We can quickly answer the question what the Designpanoptikum is. It is the surreal museum for industrial objects in Berlin-Mitte. But the question what we are looking at comes to our minds with every single object in this museum. The Russian born photographer and collector Vlad Korneev established the museum with years of commitment and a great passion for industrial objects from the last hundred years. We met him at the Designpanoptikum and like little kids we could not stop asking: What’s that?


At first the museum looks a bit spooky, a little bit like Frankensteins’ laboratory. However, when curator Vlad Korneev starts the tour through his museum, all horror disappears and one is simply astonished by all the curiosities. Really every single piece in this museum evokes the same question over and over again: What’s that? Every exhibit is a real industrial object from the past hundred years. Nearly every piece is an article of daily use and this is what makes this museum special and unique.

Vlad has two ways of looking at the objects in his museum. One way is with fantasy and one way is with logic. The power of our imagination is sometimes so strong that it makes real and industrial objects to something surreal. To look at the objects with logic on the other hand can be quite a test for one’s intelligence. Every exhibit has a name, a history, and a function, but our fantasy often plays tricks on us and so looking at the today unknown objects makes it more and more difficult to answer the recurring question: What’s that?

The answers to this question are so manifold that the best wrong answers make it on the museum’s hit list and are told during the tour. The museum lives of the visitor’s fantasy and this is what it is all about – the relation of form and function and their interpretation. Vlad Korneev is not only curator but also photographer and he is especially interested in the esthetic appeal of objects. About seven years ago he started collecting various industrial things. Five years ago they became so many that he rented the rooms on Torstrasse 201 in Berlin where the museum is today. The stories the objects are telling is what fascinates Vlad the most. His exhibits always tell something about the time and the country they are from and sometimes Vlad even knows the story of their former owner.
One object that fascinated us the most when we visited the museum was the iron lung. Today hardly anybody knows what that is, even though this machine once saved thousands of lives. It is a vacuum chamber, which was used especially after World War II to treat people who suffered from polio, mainly children. Many of these machines were needed at the time and resources were rare and that is why old parts of submarines were used to build them. Single people spent up to 60 years in this machine and it was actually in use until 2008. The last patient spent 55 years of her life in the iron lung and only died because of a power blackout. During her life she counseled troubled teenagers. To see a real person spending her life in such a machine is probably one of the most effective ways to make someone think about their own life and how they want to spend it. No money can be earned with the iron lung anymore and that is why it also disappears out of our heads. There are many reasons why it should not, especially since such stories are only found in Hollywood today.

Vlad collected all the exhibits with a lot of passion and often saved them from the junk yard. All of them were once produced to be used and to fulfill a certain function, but today they do not exist in this form and so they are forgotten. Vlad Korneev wants to conserve them and wants to make sure they stay in our memories. Many of the objects could be sold as art work today, but Vlad does not think of making the most money of his things. He wants to keep them for as many people as possible to look at with fantasy and logic. When Vlad leads his visitors through the museum, he does it with humor and has a charming way when joking about cultural differences. A lot of the objects in the exhibition are from Russia, France, England, and Germany and where else come stories from these countries and these times better together than in Berlin?

The Designpanoptikum keeps things alive that were believed to be lost in time and also makes it possible that the objects are still put into use today. Such as a set of lights, which were rented from Vlad and placed in a television commercial of Karl Lagerfeld. There is no money spend on advertisement or marketing for the museum, because Vlad believes that good things simply just get acknowledged and become a success. Nevertheless, he is always grateful for recommendations and good internet reviews. We have definitely learned a lot during our visit with Vlad at the Designpanoptikum and were also excellently entertained – a Berlin Discovery we definitely highly recommend.

DESIGNPANOPTIKUM – surreal museum for industrial objects

Torstraße 201, 10115 Berlin
Tel: 01577 4012991



Photo: Lothar Steiner
Photo: Lothar Steiner

... pushed by BANJO & ELFE.

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