Arts column: Why the humble spork should be in the Design Museum’s time capsule

TO MARK the ground breaking of London’s new Design Museum, a time capsule has been buried in the foundations. Some of the world’s most creative minds – leading architects, designers and, er, Boris Johnson – were invited to nominate objects to be placed inside to wow future generations with just how clever and stylish their ancestors were.

If it turns out the idea came from a team of crack psychiatrists studying the artistic psyche, I would not be surprised, as the items each person chose give an intriguing into their personalities. Or at least into the personality each wanted to project. There is the “I’m a bit mad me” choice of Cecil Balmond (designer of four Serpentine Gallery pavilions), who pepped up his list of European Union Flag, one Euro coin and 2p stamp with a USB stick containing images of jazz and blues album covers.

There’s the “I’m a regular Joe” selection of a coffee pot from black cab revamper Kenneth Grange; Sir Terence Conran’s “zest for life” approach – supplementing the iPhone 4S with a tin of anchovies and a “good bottle” of 2012 Burgundy; and the so egotistical you’ve almost got to admire it selections of Sir Paul Smith with (his own) Isle of Man London 2012 stamps and Zaha Hadid with (her own) model of Rome’s MAXXI Museum.

Lighting designer Ingo Maurer went in the entirely opposite direction, with a standard light bulb – a nod to inventor Thomas Edison without whom Maurer would spend his time, well, probably designing something else. And Boris’s choice was actually a pretty good one – maps of the Tube – which manages to both combine design canniness and the new museum’s location. Well done Boris. Give yourself a pat on the back. Oh, you already have.

If they’d asked me, and I’m not suggesting they should have done so after the great electric fingernail sanding incident of First Year CDT, I would have selected the spork. Not because my personality is practical, a bit wooden and easily crushed, but because, to me, it’s a piece of design ingenuity.

While iPhones and Euro coins might to us be the very symbols of modernity, to future generations with their micro-chipped brains and abandonment of physical currency, they will probably seem just a bit naff.

The humble spork on the other hand has simplicity on its side. Its design is so basic you couldn’t invent anything to replace it, except perhaps a Swiss army knife with spoon and fork attachments or an actual spoon and fork.

But they are either not as easily transported or impossible to close without getting the miniature scissors stuck on the can opener, which incidentally never works in a rainstorm on a flooded hillside when even the nearby sheep are looking like they fancy a shampoo in a nice warm B&B.

The spork’s one drawback is that, although future generations will have long given up on mobile phones and public transport, they are likely to still need a handy cutlery combo. So they’ll be disappointed to find such a common item when they bust open the time capsule.

Liverpool Post, September 27, 2012

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