Ten years ago, it’s fair to say that the Israeli city of Holon (not even 20 minutes drive from Tel Aviv) wasn’t on the itinerary of many tourists. But a decade later, all that has changed with the opening of the country’s first Design Museum. Since March 2010, this small but intriguing space has fast established itself on the world map, promoting design and contemporary culture not just to professionals and aspiring design students but also to those with no formal background in the subject.
Set up with the aim of acting as a dynamic and vital institution, the Design Museum encourages designers and students to use the building as a creative resource, as well as a space to showcase their work. But it’s more than that - it’s also an architectural gem and a fine place to spend an hour or two, enjoying the ever-changing program of exhibits and workshops and also just walking around this iconic space.
At the helm of the initial plan to build this space was a renowned architect and industrial designer Ron Arad whose passion for Frank Lloyd Wright’s Guggenheim Museum shone through in the initial sketches. The result? Nothing short of ‘wow.’ From a distance, this is a structure that grabs your attention; as you draw closer, it becomes even more impressive.
Hues of red, orange, and purple accost your eyes - in front of you are huge bands of metal, six of them in fact, all made out of weathering Corten steel, and swirling in front of you like ribbons. Wandering through the Design Museum in Holon is, indeed, a truly immersive experience. Not for nothing did America’s Conde Nast Traveller Magazine describe it as one of the new seven wonders of the world!
Design and Dialogue
Arad’s design is deliberately ‘fluid’ and aims to start a dialogue with you, from the moment you begin wandering through the building. Most visitors begin in the large gallery at the top and stroll through space until they reach the smaller, more intimate gallery, below. The museum also boasts a design hall, a significant number of exhibition spaces, a room for workshops, and even a design lab.
The upper gallery is lit naturally, taking advantage of the semi-transparent roof which, innovatively, filters the sunlight coming through. And whilst the building is mainly comprised of reinforced concrete, clever use of light and steel make it far less ‘brutalist’ in style than you would imagine.
The museum’s permanent collection is made up of all kinds of artifacts, which include furniture, lights, models, textiles, shoes, jewelry, and limited-edition objects. And within this collection, four distinct areas can be found - Older Israeli designs (from the 1930s until 2000), contemporary design (from 2000 to the present), works by up-and-coming students of design within Israel, and an international contemporary design section.
As well as the permanent collection, the Design Museum also offers visitors a series of temporary changing exhibitions...in the last few years, Bedouin art, 3D printers, and couturiers such as Issy Miyake and Yohji Yamamoto have all been on the show. The museum also aims to pique the visitor’s curiosity, with exhibits on the history of bicycles, chairs, and eyewear design. These collections are set up in two different spaces - the Design Lab and the Collections Window, both of which give the visitor an opportunity to view artifacts at close quarters.
At present, the Design Museum’s most talked-about exhibition is “State of Extremes” (following on from the inaugural “State of Things” in March 2010). The world is changing dramatically, it argues, with its inhabitants never more polarised - in terms of the climate crisis, political ideology, and social media. “State of Extremes” aims to show that design has the potential to “reveal, critique, resist and mitigate...serving as a call for moderation.”
Tying into this subject, the museum is currently holding ‘Family Saturday’ activities, which are designed for kids between 6 to 12 years old. Firstly, you are taken on a tour of the museum. Led by a guide, every family member will be given short, fun tasks to complete and encouraged to become a ‘design detective’ in order to solve them. Afterward, both parents and kids attend a workshop where they are encouraged to work together to create light fittings - but only out of eco-friendly materials.
The fact that we only have one planet, and that our surroundings have to be cared for and preserved, is the theme running through the activity. This is 90 minutes well-spent, by any accounts, and an excellent way to introduce children to the subject of climate emergency! Holon’s Design Museum is open Monday to Saturday and tickets can be booked online. It has a cafe and is wheelchair accessible. By car, from the Tel Aviv center, allow 20-30 minutes. There are also buses running regularly.
To visit the museum you can also join Tel Aviv Region Private Tour.