Cara McCarty, the International Friend of Habitare: Finnish design: by the people for the people

Cara McCarty, the director of curatorial at America’s most prestigious design museum, Cooper Hewitt, Smithsonian Design Museum, will be the International Friend of Habitare in 2018. McCarty, who is a great lover of Finnish design, will select the most interesting content featured at Habitare and will hold a keynote speech on Wednesday 12 September 2018. Habitare will be open at Messukeskus from 12 to 16 September 2018.

Located in New York, Cooper Hewitt, Smithsonian Design Museum is the only museum in the United States to focus solely on design and issues related to design. Cooper Hewitt’s collection includes more than 210,000 design objects that span 30 centuries. The director of curatorial is responsible for overseeing the museum’s exhibition’s program and building the museum’s collection.

“Innovation is one of the most important criteria we use when selecting objects for the museum’s collection. We always ask, how is this new and how is it different from what we have seen or done in the past”, says McCarty.

A fair is like a wine-tasting

Cara McCarty will choose the most interesting products, services and phenomena from among the offerings by Habitare exhibitors.

“Like exhibitions and museums, a fair provides an opportunity to bring together the latest thinking and different sectors and areas of expertise. In the same way as with a wine or coffee tasting, you can make comparisons and observe trends and subtle nuances”, says Cara McCarty.

“For example, a lot is happening today in the field of lighting, and since Finland is especially sensitive to light I am hoping to see lighting innovations at Habitare.”

Interesting social design

Cara McCarty, an avowed fan of Finnish design, particularly textiles, glass and Alvar Aalto, is especially interested in social impact design.

“Finnish design is notable for being functional, practical, and available to all. And, it’s aesthetically appealing. Customer service is an important characteristic of the culture. I would like to elaborate on these themes in my talk at Habitare. For example, a hospital is an example of social impact design. Everything starts with the experience of the customer, whether it be the patient, the patient’s family, the nurses, doctors, or the researcher… the users are at the center of the designed experience.”

Cara McCarty gives another, surprising example of what she thinks is successful, user-driven design:

“Finland’s ice hockey team actively promotes design and Helsinki’s design development. Sports and culture – love it!

Roots in Finnish design

Finnish design has made a life-long impression on Cara McCarty, first when she started sewing her own clothes with Marimekko fabric at age 12, and when she visited Finland for the first time as a young student.

“There is an evolving sense of continuity in Finnish design. No big radical changes for the sake of being novel or different. It is made for people, and it is honest and practical”, says McCarty.

“The giants of Finnish design – Aalto, Wirkkala, Armi Ratia, Fiskars, and the designers at the Iittala glass factory – have shaped and, in many ways, continue to shape my collecting philosophy, my view of design, my role as curator, and even my career as a whole. As a curator, I often marvel at the timeless relevance of Finnish products, and I wonder what other country can boast so many designs created 50–60 years ago that still look so contemporary today!”

Cara McCarty
Cara McCarty is the curatorial director at Cooper Hewitt, Smithsonian Design Museum, where she oversees the museum’s curatorial vision and leads exhibition planning. She played a lead role in the 2014 renovation and transformation of Cooper Hewitt into a 21st-century museum, from the overall master plan to the creation of immersive museum spaces and participatory visitor experiences.

Prior to that, McCarty held several curatorial positions in different art museums, such as the Saint Louis Art Museum and The Museum of Modern Art. Among her numerous exhibitions and accompanying publications are Tools: Extending Our Reach (Cooper Hewitt 2014), Masks: Faces of Culture (Harry N. Abrams Inc. 1999), and Structure and Surface: Contemporary Japanese Textiles (Harry N. Abrams Inc. 1998). She received a bachelor’s degree in Architectural History and East Asian Art from Stanford University and was a Loeb Fellow at Harvard’s Graduate School of Design.

For more information, and for interview requests with Cara McCarty:
Habitare, communications manager Johanna Suni, tel. +358 40 515 4216,
Cara McCarty’s interview on the Habitare website

Habitare, the largest furniture, design and interior decoration event in Finland, will be held at Messukeskus in Helsinki, from 12 to 16 September 2018. Habitare offers experiences and ideas on interior decoration, and on the functioning and look of homes and other spaces. Habitare highlights the ideas and works by a new generation of designers, and sparks discussion. The International Friend of Habitare in 2018 is Cara McCarty, the curatorial director at the Cooper Hewitt museum. To be held concurrently with Habitare are Antiikki, HiFi, and the Habitare Pro professionals event. | @HabitareFair | | #habitare2018 |