The latest episode of the DHS podcasts is out now!
Listen to this year's Design Writing Prize (DWP) guest judge, Alice Twemlow in conversation with the 2022 winner Joana Albernaz Delgado, V&A/RCA History of Design MA Graduate & current PhD Researcher, London about her winning essay titled, “Musical Chairs.”
I am very pleased to be this year’s juror for the DHS Writing Prize. I value writing immensely and am so pleased that DHS continues this important initiative of highlighting and supporting excellence in this crucial aspect of our work.
This year’s winning essay is an intellectually-ambitious, original, lively, and utterly delightful essay.
With multiple thematic threads, including the nature of attention, museological display conventions and design historiographical biases, the essay presents a convincing case for a reassessment of the monobloc chair, and of chairs in general, as only half-objects that need to be completed by their transient inhabitants, chairs as ‘instruments’ in service of directing a sitter’s body and gaze.
These themes are interwoven with fluidity and subtlety but also with certainty, since the ideas are built on a strong foundation of analysis of well selected secondary sources and theoretical concepts. As such, the essay also presents a convincing case for its own essaying. Formally, it experiments with shifts in time and perspective, and demonstrates how design history writing can benefit from the inclusion of personal experience, emotionality, affect, memory, and speculation with its facts and socio-political context.
I was immediately drawn in by the first person point of view in this essay. The authenticity and authority of the narrator are secured with the accumulation of specific and grounding observed detail such as the Disney paper napkins, the date on the museum ticket, and the grey rain spots on the plastic chairs.
For indeed, once this narrator perspective is established, it can then dwell on the important topic of individual and collective doubt in relation to history making, and to acknowledge the unexpected ways in which knowledge accrues in fits and starts and changes our perception of the world and our sense of identity.
This essay is a welcome signpost toward a future of more confidently experimental and scholarly rigorous design history writing for expanding readerships.