Paola Antonelli is an author, editor, and curator. She is the Senior Curator of the Department of Architecture & Design, as well as the Director of R&D, at The Museum of Modern Art.
1. At Newlab, we believe that all responsible technology requires a keen eye on design. Our question for you: Does design need technology?
Design transforms any kind of revolution in technology, or in science, into life. Without that important translation, technology would remain either abstract, or hard, unpleasant, dangerous — however you want to put it — to use. What I feel institutions like Newlab can do is, they can make a case for the technology world to insert design at the beginning of the process — not just at the end. In truth, the companies that do best are the ones that make design participate in the whole process. Design is really necessary for technology. And vice versa.
2. In your research and curatorial work, have you been taken by a particular cultural display of strength that differs from the Western world? If so, how might they challenge our ideas and limitations of what strength can be?
I am currently working on a new project called “Broken Nature”; it’s about design that can build reparations with nature — even human nature. In my research, I found so many great examples of strength. One that I just looked at is these root bridges that exist in certain parts of India — they’re made using the roots of trees. And they are as strong as concrete bridges, if not more so. I feel you can really find strength everywhere. It’s such a vast and wide concept; you can pretty much find it everywhere.
3. What are you excited about in the future of strong architecture?
I am excited by lightness. I am excited by what might look like the opposite of strength, but which in truth is not. I am interested in lightness of footprint, lightness of imposition on people’s lifestyles, lightness of the use of materials, lightness in the use of infrastructure.
4. What do you think entrepreneurs can learn from artist’s practices?
I don’t make art, so I always shy away from this type of question. What I think, though, is that entrepreneurs can learn a lot from being immersed in culture, and not keeping themselves separate from it. You don’t have to say this to a New York entrepreneur, it’s almost moot. But there are some tech worlds that are averse to culture — I see it a lot in Silicon Valley, and I can’t really understand why. I believe that culture — art, design, museums, performance spaces, concerts — always expand your mind. Entrepreneurs are human beings, and human beings are creative. More now than ever, entrepreneurs need creativity. It is part of what will make their enterprises succeed.
5. If you could have any superpower, what would it be and why?
Teleportation — and that’s because I really would love to be able to have breakfast with my parents, and dinner in Delhi. I just would like to go wherever I want, whenever I want, instantly. Yeah. Teleportation, that’s what I want.
This interview was originally published in Tech Fancy Issue 8: Fortified With.