the old Cooper-Hewitt, National Design Museum, is the Cooper Hewitt, Smithsonian Design Museum. Judging from an initial visit, it appears that although Cooper Hewitt has lost its hyphen, it still evokes the grandeur of the original Andrew Carnegie mansion.