cover image Objects of Desire

Objects of Desire

Adrian Forty. Pantheon Books, $14.95 (11pp) ISBN 978-0-394-50792-7

A social history of industrial and consumer design, this provocative study opens up new ways of looking at thousands of objects in our daily environment. Forty, a British architectural historian, notes that design changes have played a key role in gaining acceptance for products and creating wealth. Eighteenth century manufacturers drew heavily on archaic models to overcome consumer resistance to new technology, whereas contemporary makers of high-tech gadgets design utopian images promising a better future. The Victorian home, a sentimental ""palace of illusions,'' was stuffed with theatrical furniture and intricate harmonies that smothered all associations with the unscrupulous world of commerce and work. Notions of cleanliness and hygiene have figured prominently in design, from Le Corbusier's polished exteriors to the streamlining of railway compartment upholstery to remodeling of bathroom fixtures and vacuum cleaners. Forty shows that much more than artistic taste goes into design considerations. Hundreds of illustrations are interwoven with the text. (March 28)