Its easy to think of flexible, and multi-functional design as a modern innovation; a product of our increasingly fast-paced and mobile lifestyles. Yet human societies the world over have been wrestling with many of the same needs for centuries. Such is the topic of Living in Motion: Design and Architecture for Flexible Dwelling. This traveling exhibition from Germany’s Vitra Design Museum will have its only U.S. showing at the Institute of Contemporary Art in Boston through May 7, 2006.

The exhibition traces flexible modes of living back through centuries of design and across a variety of cultures, providing a historical and anthropological perspective on these issues. Featuring work by such noted modern designers as Marcel Breuer, Charles and Ray Eames, Philippe Starck, and Shigeru Ban among many others, Living in Motion brings together over 150 objects, as well as films and more than 500 illustrations, from the realm of architecture and design to address flexibility and mobility in domestic life. The exhibition is creatively divided into six thematic sections that classify the objects according to their capabilities and function: Transporting, Assembling and Disassembling, Folding and Unfolding, Adapting, Combining, and Wearing and Carrying.

In conjuction with Living in Motion the ICA will also screen films by Charles and Ray Eames, documentaries on Alvar Aalto and Isamu Noguchi, and offer two panel discussions with leading designers and theorists discussing the role of mobility in contemporary life and design solutions. Check out the exhibition website for the full schedule.