Our wrap of the inaugural London Design Biennale

May 22, 2022

The first ever London Design Biennale, in partnership with Jaguar and Somerset House, brought together curations by the leading museums and design organisations around the world.

Cooper Hewitt, Smithsonian Design Museum (USA), DAMnº Magazine (Belgium), German Design Council, the MAK and Austria Design Net, Moscow Design Museum (Russia), Triennale Design Museum (Italy), India Design Forum, Southern Guild (South Africa), the Japan Foundation, and Victoria and Albert Museum (UK) were some of the groups from 37 countries and territories who created future cities and paid homage to unrealised utopian concepts of the past.

The theme for the inaugural event was ' ‘Utopia by Design’, which was chosen as part of Somerset House’s UTOPIA 2016: A Year of Imagination and Possibility, to mark the 500th anniversary of the publication of Thomas More’s work of fiction and political philosophy; 'Utopia'.

We've explored the most impressive creations below...

South Africa: 'Otium and Arcadia'Designer Porky Hefer of Porky Hefer Design strives to produce work that elicits a smile and stays in your head. What he created for the London Design Biennale was exactly this. The series of sea and land animals, suspended from the ceiling and with mouths you can climb into are playful yet, at the same time, slightly eerie in their stillness.  They were created using unique South African artisanal skills including weaving, stitching and splicing.


Images above from here, here, here, here and here.

Italy - 'White Flag'In stark contrast to South Africa's installation is Italy's monochromatic and melancholic creation. 20 of the nation's designers reinterpreted the symbolic white flag as an emblem of a 'global truce'. Each day of the Biennale, a flag was removed and replaced by an object chosen or created by the designer. It was an art scene that evolved and had a sense of urgency about it, representing the unstable nature of peace and utopia.





Images above from here.

Austria – LeveL.

Depicting the 'precariousness of the utopian ideal, and its potential to unravel when subjected to the reality of everyday life', Austria's kinetic light sculpture was structured so that the slightest breeze caused it to tilt and shake. The sculpture covered an area of around 40 square meters and used LED lights.


Images above from here.

Lebanon - Mezzing in Lebanon.

Lebanon's creation brought a slice of Beirut to London. The recreation of raw, bustling street life complete with falafel and coffee stalls, showcased the street as a workshop of making and designing and highlighted the utopianism of everyday life. You could even enter into the stores to see a quilt maker at work, play backgammon or have your hair cut by a barber. 'Mezzing in Lebanon' won the second medal for "the most inspiring interpretation of the Biennale's 2016 theme".


Images above from here.

Taiwan - Eatopia

Treating visitors to a culinary experience in a whimsical, futuristic forest, Taiwan's installation - Eatopia - saw a community eat their meals together each day and food was always plentiful. The creation emphasised how shared meals play an important role in bringing people together and creating a societal bond.




Images above from here.

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