Of Robots, Flying Cars, and Hope!

As the one of the world’s most famous museums, the Smithsonian, turns 175 this year, it’s celebrating with a groundbreaking new futuristic exhibition in its historic Arts and Industries Building in Washington DC, that melds art, tech, design, and history, and invites visitors to dream big.

Lifestyle Insider The Arts and Industries Building in the Mall, Washington DC

Built in 1881 as the Smithsonian’s first large-scale exhibition space in Washington DC, the historic Arts+ Industries Building (AIB) will temporarily reopen this November for the first time in nearly two decades (it was last opened in 2004, and it underwent a $55 million dollar renovation finished in 2015) for the debut exhibition FUTURES, the Smithsonian’s first major building-wide exploration of the future. Visitors will be invited to step inside this groundbreaking new museum to experience what will come next after the tiresome pandemic, in a fusion of awe-inspiring art, technology, design, and history, inviting visitors to dream big and imagine not just one but many possible futures on the horizon. FUTURES will be free and open to time-travellers everywhere through July 2022.

Lifestyle Insider Arts and Industries Builidng, 19th century Crowds on the National Mall. From the Smithsonian Archives Lifestyle Insider Archival photo of the AIB - with an exhibition

A centrepiece of the Smithsonian’s landmark 175th anniversary year, FUTURES will spotlight the Institution’s historic role as an engine of the future. Since 1846, the Smithsonian’s mission for the “increase and diffusion of knowledge” has led to remarkable leaps-exploring the beginnings of the universe, saving species from extinction, preserving the full diversity of human culture and bringing new methods of digital learning to billions around the globe.

Lifestyle Insider Arts and Industries Building Kids gather around Apollo moon rock in 1969. From the Smithsonian Archives

And the AIB has had a huge role to play – it was, after all, the cradle of the American History, Natural History and Air and Space museums.

Lifestyle Insider AIB - a look at the renovated hall

Part exhibition, part festival, FUTURES will present nearly 32,000 square feet of new immersive site-specific art installations, interactives, working experiments, inventions, speculative designs and “artefacts of the future,” as well as historic objects and discoveries from 23of the Smithsonian’s museums, major initiatives and research centres.

Lifestyle Insider Roomie, a robot Lifestyle Insider Goddard Rocket

Of the nearly 150 objects on view, several are making their public debut: a Loon internet balloon, an AI-driven rover from Alphabet’s X that could transform agriculture, a Planetary Society space sail for deep space travel, the first full-scale Buckminster Fuller geodesic dome built in North America, the world’s first controlled nuclear fusion machine, and more.

Lifestyle Insider Doing Nothing with AI Lifestyle Insider Hyperloop Pegasus XP-2-4

FUTURES will also debut a series of new art commissions and a selection of large-scale technology projects, to be unveiled throughout 2021. Each offers visitors a chance to encounter emerging trends in human creativity and connection that are actively transforming the world—from artworks based on intelligent technology, to new ways to design cities, to hyper-fast travel and air taxis. A cutting-edge mobile experience by award-winning firm Goodby Silverstein & Partners and a national film project will also be announced in the coming months.

Lifestyle Insider AIB FUTURES - Futures that Work, Rockwell Group Lifestyle Insider BioSuit

Brought to life by David Rockwell and his award-winning architecture and design firm Rockwell Group, FUTURES will unfold across four unique environments, one in each of AIB’s four monumental halls: Past Futures, Futures that Inspire, Futures that Unite, and Futures that Work. Rather than attempt prediction, these alternate ways of thinking about the future emphasize that there are many possible futures, which will be determined by our individual and collective decisions. Rockwell Group’s dynamic exhibition pavilions reinforce each hall’s theme and will double as an experiment in sustainable building design, using unconventional materials such as mushroom mycelium bricks, solar cells and recycled and recyclable resin and metal. The LAB, Rockwell Group’s design innovation studio, is developing a digital ecosystem to enhance the visitor experience.

Lifestyle Insider Hypergiant Lifestyle Insider OceanixCity - a vision for the future

Audiences are encouraged to expect the unexpected. In Past Futures, discover an experimental Alexander Graham Bell telephone, the Bakelizer—a machine used at the birth of synthetic plastics, early androids and barrier-breaking rockets, and activist art and ephemera created by groups striving to change the course of their own futures. In Futures that Inspire, encounter worldbuilding Afrofuturist artists, artificial intelligence that helps you meditate, and Indigenous storytelling for the 21st century. In Futures that Unite, visit a COVID-friendly support robot that reduces loneliness, a video game you can play with your eyes, and biohacked insulin. And in Futures that Work, experience future foods, a spacesuit that fits like a second skin, a working water harvester pulling liquid from air, an algae bioreactor that cleans as much air as a 400-acre forest, and much more.

Lifestyle Insider Undersea Lounge Lifestyle Insider Smithsonian Arts and Industries Building Hall by Ron Blunt

FUTURES will also showcase stories of future-makers: inventors and creators, activists and organizers of communities at the margins, working tirelessly towards a more equitable, peaceful, and sustainable world. Instead of simply asking what kind of future we want to live in, audiences will be challenged to consider their role in shaping it—glimpsing how the visions of previous generations have shaped where we are today as they choose their own version of humanity’s next chapter.

Lifestyle Insider Smithsonian AIB's domed roof

“In a world that feels perpetually tumultuous, there is power in imagining the future we want, not the future we fear,” says Rachel Goslins, director of the Arts + Industries Building. “For 175 years, the Smithsonian has been helping people better understand who we are, where we have been, and where we want to go. With FUTURES, we want to invite all visitors to discover, debate, and delight in the many possibilities for our shared future. There’s no place better to do this than in the Arts + Industries Building, the nation’s original home for big ideas.”

Lifestyle Insider Smithsonian Arts and Industries Building Panorama By Ron Blunt

FUTURES is curated by a multi-disciplinary team of collaborators with broad expertise: Dr. Glenn Adamson (history of the future), Ian Brunswick (science consulting curator), Brad MacDonald (creative digital media), Ashley Molese (FUTURES and contemporary art), Monica O. Montgomery (programming and social justice), and Dr. Richard Kurin (Smithsonian history consulting curator), with the support of the wider Smithsonian community of experts and outside advisors.

It is made possible by a select group of partners and supporters: Autodesk, Amazon Web Services, BellTextron Inc., Jacqueline B. Mars, John and Adrienne Mars, the Embassy of the State of Qatar, David M. Rubenstein and SoftBank Group Corp. Major support is provided by the Annenberg Foundation, Bloomberg Philanthropies, Kevin S. Bright and Robert Kogod. Funding is also provided by John Brock III, Wendy Dayton, Nancy Hogan, David G. Johnson, and the Lyda Hill Foundation.Additional support is provided by Vin Di Bona, Jorge Puente and Ivan Selin.

Lifestyle Insider By The People Festival - past event at the AIB

Major partners and lenders also include The Alliance for Media Arts + Culture, Arizona State University’s Center for Science and Imagination, Danae, Inc. 3D Printing, Dava Newman and MIT AeroAstro, Ecovative, Games for Change, Hypergiant, The Institute for the Future, Loon, Never Alone/E-Line Media, Novalia, Oceanix/BIG Bjarke Ingels Group,Open Insulin and the Baltimore Underground Science Space, Planetary Society, Q the Genderless Voice/VICE Media, Rockwell Group and the LAB at Rockwell Group, Roomie Robotics, SpecialEffect, Twitch, Virgin Hyperloop, Waha—Water Harvester Inc, Hansjörg Wyss Institute for Biologically Inspired Engineering at Harvard University and X -The Moonshot Factory.

Artists and creators currently slated to be featured include Madeline Ashby, Raoul Bretzel and Anna Citelli, Tega Brain, Stephanie Dinkins, Nettrice Gaskins, Alexandra Genis, Emanuel Gollob, Porfirio Gutierrez, Ai Hasegawa, Brian Miller, Tochi Onyebuchi, Elisa Palomino, Arnaldo Pomodoro, Stacey Robinson, Stephanie Syjuco and Jeffrey Veregge. Additional site-specific commissions will be announced later in 2021.

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Priya Kumari Rana

Lifestyle Insider is a kind of junction point, connecting people with diverse interests that touch on the more luxurious aspects of lifestyle – fashion, design, travel, food and spirits, art, watches and jewellery, cars, yachts, and aviation, and technology. People today don’t fit into boxes and categories. In our individual ways, we are interested in diverse themes, products, and the challenges that face our world today. You will judge how well this effort of mine caters to your passions and proclivities.

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A bit about me:
A luxury and fashion journalist with 25 years of experience in publishing and magazine journalism, I have edited some of India’s top fashion and luxury magazines. I got my BA in Comparative Literature from UC Berkeley, and went on to receive my Master’s in English and French from the University of Strasbourg, France. I have also studied German and Film. I live in Gurugram, India, and look forward to once again exploring our world with a new-found freedom.

Priya Kumari Rana

Founder and Editor
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