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One is the ultimate vanity project, the other processes excrement – yet both have been hailed as designs of the year. The former is a billion-euro building of such complexity that new machines had to be invented to twist glass in the previously unimaginable ways it required. This is Frank Gehry’s Fondation Louis Vuitton in Paris, a building as lavish and precisely tailored as the handbags on which its funder’s fortune was built. The latter, in a miracle of biblical proportions, takes waste and turns it into drinkable water, without the need to be connected to mains sewage systems or a power supply. This is The Blue Diversion Toilet – and it could save the lives of millions of people denied proper sanitation every year.
Both feature in the Design Museum’s 76-strong shortlist of best designs of 2014. An ambitious attempt to collect the latest developments in every sphere – from transport to fashion, from architecture to digital design – the list provides a snapshot of the zeitgeist. There’s Google’s self-driving car, microchips that mimic human tissue structure, and a book printed without a single drop of ink. As the London institution’s cocky tagline has it: “Some day the other museums will be showing this stuff.”
“It’s about the best of human endeavour,” says Gemma Curtain, curator of the exhibition, which opens next month. “Design is about solving problems, but it’s not always going to change your life – it can enhance life and simply give pleasure as well.” ….