London Design Biennale announces Egypt, USA and Latvia as award winners

The huge design exhibition, which takes place every two years, has seen 40 countries across six continents create designs in response to the theme Emotional States.

London Design Biennale branding, by Domenic Lippa

The London Design Biennale, which sees over 40 countries create installations based on a theme, has announced the winners of its awards.

The Biennale is now in its second edition, first taking place in 2016, and this year saw 40 countries from across the world design pavilions based on the theme of Emotional States.

These are currently covering the expanse of London gallery Somerset House, including all wings of the space, courtyard and riverside areas, and will remain there throughout most of September.

Three medals have been awarded to countries this year for their contributions, including the overall medal, the emotional states medal, and the best design medal.

A fourth award, the public medal, is voted for by visitors, and will be announced on 19 September. The other three award-winners have been selected by the Biennale’s International Jury, a group of 14 people including Jonathan Reekie, director at Somerset House Trust and Paola Antonelli, senior curator at the Museum of Modern Art (MoMA).

Egypt pavilion render, courtesy of London Design Biennale 2018

Egypt has won the overall medal, having submitted the “most outstanding overall contribution”, say the London Design Biennale organisers.

The country’s installation is a fictional depiction of an exhibition set in 1939 put on by the editors of Al Emara, the first Arabic-language design magazine, which was published between 1939 and 1959.

The make-believe artwork looks to mourn the loss of the country’s modernist architecture, design and buildings, many of which have now been demolished, mutilated or have no heritage status and upkeep.

USA pavilion Face Values render, courtesy of courtesy of London Design Biennale 2018

USA has won the emotional states medal, sponsored by Panasonic, for “the most inspiring interpretation of the 2018 theme”. The country’s pavilion, put together by the Cooper Hewitt museum, scans visitors’ facial expressions to depict their emotional states, as well as make assumptions about their demographics such as race, age and gender, making a comment about the invasiveness of facial recognition technology.

Latvia pavilion render, Matter to Matter, courtesy of London Design Biennale 2018

The best design medal has gone to Latvia, for having the “most exceptional design”. The installation involves a giant wall of condensation, where visitors can leave “fleeting messages” that quickly disappear, which nod to the transient and ever-changing nature of emotions.

Poland and China received commendations, and the fourth public medal has yet to be awarded.

The winners each receive a physical medal. These have been designed by East London-based jewellery studio Shimell and Madden, and has been inspired by geometric shapes, say the Biennale organisers. They are made of metal, which has been manipulated to create four, warped circular shapes, which are each “subtly different” to represent the “intricate factors that distinguish us and our emotions”.

Each medal also has a mirrored surface, to reference the idea of facial expressions and emotion once again.

The winner of the public medal will be announced on 17 September 2018. To cast your vote for your favourite country pavilion online, head here.

The London Design Biennale 2018 runs until 23 September 2018 at Somerset House, Strand, London WC2R 1LA. Tickets cost £19.50, or £16.50 for concessions. For more information, head here.

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