Why Does the Home of the Future Look So Retro?

Illustration for article titled Why Does the Home of the Future Look So Retro?

If you've been following our Home of the Future, or if you've visited us here, you've probably noticed that a lot of what we feature here seems to carry a slightly retro tinge. That might seem counterintuitive, but it's not unintentional—in fact, it's often by design.

Illustration for article titled Why Does the Home of the Future Look So Retro?

Any conversation about the future tends to evoke the past, especially our bygone visions of tomorrow. Our own Matt Novak of Paleofuture writes brilliantly about our forebears' visions of the future, weaving historical context into the tech news conversations that so often lack long-term perspective.

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There's a certain inevitability to this. Modern design and techno-futurism both flourished in the post-WWII era, creating both the style and the idealism we still think of as futuristic. To this day, we use the term "space-age" to mean "cutting-edge," even though the space race began more than half a century ago.

Illustration for article titled Why Does the Home of the Future Look So Retro?
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But there's more to it than that. Especially in the world of personal technology, the futuristic capabilities that designers and engineers are proposing can be downright scary. The future is by nature unfamiliar, sometimes unsettlingly so; one way designers can soften that is by packaging new concepts in familiar clothing. You'll be less freaked out by an automated robot vacuum cleaner if it makes the goofy noises and skittering motions of a cartoon character.

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I'm not in love with the term "retro." It implies a certain amount of kitsch, a flamingo pink, horn-rimmed aesthetic that's definitely no longer seen as futuristic. Someday, our kids will use the term derisively to describe skinny jeans, aluminum smartphones, and curved TVs.

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So I'd propose, respectfully, that what you're seeing at the Home of the Future isn't retro. It's modern design, bereft of the era-specific cues that look trendy when new, but age quickly and become anachronistic. The goal, and one we hope we've achieved, is a look that's not blatantly retro. What we were aiming for is a modern, minimalist, forward-looking timelessness.

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The fact that those design ideals are at least 50 years old is purely coincidental.


Illustration for article titled Why Does the Home of the Future Look So Retro?
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The Basics

Dates: 05/17/2014–05/21/2014

Location: 268 Mulberry Street, near Houston Street in SoHo. Nearest subway: Broadway-Lafayette.

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Hours: 11:00 am to late. The Gizmodo gang will be working on-site all week—with super-fast wifi, on snazzy furniture—and we'll be hosting events every night. Check back for more information on how to RSVP.

Cost: Free!


For all media inquiries regarding the Gizmodo Home of the Future, please contact Patrick Kowalczyk at patrick@pkpr.com.

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DISCUSSION

kushkush
Jordan Kushins

Nice one, Bobbo! And yeah, we definitely chose to furnish the home with super cool new stuff, but also timeless design that has already proved its mettle. Take Artek (Art+Technology); we've got a bunch of freshly assembled Stool 60s on hand here, but if you bought one of Alvar Aalto's classics when it was introduced 80 years ago it would still be holding up. Herman Miller's another goodun; a brand at the forefront of the midcentury industrial design movement that continues to produce iconic pieces—think Eames chairs and Noguchi tables—today (in addition to a ton of new collections). Mayyyybe we'll all be eating off gamified dining tables and sitting on hover-seats at some point, but in the meantime it's just fucking tough to argue with a Series 7 chair.