Design Lab #9

23.07.2021 to 31.10.2021

As part of the Design Lab series, the Kunstgewerbemuseum is once again opening up its collection to a multiperspectival interrogation. Under the direction of Axel Kufus, design students from the Berlin University of the Arts (UdK) have been invited to use the museum’s permanent exhibition as a field of experimentation in which to test out new forms of interaction between the artefacts. The title Neophytes refers to the Kunstgewerbemuseum in a targeted fashion, as a host to countless objects of diverse meaning and functions, made of all kinds of materials and originating from different contexts, centuries and epochs.


The term “neophyte” refers to species (animals, plants, fungi) that have taken root in a region outside of their original biotope. These processes are always accompanied by complex reciprocal effects: meaning that not only does the neophyte have to adapt to its new environment, but the biotope also changes when a new species establishes itself.

Museum as Biotope

In 12 interventions utilising various media, the design students of UdK investigate whether there is evidence of neophytic processes of migration and reciprocity among the artefacts. What happens to objects when they leave their biotope and find themselves in entirely different contexts? How do the objects behave in these unfamiliar environments, and how do the environments relate to them? Do they largely retain their original functions in other contexts, or are they subjected to completely new interpretations? Can they develop values that could never have been imagined, or do they lose all relevance? 


These kinds of transformations are not usually desired within museums. On the contrary, the task of museums consists in preserving the objects, protecting them from any kind of alteration. They are removed from the living world of evolution and decay and encased in a semi-permeable protective covering: audiences can look in, but there is little chance of the objects inside having an effect on the outside world. And yet most of them have volatile biographies spanning hundreds of years, involving the creation and transformation of value, but also destruction – including pillaging and wars that were waged around them.

Neophytes Returning Home

What happens when we take these retired objects and give them a new life? When we replant them in unfamiliar social contexts, invent new narratives and then test them out? Which histories can be developed moving forward – and which can be told when these objects, having been twisted into something new, return to the biotope of the museum? Which complex dialogues and cross-fertilisations occur within the collection spaces of the Kunstegwerbemuseum between the originals and these neophytic revenants?

This exhibition is curated by Axel Kufus, Anja Lapatsch and Annika Unger from the Institute of Product and Process design at UdK Berlin in collaboration with Sophia Prinz, Nicolas Rauch and Martha Schwindling.

The following design students will be exhibiting: Thea Capitanio, Jairo Cuicapuza, Lukas Dilger, Roya Haupt, John Loerinci, Sebastian Müller-Tiburtius, Yule Post, Theresa Schwaiger, Esmée Willemsen, Anna Windrich and Cathy Wolter.

An experimental collaboration and special exhibition from the Kunstgewerbemuseum of the Staatlichen Museen zu Berlin and design students from UdK Berlin.

About the Design Lab Series

The Design Lab series is curated by Claudia Banz, curator of design at the Kunstgewerbemuseum. The series is supported by the Kuratorium Preussischer Kulturbesitz.

A special exhibition of the Kunstgewerbemuseum, Staatliche Museen zu Berlin

10785 Berlin

wheelchair accessible

U-Bahn: Potsdamer Platz
S-Bahn: Potsdamer Platz
Bus: Potsdamer Brücke, Potsdamer Platz Bhf / Voßstraße, Kulturforum, Philharmonie

Sun 11:00 - 18:00
Mon closed
Tue 10:00 - 18:00
Wed 10:00 - 18:00
Thu 10:00 - 18:00
Fri 10:00 - 18:00
Sat 11:00 - 18:00

Opening times on public holidays Opening hours

Kunstgewerbemuseum Kulturforum
8,00 EUR Concessions 4,00
Buy ticket

Annual Ticket from 25,00 EUR

Tel 030 - 266 42 42 42 (Mon - Fri, 9 am - 4 pm)
Questions | Bookings | Feedback