ON BEING A CURATOR
What advice would you give to art history students or recent graduates interested in pursuing a career in curating?
I recommend internships. They are the best way in. Although I am very well aware that unpaid internships—so typical in non-profits—are a contributing factor in the difficulties many emerging professionals find in pursuing their careers.
Why are you not just titled a Curator of Design, rather than Architecture and Design?
I am an architect by training and I consider architecture a branch of design–I know it might sound blasphemous, but it comes from having studied architecture at the Polytechnic of Milan, with high dose of theory piped into my veins! The physical and the digital world are coming together and I confess to being partial to the digital lately, at all scales, architecture and design.
As a curator at MoMA, I wonder what you look for when hiring young aspiring curators/employees; are PhDs relevant anymore?
I do not have a PhD and could have never gone through the gauntlet, I am a chicken. I know a few PhDs and despite that, they are still good curators! I am kidding. I personally think the person makes the title, and not vice versa, but I think that the PhD has become almost a requirement for higher-level curatorial employment. Hang in there, finish as soon as you can and jump in.
If you weren’t a curator at the MoMA what would your ideal job be?
A production designer for movies. Or a window dresser. Like Simon Doonan.
ON MoMA’S COLLECTION
You made waves when you brought video games to the MoMA. Do you have a favorite video game (regardless of if it is in the collection or not)— and why?
YES! It is Tempest. I love it because it is done with simple vector graphics and yet it is so amazingly complex and expressive.
What’s the last item you acquired for MoMA and why? And what was the last item you acquired for yourself?
Last item for MoMA, the organs-on-chips by Wyss Institute and the Creative Commons logo, and much more, look at this post. For myself, mmmm, a manicure…
Has there ever been an object that you considered too absurd to acquire? What was it?
Hundreds, thousands, hundreds of thousands! The world is full of absurd objects that will never make the cut, at least until I am around. I can tell you about an object that I want to acquire even though it is too big. Some people think it would be absurd. a 747. I do not want to have it here physically, I want it to keep on flying, still used by an airline. It would be a remote acquisition.
You have brought many things to the MoMA from the tech world—from video games, to keyboard symbols, coding interfaces and the like. It would seem—at least on the surface—that many of these were created by non-“designers”. On the other hand it seems like design education does not stress technology. How can the gap be bridged between the two?
The best design schools teach that design and technology live in symbiosis and need each other. Engineers are designers, they are just trained in a different way.
Do you see learning code and web page construction reflected in design profession?
Absolutely. Learning at least the rudiments of coding is a matter of literacy–I am trying to learn some myself.
In the film Objectified, you mention that the future of design for designers are to be seen as resources for policy makers or anyone who wants to translate the complex to reality. You saw them almost like the philosophers of old. In 2015, are we getting closer or farther to that ideal in your opinion?
I wish I could disclose my latest biiiiig effort: just yesterday I finished a sci-fi short story that paints a world in which designers rule. That is in the 2060s. In the meantime, we are getting there, bit by bit.
What movements or trends in design are you most interested in following in 2015?
I am really interested in synthetic biology and biodesign. I have been obsessed with it for a while, ever since I was preparing the exhibition Design and the Elastic Mind, which was all about design and science working hand in hand.
What book of architecture or design do you consider a must-read?
Alice Rawsthorn’s Hello World
Would you name three people that we can follow on Twitter that you currently find fascinating?
You can read all the of the AMA questions and responses on Reddit.