London Design Biennale

London Design Biennale

Referencing utopian city planning, 'Bliss' is a concentric arrangement of stainless steel columns and benches that encourages both self-reflection and solidarity. 
A reflection on the fragile balance of utopia, mischer'traxler's kinetic light sculpture, 'LeveL', is poised to unsteady itself at the slightest movement of visitors.
Designer Brodie Neill's 'Plastic Effects' makes a thing of beauty to highlight an ugly problem: the amount of plastic waste in the ocean.

"Small fragments of washed-up plastic waste have been collected and reconstituted to produce a terrazo-like composite" Brodie Neill explains.

Belgium muses on today's 'EUtopia' by producing a new utopian map as a symbolic wake-up call for Europe: Exactly 500 years of Utopia - approximately 50 years of EUtopia.
A 1970s project to give a socialist state a democratic electronic backbone was reconstructed in Chile's installation, 'The Counterculture Room'.

The socialist government of Salvador Allende imagined giving the state a cybernetic spine, enabling ministers to view economic information in real time.

This project was called 'Cybersyn', and it was in part the work of a Briton: the brilliant, maverick cyberneticist Stafford Beer.

Chile's installation - curated by Andrés Briceño Guitierrez and Tomás Vivanco Larraín, and designed by FabLab Santiago - rebuilds the Cybersyn experience.

Collectives have long been a source of utopian principles and practices - and Croatia has a history of producing them. The country's installation, 'Utopian Collective', supports that tradition.
Cuba celebrated a political revolution in 1959; now it is on the cusp of a digital revolution, which is given structure in the installation 'PARAWIFI'.

For 'PARAWIFI', designers Luis Ramierz and Michel Aguilar propose clusters of pods, in which users can sit and relax as they plug into alternative realities.

When you walk down the streets of Havana, or any of Cuba's cities, you see groups of young people hunched over their phones, crowded around the country's 135 wifi hotspots.

Memories of Syria are collected and shared through the installation, 'Le Bruit Des Bonbons - The Astounding Eyes of Syria', in a bid to preserve, stir up and share immaterial memories of its living heritage, and to provoke action. Benjamin Loyauté visited (refugee) camps such as the one in the Beqaa Valley, Lebanon, to make a film on immaterial culture and word-objects.

Loyauté created pink damask sugar candy in the shape of an 'eye idol' - a mysterious Assyrian archaeological object discovered in 1937 by Max Mallowan, the function of which has never been decided.

Split into two spaces - one light and the other dark - Germany's installation, 'Utopia Means Elsewhere', explores the psychological, subjective roots of the idea of utopia.

German industrial designer Konstantin Grcic's installation looks at the slippery and subjective nature of utopia.

'Utopian Landscape', a recreation of a marble quarry, is potent ground for an investigation into heritage, trade and migration.

Greek designers On-Entropy state that 'imperfections, veins and natural flaws render marble a map with deltas, uneven terrain and infinite routes'.

The landscape is presented as a place of heritage and desire; where nature and culture merge.

The installation 'Chakraview' looks at India's multiple utopias. Traditional textiles and ancient mythology weave together a sense of modern India.

'India's utopias articulate the intersections between ancient myth and modern design innovations' says Rajshree Pathy, curator of India's installation.

The installation includes fabrics made by Aadyam, the weavers' intiative of the Aditya Birla Group.

'Freedome' brings the ideals of the 1955 Bangdung Charter, promoting world peace and cooperation, into the 21st century. 'Freedome' is a bell-curved dome composed of staffs and orbs made from coir, a material derived from the shaggy hide of the coconut.
With two socially focused projects, Israel's 'Human.Touch' installation shows how design can address human needs and impact positively on society. Yaniv Kadosh's 'AiDrop', a first-aid distribution system for disaster areas employs self-rotating units to drop 3kg cartons of first-aid supplies.

Sharona Merlin's 'Louder' is a set of speakers for the deaf and hard of hearing, one that translates sounds into visual textures and one that creates vibrations that can be felt through the feet.

Twenty Italian designers adopt the symbollic 'White Flag' as a utopian emblem of global truce.

The white flag, and the resignation it represents, are replaced by a symbolic bundle, made by folding the corners of the white fabric and fastening them to a wooden stick that previously acted as a pole. Hope once again triumphs over surrender, the bundle protects the few possessions that have been rescued and it becomes
a symbol of hope and the starting point for a new life elsewhere.

Today’s globalised world is divided into over 200 different countries that are in constant economic competition with each other. Setting aside the fact that we all share the same planet and the same resources, each nation pursues its own interests: the enrichment of one place often means the exploitation of another. Can we change this perspective while continuing to live in a world divided by 500,000 km of international borders?

Asylum Sea(k) tells the story of some of the great migratory flows that have crossed the Mediterranean since 2012. The white flag, which should be a symbol of consolidated truce, witnesses the failures of a European policy which is unprepared to deal with these flows.

Yasuhiro Suzuki's installation, 'A Journey Around the Neighbourhood Globe', promises to change the way we look at everyday things.

As in all of Suzuki's work, it is a play between contradiction and affinity, of unexpected and delightful connections and hidden patterns. He hopes to break down and reinvent cultural differences, and nurture a sense of commonality.

'Mezzing in Lebanon' brings a slice of Beirut street life to the centre of London, celebrating utopia through the everyday designs of the people of Lebanon.

Architect Annabel Karim Kassar's inspiration for the Biennale comes from the activities of everyday Lebanese people, with the focus on a city street as a workshop for designing and making.

The show of humble street materials and objects aims to show design as an evolving process, rather than a finished product.

Fernando Romero's 'Border City' synthesises the urban forms of the past with the challenges of the future. "The principal challenge is to create a system that is realistic and easy to implement in communities and countries that are located in a border situation and are still developing,' Romero says. These difficult "border situations", such as Mexico's frontiers with the United States, are likely to multiply across the world as populations grow and migration increases.
The Netherlands
Considering the archive as a sort of utopia, Studio Makkink & Bey's scale 'Design Diorama: The Archive as a Utopic Environment' presents a narrative of Dutch design through a collection and network of real objects, personalities and stories.
Nigeria wastes billions of pounds worth of gas in flaring, burnt off as a byproduct of collecting oil, and the cause of terrible pollution, With 'Ulo', which translates as 'home', the Nigerian team looks at how to restore the environmental balance to the fragile Niger Delta.
'Reaching for Utopia - Inclusive Design in Practice' is an ensemble of projects that demonstrates how Norway's people-centred approach to design and architecture permeates life, business and society too.

Each project has a 'co-creation' strategy. Onny Eikhaug says the power of the approach is that it leads to better environments and more innovative solutions that could not happen otherwise.

An ambitious government action plan to make Norway 'inclusively designed' by 2025 is under way, with examples of accessible design leading the way.

Norway's exhibition explains the philosophy of people-centred design and displays a range of successful examples through text, images and video.

Pakistan's installation 'Daalaan', is a collaboratively designed abstract 'playground' that breaks down social barriers and invites interaction between strangers.

The exhibition features elements of traditional craft - sheesham wood objects. Lattoo Stools (spinning tops), hand-drawn artworks and screen prints made using natural henna dyes.

Cadavre Exquis: an Anatomy of Utopia, a spatial version of the Surrealist game, playfully invites visitors to arrive at their own utopia through a series of decisive moves. 
In UN/BIASED, the Portuguese team merge design and science, using bacteria to visualise data streams pertaining to an opaque yet eroding factor in Portuguese society: sexism.
Republic of Korea
An international team blends East, West, ancient and modern with Peach Blossom, a digital map that visitors can explore virtually and co-create by adding their own utopian thoughts.
'Discovering Utopia: Lost Archives of Soviet Design' offers a glimpse into an idealised world dreamt up by Soviet designers, that, for the most part, never left the space of their workshops.

These 'forgotten projects' were created at the All-Union Soviet Institute of Technical Aesthetics (VNIITE) from the 1960s to the 1980s.

Alexandra Sankova of the Moscow Design Museum says 'The history of Soviet design is completely forgotten. In the 90s, after the dissolution of the Soviet Union, the state design system was broken down'

Saudi Arabia
Thirsty? This 'Water Machine' installation has a playful way of giving out water - for a price.   
Shenzhen, China
Urbanus - representing China with their installation 'DenCity' - address the problems of the megalopolis with a proposal for a series of towers that are small cities in themselves. Visitors can explore an outsized model of one of these megastructures.

Curator Xiaodu Liu describes the serious issue of land shortage in Shenzhen: 'As one of the fastest growing cities in human history, Shenzhen is faced with the challenge of housing more citizens in an already dense city.'

South Africa
'Otium and Acedia' celebrates liberation and playfulness as fitting statements of a country reborn from a convoluted, visceral history. 

Porky Hefer designed a series of hanging nests in the form of animals, into which visitors can climb. 'They're experimental and transformative and encourage you to see a different universe'.

The city of Santander already uses technology to improve urban life and the environment. 'VR POLIS, Diving into the Future' asks: what could it be capable of 100 years from now?

The 'utopian' future city is represented through an immersive 360-degree virtual reality film. In this ideal Santander of 2100, technology has brought about a new harmony between citizens and nature.

'Welcome to Weden' rethinks design and manufacturing on collaborative, artisanal grounds, inviting 15 designers and manufacturers to work together on different, more equal terms, assuming shared responsibility for both profits and costs.

It presents an intriguing counter-strategy to the existing model of unethical, far-flung, large-scale mass production.

Seven designers collaborate with seven specialist manufacturers for 'In-between: The Utopia of the Neutral' - a project that reflects upon the cultural identity, design tradition and exchange of knowledge.

Contemplating a future where everyday objects will be participative, partly designed and partly assembled, Hyper Modular explores an idea of utopia that moves between dematerialisation, intuition and a symbiosis between technology and nature. The minimal use of materials, combined with the light’s flexible qualities, goes beyond known codes of modularity, envisioning future behaviours of objects we interact with daily. The almost invisible design of the light becomes an intuitive tool with which to design.

Seven Swiss design studios partnered with seven specialist industrial manufacturers, each with niche knowledge of a particular field.
The conceptual arrangements of 'Magnify the Origin' combine glass and lava stone – two seemingly different manifestations of minerals whose states have been transformed by heat.

'Eatopia' celebrates diversity in the pursuit of a utopian state, and offers visitors a unique culinary experience in a tranquil forest-like state.
Architect Chacha Atallah, working in collaboration with artist Haythem Zakaria, reflects on the fragile foundations of so-called utopias with the installation 'Pulse Diagram'. Composed of 54 pylons linked to each other by charred beams, created using an ancient Japanese technique that scorches the wood to extend its lifespan.
'The Wish Machine' is a contemporary "wish tree" carrying visitors' notes of hope - a poignant response to the European refugee crisis and Turkey's critical position on the migratory path. 
United Arab Emirates
A vast system of planned irrigation once stretched across the Gulf, bringing water and vitality to desert communities. 'Al Falaj: Water Systems of the Gulf's Oases' shows how it could again be relevant to the UAE's rapidly globalising cities.

Curator Rashid Bin Shabib sees design as essentially a problem-solving practice, rather than a path to utopia. He wanted to inspire visitors to the Biennale to observe traditional methods as adaptive forms that can still be used in modern society.

United Kingdom
Edward Barber and Jay Osgerby's installation 'Forecast' moves with the wind, evoking the UK's nautical history and its future use of renewable energy. "Today, the UK is a world leader in offshore wind energy. Forecast is intended to reference this and highlight the opportunity for a more sustainable future."
United States of America
'The Immersion Room', an interactive installation of digitised wallpapers from the Cooper Hewitt, Smithsonian Design Museum's collection, illustrates how we can create ideas of utopia within our own home. Greg Herringshaw, Cooper Hewitt's Curator of Wallcoverings says "whether the vision of utopia is surrounding oneself with master artworks, views of foreign lands or secret gardens, luxe surfacing or Brutalist environs, wallpapers can convert the simplest interiors into any of these ideas."
Credits: Story

The London Design Biennale thanks our partners and supporters who made the first Biennale possible:

Headline Partner: Jaguar
Major Partner: Somerset House

With thanks to the Biennale team:

President: Sir John Sorrell CBE
Director: Dr Christopher Turner
Executive Director: Ben Evans
Operations Director: Ruth Dillon
International Relations Managers: Martha Pym and Kathryn Simpson
Project Consultant: Joanne Dodd
Project Manager: Sara Black
Project Assistant: Mary Angove
Events Manager: Eleni Kaponis
Marketing: Chris McGill and Jo Lee
PR and Communications: Brunswick Arts
Graphic Design and Identity: Pentagram

Credits: All media
The story featured may in some cases have been created by an independent third party and may not always represent the views of the institutions, listed below, who have supplied the content.
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