South Wing 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.

Chile: The Counterculture Room
A 1970s utopian project to give a socialist state a democratic electronic backbone was reconstructed in 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 and make informed decisions from a futuristic hub that resembles a set from Kubrick’s 2001. This project was called ‘Cybersyn’ and it was a precursor to today’s ‘smart city’. Chile’s installation — curated by Andrés Briceño Gutierrez and Tomás Vivanco Larraín, and designed by FabLab Santiago — told the story of the Cybersyn experience.

Design Team:FabLab Santiago
Curators:Andres Briceño Gutierrez, Tomas Vivanco Larraín

Croatia: Utopian Collective
Collectives have long been a source of utopian principles and practices — and Croatia has a history of producing them. Curator Maša Milovac invited eight emerging designers to join forces and form the Utopian Collective to draw on this ethos of cooperation. As well as presenting a set of objects produced by the designers, the result of a series of workshops, the collective interprets the process itself as an end result. It explored collaborative design as a possible response to the individualistic practices set up as imperatives of competitiveness in consumer society and a neoliberal market environment.

Design Team: Maja Čule, Mauro Ferlin, Hrvoje Hiršl, Maja Kolar, Mauro Massarotto, Maša Poljanec, Oleg Šuran, Hrvoje Živčić
Curator: Maša Milovac

Russia: Discovering Utopia: Lost Archives Of Soviet Design
Discovering Utopia: Lost Archives of Soviet Design offered a glimpse into an idealised world created by Soviet designers that, for the most part, never left the space of their workshops. In the Soviet Union, designers developed daring projects that were inspired by ‘utopian’ visions of the future. The Russian installation, presented as a rediscovered archive, told the story of the forgotten projects created at the All-Union Soviet Institute of Technical Aesthetics (VNIITE) and Soviet Design Studios (SHKB) between the 1960s and 1980s. The institute brought together designers, sociologists, philosophers, cultural and art historians, working at the forefront of design theory and research.

Design Team: Stepan Lukyanov (designer); Olga Druzhinina, Natalia Goldchteine, Ekaterina Shapkina (administrators)
Curator: Alexandra Sankova

Sweden: Welcome To Weden
Welcome to Weden rethinks design and manufacturing on collaborative, artisanal grounds. The name emphasises the ‘we’ in Sweden, and points towards a more inclusive future society – a ‘wetopia’. The project promotes the strength of collaboration, inviting 15 designers and manufacturers to work together on different, more equal terms. The installation shows the result of these collaborations—design projects that point towards smaller-scale and non-hierarchical local production, with room for the artistic process. All parties share the rewards as well as the risks. It presents an intriguing counter-strategy to the existing model of unethical, far-flung, large-scale mass production.

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Design Team: Form/Design Center (Producer); Katja Pettersson (Exhibition Architecture); VarvVarv (Graphic Design)
Curator: Jenny Nordberg

Switzerland: In-Between: The Utopia Of The Neutral
Seven Swiss design studios have partnered with seven specialist industrial manufacturers, each with niche knowledge of a particular field, for In-between: The Utopia of the Neutral – a project that reflects upon cultural identity, design tradition and exchange of knowledge. It’s an interpretation that draws on Switzerland’s traditions of political neutrality and Swiss design history, and has led to experimental collaborations that demand ‘speculation, fluidity and dialogue’. Against a perception of the neutral as the hidden, static or indifferent, the project imagines the ‘in between’ as a fundamental space to probe neutrality as a catalyst for movement.

Design Team: Dimitri Baehler with Mouvement; Adrien Rovero; Joerg Boner; Sarah Kueng & Lovis Caputo; Stephanie Baechler; Sybille Stoeckli; Dominic Plueer & Olivier Smitt; Damian Fopp (installation design)
Curator: Giovanna Lisignoli

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.