Basement of Somerset House, London Design Biennale 2016

London Design Biennale is a global gathering of the world’s most ambitious and imaginative designers, curators and design institutions.

Underground -1 Floor

Italy: White Flag
Twenty Italian designers were asked to rethink the symbolic White Flag as a utopian emblem of global truce. The results were placed on the world map at the heart of the installation, but each day of the Biennale, one of the flags was removed and replaced by an object chosen or created by the designer. The intention was to instill a sense of urgency, even emergency, for the chosen places marked on the map. In the end there was only a landscape of objects, as an offertory brought about in a time of truce.

Design Team: Antonio Aricò; Associato Misto; Marco Campardo and Lorenzo Mason; Cristina Celestino; Matteo Cibic; CTRLZAK Studio; Francesco D’Abbraccio (Studio Frames); Folder; Alessandro Gnocchi; Francesca Lanzavecchia (Lanzavecchia + Wai); Lucia Massari; Giacomo Moor; Eugenia Morpurgo; Rio Grande (Lorenzo Cianchi, Natascia Fenoglio, Francesco Valtolina); Sovrappensiero Design Studio; Alessandro Stabile; Studio Gionata Gatto; Studio Zanellato/Bortotto; Gio Tirotto; 4P1B Design Studio
Curators: Silvana Annicchiarico, Giorgio Camuffo

Mexico: Border City
Fernando Romero’s Border City presented a vision for a bi-national city on one of the world’s most important borders, that of the United States and Mexico, whose boundary states are now home to over 100 million people. The concept was rooted in the long history of places where frontiers meet, cities where cultures both clash and blend. This integrated masterplan was conducive to both sides of the border, drawing upon industrial, employment and trade opportunities, while recognising shortcomings in urban planning. Romero’s urban prototype, with a hexagonal plan, offered a new model for cities as populations grow, migration increases, and economies continue to globalise.

Design Team: FR-EE | Fernando Romero EnterprisE; Pentagram; BuroHappold

Taiwan, China: Eatopia
Taiwan’s installation, Eatopia, celebrates diversity in the pursuit of a utopian state, and offers visitors a unique culinary experience in a tranquil forest-like setting. In More’s Utopia, a contented community eats lunch and dinner together every day, and food is always plentiful. These meals play a crucial part in creating the ideal society’s strong social bond. For the Biennale, architect Rain Wu and designer Shikai Tseng have rethought the utopian dining experience with a constructivist menu designed to explore the creative melting pot of Taiwanese identities. The installation promises to engage all of the visitors’ senses, to refresh and provide ‘food for thought’.

Design Team: Rain Wu, Shikai Tseng, Chung-Ho Tsai, Lydia Chang
Curators: Rain Wu, Shikai Tseng

Republic Of Korea: Peach Blossom
An international team blended East, West, ancient and modern with Peach Blossom, a digital map that explored virtual reality and co-created by adding utopian thoughts. The starting point for the Republic of Korea’s installation was Ahn Gyeon’s 1447 drawing Mong Yu Do Won Do (Dream Journey to the Peach Blossom Land). Ahn Gyeon’s ideal vista – of a serene orchard surrounded by craggy mountains – was digitally transformed into an interactive map that could manipulate physical gestures, zooming in and navigating through different levels of abstractions.

Design Team: Austin S. Lee, Goo-Ryong Kang, Jaewon Seok, Sungjoon Steve Won, Kiheon Shin, Jeeyeon Ha, Jae-Hyouk Sung
Curator: Jae-Hyouk Sung

United States: The Immersion Room
The Immersion Room, an interactive installation of digitised wallpapers from Cooper Hewitt, Smithsonian Design Museum’s collection, illustrates how we create ideas of utopia within our own homes. Looking at the transformative capability of wallpaper in creating ideal homes over nearly 300 years, the project offers up a selection of papers from the museum’s extensive archives for digital exploration. A digital pen changes the paper projected. If a preferred utopian backdrop is not found from a range of 100 on offer, you can design an alternative on the console table, where you can also collect and save designs to be viewed later.

Design Team: Cooper Hewitt; Local Projects
Curator: Gregory Herringshaw

South Africa: Otium And Acedia
South Africa’s installation, Otium and Acedia, celebrates liberation and playfulness as fitting statements of a country reborn from a convoluted, visceral history. Porky Hefer has designed a series of hanging nests in the form of animals, into which you can climb. The animals are fairly ferocious: aquatic predators such as the killer whale and the piranha whose gaping maws bristle with teeth. But Hefer’s sub-aquatic utopia is also quirky and cheerful. For a country ’emerging’ from its past struggles, a pervading sense of liberation and innocence takes on an emboldened meaning alongside the theme of utopia.

Designer: Porky Hefer
Curators: Trevyn McGowan, Julian McGowan

Underground -2 Floor

India: Chakraview
Circular forms, traditional textiles and ancient mythology wove together a sense of modern India in Chakraview. “India’s utopias articulate the intersections between ancient myth and modern design”, said curator Rajshree Pathy. “Like the seven chakras, our visions of utopia are simultaneously spiritual and progressive.” Pathy wanted mythology to work in dialogue with contemporary design developments; with leading scenographer Sumant Jayakrishnan, she explored the continuities between India’s past and future, myth and reality. “Like More’s Utopia,” Pathy explained, “or installation is a narrative of India’s diverse religious, social and political journeys and a constantly metamorphosing churn of all the above”.

Designer: Sumant Jayakrishnan
Curator: Rajshree Pathy (Founder, IDF)

Shenzhen, China: New Peak
URBANUS – representing China with their installation Shenzhen: New Peak – addressed the challenges of rapid urban development on limited land resources with a proposal for a series of megastructures that are small cities in themselves. Within just 35 years, Shenzhen, in south-east China, has grown rapidly from a rural town with a mere 300,000 inhabitants to a sprawling metropolis of over 17 million people. As a solution, URBANUS proposed sustainable megastructures to accommodate a growing population of young immigrants, and to support an improved quality of life through shared public facilities and integrated technological solutions.

Design Team: URBANUS
Curator: Xiaodu Liu

Design Biennale 2016
The first London Design Biennale takes place at Somerset House, bringing design installations and exhibitions from 37 of the world’s nations to the heart of the capital. Designers Edward Barber & Jay Osgerby have worked alongside the V&A to create Forecast – a wind powered installation which is displayed in the Edmond J. Safra Fountain Court as the UK’s entry. Forecast responds to the inaugural Biennale’s theme ‘Utopia by Design’; a celebration of the 500th anniversary of the publication of Thomas More’s inspirational text, as part of Somerset House’s UTOPIA 2016 season.

Somerset House
Somerset House is London’s working arts centre built on historic foundations around one of the most beautiful courtyards in Europe.

Situated at the very heart of the capital, we are home to the UK’s largest and most exciting creative community and are overflowing with new ideas, young businesses and fresh perspectives.

Dedicated to backing progress, championing openness, nurturing creativity and empowering ideas, our cultural programme is ambitious in scope. We insist on relevance, but aren’t afraid of irreverence, and are as keen on entertainment as enrichment. We embrace the biggest issues of our times (recent exhibitions and installation have addressed climate change and the work of Black creative pioneers), but are equally committed to the delicate task of oxygenating new work by emerging artists.