London Design Biennale 2016 (A-M)

Posted on 29 September 2016

Between 7-27th September, Somerset House played host to the very first London Design Biennale. Nations from six continents presented newly commissioned works that explore the theme "Utopia by Design" Below, you can see images and descriptions from each country / territory in alphabetical order from A to M and discover their concept on Utopia by Design. 

Albania

Albania on display at Somerset House for the London Design BiennaleAlbania on display at Somerset House for the London Design Biennale

Images: Ed Reeve

Referencing utopian city planning, Helidon Xhixha's Bliss is 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 create reflections, creating myriad opportunities for interaction. The circular layout of the benches aims 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 bears the engraved outline of Europe's borders, considered by many refugees as a modern-day utopia.

Australia

Australia on display at Somerset House for the London Design BiennaleAustralia on display at Somerset House for the London Design Biennale

Images: Ed Reeve

Designer Brodie Neill's Plastic Effects highlights an ugly problem: the estimated five trillion plastic items that pollute the world's oceans. Fragmented particles of plastic –a material once considered utopian in itself – enter the food chain to devastate marine life of all kinds, and thousands of tonnes of debris are washed up on Australia's coastline every year. Neill's installation highlights this problem by harvesting and recycling marine micro-plastic to produce a terrazzo-like composite, inlaid as a kaleidoscopic diagram, displayed here in the Gyro table.

Austria

Austria on display at Somerset House for the London Design BiennaleAustria on display at Somerset House for the London Design Biennale

Images: Ed Reeve

A reflection on the fragile balance of utopia, mischer'traxler's kinetic light sculpture, LeveL, is poised to unsteady itself at the slightest movement. When the mobile is perfectly still, the lights are at their brightest, illuminating the room fully. As you enter and move around the space, your breath and the drafts of air you create make the rods tilt and the LEDs dim, setting the mobile out of balance. The delicate and ever-changing sculpture reflects on the precariousness of the utopian ideal, and its potential to unravel when subjected to the reality of everyday life.

Belgium

Belgium on display at Somerset House for the London Design BiennaleBelgium on display at Somerset House for the London Design Biennale

Images: Ed Reeve

Belgium muses on today's EUtopia by producing a new utopian map as a symbolic wake-up call for Europe. Thomas More's Utopia was first published in the Belgian city of Leuven, along with a map of the fictional island in the shape of a human skull. Belgium's design team reconsider these utopian roots in light of the Belgium of 500 years later; Brussels is Europe's capital but, with Brexit, the 50-year dream of a united Europe is fast unravelling. The artist van Innis, whose murals in Maalbeek subway station, just 600m from the EU parliament, were destroyed in this year's terrorist attack, considers this uncertain future in a new map of EUtopia.

Chilie

Chilie display for the London design biennale

Image: Bradley Lloyd Barnes

A 1970s utopian project to give a socialist state a democratic electronic backbone is 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 — tells the story of the Cybersyn experience.

China

China on display at Somerset House for the London Design BiennaleChina on display at Somerset House for the London Design Biennale

Images: Ed Reeve

URBANUS - representing China with their installation Shenzhen: New Peak - address the challenges of rapid urban development on limited land resources with a proposal for a series of megastructures that are small cities in themselves. Within just 35 years, Shenzhen, in south-east China, has grown rapidly from a rural town with a mere 300,000 inhabitants to a sprawling metropolis of over 17 million people. As a solution, URBANUS propose sustainable megastructures to accommodate a growing population of young immigrants, and to support an improved quality of life through shared public facilities and integrated technological solutions.

Croatia

Croatia on display at Somerset House for the London Design Biennale

Images: Ed Reeve

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 explores collaborative design as a possible response to the individualistic practices set up as imperatives of competitiveness in consumer society and a neoliberal market environment.

Cuba

Cuba display at the London Design BiennaleCuba on display at the London Design Biennale

Images: Bradley Lloyd Barnes

Cuba celebrated a political revolution in 1959; now it is on the cusp of a digital revolution, which is given structure in the modular system, PARAWIFI. There are now 135 wi-fi spots in Cuba, most in Havana. As smartphone users surf the web, using prepaid access cards, and engage with the utopian realm that is the virtual cloud, they have to stand or sit on the kerb and other makeshift street furniture. The designers Luis Ramirez and Michel Aguilar want to change all that with a series of pods, reminiscent of Verner Panton's Living Towers, that can be clustered to form digital oases that radically rethink urban space

France

France on display at Somerset House for the London Design BiennaleFrance on display at Somerset House for the London Design Biennale

Images: Ed Reeve

Memories of Syria are 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 hopes to preserve these stories, while also provoking our will to act. The visitor is invited, in a performance, tobuy packets of Loyauté's candy, modelled on an Assyrian idol, from a vending machine. All proceeds will help educate children of displaced families and refugees.

Germany 

Germany on display at Somerset House for the London Design BiennaleGermany on display at Somerset House for the London Design Biennale

Images: Ed Reeve

Split into two spaces - one light and the other dark - Konstantin Grcic and Olivia Herms's Utopia Means Elsewhere, explores the psychological, subjective roots of the idea of utopia. The piece takes 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 you can 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 is intended to encourage collective dreaming and evoke humanity's primordial fantasy of a better world.

Greece

Greece on display at Somerset House for the London Design BiennaleGreece on display at Somerset House for the London Design Biennale

Images: Ed Reeve

Utopian Landscape, a digital recreation of a marble quarry at Dionysus, is potentground for an investigation into heritage, trade and population movement. For on·entropy, marble and light serve as useful metaphors for the shifting social and cultural patterns caused by migration, and for the paradoxes, continuities and disruptions of utopia. Marble idols, made in the Cyclades islands 5,000 years ago, were widely distributed across the Aegean Sea, providing evidence of early trade and travels. The Greek team reference the current flows and transitions of people, contextualised against a long history of population movement through Greece - a geographic bridge between east and west.

India

India on display at Somerset House for the London Design BiennaleIndia on display at Somerset House for the London Design Biennale

Images: Ed Reeve

Circular forms, traditional textiles and ancient mythology weave together a sense of modern India in Chakraview. "India's utopias articulate the intersections between ancient myth and modern design", says curator Rajshree Pathy. "Like the seven chakras, our visions of utopia are simultaneously spiritual and progressive." Pathy wanted mythology to work in dialogue with contemporary design developments; with leading scenographer Sumant Jayakrishnan, she explored the continuities between India's past and future, myth and reality. "Like More's Utopia," Pathy explains, "or installation is a narrative of India's diverse religious, social and political journeys and a constantly metamorphosing churn of all the above".

Indonesia

Indonesia on display at Somerset House for the London Design BiennaleIndonesia on display at Somerset House for the London Design Biennale

Images: Ed Reeve

Freedome is 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, has at its peak a floating bowl, seemingly defying gravity. The bowl hovers over the dome to suggest an 'open satellite', an informational hub free of political standpoints and territorial boundaries. It represents the continuing search for the principles enshrined in the Bandung Charter: independence, equality, humanity and peace.

Isreal

Isreal on display at Somerset House for the London Design BiennaleIsreal on display at Somerset House for the London Design Biennale

Images: Ed Reeve

With two socially focused projects, Israel's Human.Touch shows how design can address social needs and impact positively on society. Yaniv Kadosh's AIDrop is a first-aid distribution system that employs 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 is a pair of speakers for the deaf and hard of hearing that translates sounds into visual textures and floor vibrations that can be felt through the feet. Israel's exhibition looks to design as a strategic tool to help resolve the complex challenges of our economy and society.

Italy 

Italy at the London Design BiannaleItaly at the London Design Bienalle at Somerset House

Images: Bradley Lloyd Barnes

Twenty Italian designers have been asked to rethink the symbolic White Flag as a utopian emblem of global truce. The results are placed on the world map at the heart of the installation, but each day of the Biennale, one of the flags is removed and replaced by an object chosen or created by the designer. The intention is to instill a sense of urgency, even emergency, for the chosen places marked on the map. In the end there will be only a landscape of objects, as an offertory brought about in a time of truce.

Japan

Japan on display at Somerset House for the London Design BiennaleJapan on display at Somerset House for the London Design Biennale

Images: Ed Reeve

Yasuhiro Suzuki's installation, A Journey Around the Neighbourhood Globe, promises 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 consists 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 says. "When they leave the room, visitors' way of looking at the world will have changed."

Lebanon

Lebanon on display at Somerset House for the London Design BiennaleLebanon on display at Somerset House for the London Design Biennale

Images: Ed Reeve

Mezzing In Lebanon brings a slice of Beirut street life to the centre of London, celebrating utopia through the everyday designs of the people of Lebanon. The installation brings a bustling scene of falafel and coffee stalls, a small lounge cinema, street signs, carts, and even an authentic barber shop to Somerset House. As you sit, eat, drink, smoke and talk, you will be transported to the streets of Beirut. Architect Annabel Karim Kassar finds glimpses of utopia in the bricolage of Beirut's raw, functional and authentic urban interventions, and the diverse ways in which people occupy social space.

Mexico

Mexico on display at the London Design Biennale Somerset House

Images: Bradley Lloyd Barnes

Fernando Romero's Border City presents a vision for a binational city on one of the world's most important borders, that of the United States and Mexico, whose boundary states are now home to over 100 million people. The concept is rooted in the long history of places where frontiers meet, cities where cultures both clash and blend. This integrated masterplan is conducive to both sides of the border, drawing upon industrial, employment and trade opportunities, while recognising shortcomings in urban planning. Romero's urban prototype, with a hexagonal plan, might offer a new model for cities as populations grow, migration increases, and economies continue to globalise.





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