Times & Places

20th Century Design: The 1960s

The 1960s were years of both political and cultural instability. In architecture and design, the decade was dominated by two themes--outer space and rebellion against authority. The space race began with the U.S.S.R.'s launch of its Sputnik satellite in 1957, continued with the orbit of the first manned spacecraft (U.S.S.R., 1961), and ultimately landed men on the moon (U.S., 1969). These events had a profound impact on popular culture. The theme of the Seattle World's Fair was "Man in the Space Age" (1964), and many of the pavilions at Montreal's Expo '67 and San Antonio's Hemisphere (1968) were of space-age design. Stanley Kubrick's film 2001: A Space Odyssey (1968) became a cult classic. Just as the space race gave individuals and things a sense of freedom and power, so too did lashing out against tradition and the establishment. In the United States, antiwar and anti-discrimination protests were widespread throughout the decade. The increasing use of contraceptive pills (invented 1954) and illegal drugs moved American society toward the freer, more casual lifestyle that was initiated after World War II and reached a climax in events like the Woodstock festival of 1969. Even relatively conservative individuals imbibed this new spirit, wearing psychedelic clothes and miniskirts (introduced 1964) and buying unconventional furniture like the Gyro and Sacco chairs (both designed 1968).

Excerpt from

Dallas Museum of Art, Hot Cars, High Fashion, Cool Stuff: Designs of the 20th Century (Dallas: Dallas Museum of Art, 1996).