November 1, 2010

Red Dot Design Museum Germany Essen

red dot design museum in Germany



Exterior view of red dot design museum
Photo: Simon Bierwald


With more than 1,500 exhibits, the red dot design museum in the former boiler house of the Zeche Zollverein Coal Mine Industrial Complex houses the largest exhibition of contemporary design worldwide. The exhibition has a very long tradition that reaches back as far as the mid-1950s. It was the Krupp company that founded the predecessor to the Design Zentrum Nordrhein Westfalen, the “Industrieform” association, together with the BDI [“Bundesverband der deutschen Industrie”: Federation of German Industries]. In 1955, the “Permanent Industrieform Exhibition” was opened in the ”Small House” of Villa Hügel, the legendary abode of the Krupp family in Essen. The consumer goods exhibition was considered a standard-setting presentation that served as a model for industry and consumers. The exhibition attracted around 450,000 visitors in the first two years alone.


Exterior view of red dot design museum
Photo: Simon Bierwald

Today there are more than 4,000 square meters of exhibiting space showing only contemporary products. Visitors will recognise many of these consumer goods and will maybe even have one or two of the products at home. The exhibits share a very special feature that distinguishes them from other everyday items, namely their excellent design. 



Peter Zec
Photo: Michael Dannenmann

The design expert and professor of business communications, Professor Dr Peter Zec, is the intellectual and creative head of red dot and gives design-related lectures all over the world.


Good design – par for the course in the design museum 

But what is good design, and what makes the industrial products on exhibition special? Each exhibit has a special shape that is generally designed to match the specific task of the product. Good design stems from a balanced combination of four qualities: the quality of the function, aesthetics, use, and responsibility.

Every year, design experts from all over the world decide which products will be displayed in the red dot design museum. They make up the jury for one of the world’s most important design competitions: the red dot design award. In the course of long sessions, they test and discuss the products, assess their innovative design quality based on different criteria depending on their task and purpose, and ultimately decide which items from the wide variety of areas – living, traffic, kitchen, bathroom, leisure, work, health, communication, and many more – have earned the ”red dot” mark of quality and thus a place in the museum.    

The red dot design museum offers its visitors an overview of excellent contemporary design with the aim of promoting an understanding and an appreciation of the quality of products. The products on show in the museum testify to a developed contemporary product culture that plays a key role in shaping life in our modern society. 



The "Schürerstand" of the red dot design museum with its pending Audi
This hall is often referred to as the "Cathedral of Industrial Architecture"
Photo: Simon Bierwald


The contrast between old and new – product culture and architecture 

The house has a museum character that is exuded mainly by its impressive architecture. The former boiler house of the Zeche Zollverein Coal Mine Industrial Complex is often reverentially referred to as the “cathedral of industrial culture”. Built between 1928 and 1932 by the Bauhaus-inspired architects Fritz Schupp and Martin Kremmer, it served as the powerhouse of the Zeche Zollverein Coal Mine Industrial Complex for many years. The complex, which was abandoned in 1986, is viewed as one of the most significant industrial monuments of the 20th century, and was listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 2001. The Zeche Zollverein Coal Mine Industrial Complex was thus added to the list of protected cultural monuments including such prestigious monuments as the Egyptian pyramids and the Taj Mahal. In 1996, the Design Zentrum Nordrhein Westfalen decided to move together with its exhibition – now the red dot design museum – from Essen city center to the attractive Coal Mine Complex. 

 rddm_Fundamenthalle_photo_by_Simon_Bierwald "Fundamenthalle" (basement) of the red dot design museum
Photo: Simon Bierwald

rddm_Kesseldach_photo_by_Simon_Bierwald The "Kesseldach" (top of the boilers) of the red dot design museum
Photo: Simon Bierwald


The Design Zentrum commissioned the British architect Lord Norman Foster to convert the boiler house. He designed the new domicile, transforming the boiler house into an inspiring location for exhibitions and events. The new architecture with glass and concrete achieves a subtle blend with the old structure made of glass, red steel structure work and brick. The path leads along the steel girders, past pipes and fired tiles to the ‘floating‘ gallery level that never ceases to provide new and exciting views of the exhibition. 

Nowadays the red dot design museum provides a breathtaking backdrop for contemporary industrial products, making them protagonists in an environment that has been redefined from a former place of production to a room for communication. In the past, just three men worked here for every shift, but now thousands of people flock to the red dot design museum each year. 



View into the "White Hall" of the red dot design museum
Photo: Simon Bierwald


Design on stage 

Making good design tangible, exhibiting the quality of daily objects and making these available to the public, thus providing some direction and encouraging an appreciation of quality – these are the tasks of the red dot design museum. 

The permanent exhibition, which presents new products each year, is complemented by different special exhibitions relating to the topic of design. In addition, all winners of the product design competition are displayed in a special exhibition every year in summer before they are integrated in the museum. The prizewinners of the communication design competition are presented every year in December at another special exhibition. 


Red Dot Design museum
Zeche Zollverein Coal Mine Industrial Complex 
Hall 7
Gelsenkirchener Str. 181
45309 Essen

Opening times of the red dot design museum
Tuesday to Thursday 11 am - 6 pm
Friday to Sunday, public holidays 11 am - 8 pm

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