New Wing and Courtyard 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.

New Wing

Cuba: Parawifi
Cuba celebrated a political revolution in 1959; now it is on the cusp of a digital revolution, which is given structure in the modular system, PARAWIFI. There are now 135 wi-fi spots in Cuba, most in Havana. As smartphone users surf the web, using prepaid access cards, and engage with the utopian realm that is the virtual cloud, they have to stand or sit on the kerb and other makeshift street furniture. The designers Luis Ramirez and Michel Aguilar want to change all that with a series of pods, reminiscent of Verner Panton’s Living Towers, that can be clustered to form digital oases that radically rethink urban space.

Design TeamLuis Ramirez, Michel Aguilar
Curators: Luis Ramirez, Michel Aguilar

Norway: Reaching For Utopia—Inclusive Design In Practice
Reaching for Utopia—Inclusive Design in Practice was an ensemble of projects that demonstrated how Norway’s people-centred approach to design and architecture permeates life, business and society. The projects were picked from the public sector, across a wide range of disciplines. These included St. Olavs Hospital in Trondheim, the Bergen Light Rail project and Bergen University College. Together, they demonstrated design’s capability to distil a greater political ideal into real environments that improve daily lives in Norway. An ambitious government action plan to make Norway ‘inclusively designed’ by 2025 is underway, with examples of accessible design leading the way.

Design Team: Victoria Høisæther, Linda Falang (Norwegian Centre for Design and Architecture)
Curator: Onny Eikhaug (Programme Leader — Design for All, Norwegian Centre for Design and Architecture)

Poland: Cadavre Exquis: An Anatomy Of Utopia
Cadavre Exquis: an Anatomy of Utopia, a spatial version of the Surrealist game, playfully invited visitors to arrive at their own utopia through a series of decisive moves. The Polish team — designer Maria Jeglinska and art historian and critic Klara Czerniewska—were more fascinated by the imaginary journey that led to Thomas More’s island than the destination itself. To this end, Jeglinska and Czerniewska devised a site-specific spatial game of Cadavre Exquis (or “Exquisite Corpse”), in which visitors constructed their own ideas of utopia (or dystopia) by navigating various questions and making subsequent moves.

Design Team: Maria Jeglinska (designer); Krzysztof Pyda (visual identity); Kaja Kusztra (epilogue); Paweł Andryszczyk (sound)
Curators: Klara Czerniewska, Maria Jeglinska


Albania: Bliss
Referencing utopian city planning, Helidon Xhixha’s Bliss was a concentric arrangement of stainless steel columns and benches that are designed to encourage both self-reflection and solidarity. The mirrored surfaces of the taller columns created reflections, creating myriad opportunities for interaction. The circular layout of the benches aimed to facilitate democratic discussion and exchange, demonstrating the need for community and unification in any ideal city. With reference to the current migration crisis, the core of the installation bore the engraved outline of Europe’s borders, considered by many refugees as a modern-day utopia.

Design Team: Helidon Xhixha (Artist); Mara Firetti (Relationship Manager)
Curator: Dino Korca

Nigeria: ỤLỌ
Nigeria wastes billions of pounds worth of gas in flaring, burnt off as a byproduct of collecting oil, causing terrible pollution and health issues. With Ụlọ, which translates as ‘home’, the Nigerian team looked at how to restore environmental balance to the fragile Niger Delta. The installation, a contemporary take on a typical home in the region, was raised on stilts elevated above an oil trough, suggesting a utopian future where oil was perceived in alternate ramifications. Other exhibits included objects made from recycled petroleum products, an interactive light installation about gas flares, and a survival raincoat designed to deal with flash floods.

Curator: Gozi Ochonogor
Supporting Bodies: ArtHouse Foundation; Aspire Microfinance Bank; Ford Foundation; John Obayuwana; U.Mi-1;Omooba Yemisi Adedoyin Shyllon Art Foundation; Contributors: Portfolio Architecture; Charley Brentnall; Ifigeneia Dilaveraki; Jack Hawker; MitiMeth; Studio Seventi; Bini Struct-e

United Kingdom: Forecast
Edward Barber and Jay Osgerby’s installation Forecast, in collaboration with the V&A, moves with the wind, evoking Britain’s nautical past and its future use of renewable energy. Historically, Britain has relied on harnessing the wind for transportation, migration, trade and exploration. Today it is one of the leaders in wind power generation. The kinetic sculpture, fabricated by Litestructures with engineering by Arup and Mott MacDonald, evokes the romantic image of a tall ship sailing, as well as the opportunity to harness the wind for a sustainable future for our planet. As Thomas More wrote in Utopia, ” You wouldn’t abandon ship in a storm just because you couldn’t control the winds.”

Design Team: Edward Barber OBE and Jay Osgerby OBE
Curator: Victoria Broackes (V&A)

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.