London Design Biennale has announced the full plans for its inaugural event this summer, which will see leading designers from more than 30 countries come to the capital to demonstrate innovation and research-led ideas for tackling major global problems.
The biennale is being produced by the team behind London Design Festival and will overlap with it, running from 7-27 September at Somerset House.
“It’s not about sofas and chairs but real world issues”
LDB president John Sorrell says that LDB will provide “a challenging look at design from a global perspective” and director Christopher Turner says that the event is not a trade show – “It’s not about sofas and chairs but real world issues.”
Turner and his team have spent the last few months meeting exhibitors from six continents and he says LBD has recruited “the best designers and design museums around the world”.
Each country’s team is responding to the theme Utopia by Design in its own way, raising issues around sustainability, migration, pollution, water and social equality.
Turner says the Utopia theme, which is being used by Somerset House throughout 2016, marks the 500th anniversary of the publication of Thomas More’s book of the same name and gives designers the opportunity to reflect on the history of Modernist design it inspired.
“Provoking real change”
With this in mind the LDB teams will “explore how architecture, design and engineering might contribute in some way to making the world a better place and our cities more liveable,” says Turner.
He says: “The utopian impulse allows us to escape the blinkers of the present and dream, telling stories about alternative futures that ask important questions about the world in which we live.
“The London Design Biennale will feature some of these provocations, which aim to provoke real change by suggesting inspiring or cautionary futures.”
How each country views Utopia
France’s Benjamin Loyauté has visited Syria and is looking at the geopolitics of design, while Greece’s Gregoriades design team is creating a work around the refugee crisis by looking at the country’s history of mass population movement through its borders.
Israel has assembled a multidisciplinary team to investigate the distribution of first aid and how more could be parachuted into disaster zones, while Nigeria’s team wants to show how floating buildings could be a solution to rising sea levels and will demonstrate a prototype at the event.
Australia’s Brodie Neill has chosen to tackle the problem of plastic polluting our oceans by looking at how fine waste particles can be recycled.
More abstract interpretations of the theme include Russia’s entrants, who are analysing failed Modernist utopias and how they’ve gone wrong.
A German team led by Konstantin Grcic will present an installation exploring the psychological roots of utopia.
Mexican architect and urbanist Fernando Romero is looking at the potential of car-free future cities.
The UK will be represented by Barber and Osgerby, who are working with the V&A on a piece, which is being kept under wraps for now.
The Cooper Hewitt, Smithsonian Museum will, on behalf of the USA, create an immersive space where visitors can design their own “perfect environment” in real time by making it appear on the walls that surround them.
Other institutions involved include Belgium’s DAMnation, the German Design Council, Directorate general for the Arts from Portugal, Moscow Design Museum, Italy’s Triennale Design Museum, India Design Forum, Southern Guild in South Africa and the Japan Foundation.
The institutions will work with teams comprising designers, architects, scientists, writers and artists.
The branding for London Design Biennale 2016 has been designed by Pentagram.