West 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.

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

France: Le Bruit Des Bonbons — The Astounding Eyes Of Syria
Memories of Syria were collected and shared through le bruit des bonbons — The Astounding Eyes of Syria in a bid to preserve, stir up and share immaterial memories of its living heritage. Benjamin Loyauté visited displaced Syrians and refugees to make a film that tells of the tragedy of the war and the memories that survive untrammelled. By collecting ‘memories of sweets’, Loyauté hoped to preserve these stories, while also provoking our will to act. The visitor was invited, in a performance, to buy packets of Loyauté’s candy, modelled on an Assyrian idol, from a vending machine. All proceeds helped educate children of displaced families and refugees.

Designer: Benjamin Loyauté

Germany:Utopia Means Elsewhere
The Pavillion took its title from a quote by John Malkovich that is set in classic typography on an outsized easel in a brilliant white space. In an ancillary, darkened room visitors could sit in chairs of Grcic’s design in contemplation around a flickering, hypnotic digital fire, so as to encourage your mind to drift off ‘elsewhere’. This was intended to encourage collective dreaming and evoke humanity’s primordial fantasy of a better world.

Design Team: Konstantin Grcic, Olivia Herms
Curator: Konstantin Grcic

Indonesia: Freedome
Freedome was inspired by a utopian enterprise from the middle of the 20th century: the 1955 Asian-African Conference, held in the Indonesian city of Bandung. Twenty-nine Asian and African countries attended this summit, representing one-and-a-half billion people, and agreed a ten-point declaration on the promotion of world peace and cooperation. The dome, made of coir and derived from the mandala, had at its peak a floating bowl, seemingly defying gravity. The bowl hovered over the dome to suggest an ‘open satellite’, an informational hub free of political standpoints and territorial boundaries. It represented the continuing search for the principles enshrined in the Bandung Charter: independence, equality, humanity and peace.

Design Team: Adi Purnomo, Irwan Ahmett, Bagus Pandega
Curators: Danny Wicaksono, Diana Nazir, Hafiz Rancajale, Hermawan Tanzil

Israel: Human.Touch
With two socially focused projects, Israel’s Human.Touch showed how design can address social needs and impact positively on society. Yaniv Kadosh’s AIDrop was a first-aid distribution system that employed self-rotating units to drop 3kg cartons of supplies over disaster zones, serving wide and potentially remote places until further essentials can be delivered by road. Sharona Merlin’s Louder was a pair of speakers for the deaf and hard of hearing that translated sounds into visual textures and floor vibrations that can be felt through the feet. Israel’s exhibition looked to design as a strategic tool to help resolve the complex challenges of our economy and society.

Design Team: Yaniv Kadosh, Sharona Merlin
Curators: Tami Warshavski, Hila Shaltieli

Japan: A Journey Around The Neighbourhood Globe
Yasuhiro Suzuki’s installation, A Journey Around the Neighbourhood Globe, promised to change the way we look at everyday things. Suzuki likes to take a sideways look at everyday objects, a Japanese concept called ‘mitate’ or ‘looking at one thing as if it were another’. His installation consisted of a large inflatable human figure, titled ‘Napping Traveller’, and acrylic suitcases that contain Suzuki’s works inspired by everyday objects. “Although everything inside will be familiar to visitors, they can use these objects to look at things in a fresh way,” Suzuki said. “When they leave the room, visitors’ way of looking at the world will have changed.”

Design Team: Yasuhiro Suzuki (Artist); Noriko Kawakami (Curatorial Advisor); Hiroshi Kashiwagi, Motomi Kawakami, Kozo Fujimoto, Noriko Kawakami (Advisory Committee)

The Netherlands: Design Diorama: The Archive As A Utopic Environment
Considering the archive as utopian, Studio Makkink & Bey presented Design Diorama: The Archive as a Utopic Environment, a narrative installation of objects, products and memorabilia drawn from the home of architect Rianne Makkink and designer Jurgen Bey. This autobiographical representation was exhibited as a blue foam diorama, accompanied by a digital archive in which the Dutch design studio elaborated on the narrative power of objects and indexed their relations to the world. The display explored how designers curated and kept their own archives, but also asked questions about how institutions collect history.

Design Team: Studio Makkink & Bey
Curators: Studio Makkink & Bey

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)

Portugal: Un/Biased
In UN/BIASED, the Portuguese design team merged design and science, using bacteria to visualise data streams pertaining to an opaque, yet eroding factor in Portuguese society: sexism. The installation comprised of four maps that contrasted gender gaps in areas such as wages and higher education. Two maps were computer-generated; animated visualisations extrapolated a dystopian future based on ongoing downward spiral trends. The other two maps used biological elements (plants, viruses, and bacteria) to represent an invigorated utopian nation, characterised by progressive socio-economic indicators. Utopia is conveyed by the equalitarian map landscapes and the use of natural elements as instruments for data visualisation.

Design Team: Marta de Menezes, Pedro Miguel Cruz
Curator: Manuel Lima

Saudi Arabia: Water Machine
Water Machine is a giant gumball machine, of the kind familiar from newsagents and corner shops, which will distribute globes of water if you insert the right money. Water is an increasingly scarce resource the world over, but there are few places that this fact is felt as keenly as Saudi Arabia. Primarily desert, the country relies on desalinisation plants to reclaim fresh water from the sea, an expensive and energy-hungry process. Sisters Noura and Basma Bouzo drew on this situation in their installation to highlight the need for a global structural change towards sustainable use of resources.

Design Team: Basma Bouzo, Noura Bouzo
Curators: Basma Bouzo, Noura Bouzo

Turkey: The Wish Machine
The Wish Machine, by multi-disciplinary practice Autoban, is a contemporary version of the ‘wish tree’ on which people tie notes of hope. Messages fed into the Wish Machine are carried through a tunnel of transparent pneumatic tubes and around the West Wing of Somerset House, before being deposited into the unknown, like coins tossed into the bottom of a well. The gesture of casting a wish into the dark reflects the profound hope of those among the biggest movement of people in recorded history, who search for utopian lands with dreams of a better future

Design Team: Seyhan Özdemir, Sefer Çağlar, Çağla Gürbay, Zeynep Akten (Autoban); Paul McMillen, Zehra Uçar,Koray Malhan (curatorial advisors); Umut Südüak (graphic design)
Supporting Bodies: Turkishceramics (sponsor); TEKNO/BARRISOL (production support); Republic of Turkey Ministry of Culture and Tourism

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.

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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.