London Design Biennale 2016 (N-Z)

Posted on 30 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 N to Z and discover their concept on Utopia by Design. 

Netherlands

Netherlands on display at Somerset House for the London Design BiennaleNetherlands on display at Somerset House for the London Design Biennale

Images: Ed Reeve

Considering the archive as utopian, Studio Makkink & Bey present 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 is exhibited as a blue foam diorama, accompanied by a digital archive in which the Dutch design studio elaborate on the narrative power of objects and index their relations to the world. The display explores how designers curate and keep their own archives, but also asks questions about how institutions collect history.

Nigeria

Nigeria on display at the London Design Biennale 2016

Image: Martyn White 

Nigeria wastes billions of pounds worth of gas in flaring, burnt off as a byproduct of collecting oil, causing terrible pollution and health issues. WithỤlọ, which translates as 'home', the Nigerian team looks at how to restore environmental balance to the fragile Niger Delta. The installation, a contemporary take on a typical home in the region, is raised on stilts elevated above an oil trough, suggesting a utopian future where oil is perceived in alternate ramifications. Other exhibits include objects made from recycled petroleum products, an interactive light installation about gas flares, and a survival raincoat designed to deal with flash floods.

Norway 

Norway on display at Somerset House for the London Design BiennaleNorway on display at Somerset House for the London Design Biennale

Images: Ed Reeve

Reaching for Utopia—Inclusive Design in Practice is an ensemble of projects that demonstrates how Norway's people-centred approach to design and architecture permeates life, business and society. The projects have been picked from the public sector, across a wide range of disciplines. These include St. Olavs Hospital in Trondheim, the Bergen Light Rail project and Bergen University College. Together, they demonstrate design's capability to distil a greater political ideal into realenvironments that improve daily lives in Norway. An ambitious government action plan to make Norway 'inclusively designed' by 2025 is under way, with examples of accessible design leading the way.

Pakistan

Pakistan on display at Somerset House for the London Design BiennalePakistan on display at Somerset House for the London Design Biennale

Images: Ed Reeve

Pakistan's installation, Daalaan, is a collaboratively designed abstract 'playground' that breaks down social barriers and invites interaction between strangers. Taking the simplicities of our childhoods as a reference, the Pakistani team created a playroom 'where imagination has no bounds', to encourage people to meet through play and transport them back to a time when they were unhindered by adult anxieties. They hope their playful installation - which features sheesham wood objects, Lattoo Stools (spinning tops), hand-drawn artworks and screen prints made using natural henna dyes - will encourage people to converse and share ideas with open minds.

Poland 

Poland on display at the London Design Biennale Poland on display at the London Design Biennale

Images: Bradley Lloyd Barnes

Cadavre Exquis: an Anatomy of Utopia, a spatial version of the Surrealist game, playfully invites you to arrive at your own utopia through a series of decisive moves. The Polish team — designer Maria Jeglinska and art historian and critic Klara Czerniewska—were more fascinated by the imaginary journey that leads to Thomas More's island than the destination itself. To this end, Jeglinska and Czerniewska have devised a site-specific spatial game of Cadavre Exquis (or "Exquisite Corpse"), in which you must construct your own ideas of utopia (or dystopia) by navigating various questions and making subsequent moves.

Portugal

Portugal on display at Somerset House for the London Design BiennalePortugal on display at Somerset House for the London Design Biennale

Images: Ed Reeve

In UN/BIASED the Portuguese design team merge design and science, using bacteria to visualise data streams pertaining to an opaque, yet eroding factor in Portuguese society: sexism. The installation is comprised of four maps that contrast gender gaps in areas such as wages and higher education. Two maps are computer-generated, animated visualisations that extrapolate a dystopian future based on ongoing downward spiral trends. The other two maps use 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.

Republic of Korea 

Republic of Korea on display at the London Design Bienalle

Image: Ed Reeve

An international team blends East, West, ancient and modern with Peach Blossom, a digital map that you can explore virtually and co-create by adding your own utopian thoughts. The starting point for the Republic of Korea's installation is Ahn Gyeon's 1447 drawing Mong Yu Do Won Do (Dream Journey to the Peach Blossom Land). Ahn Gyeon's ideal vista - of a serene orchard surrounded by craggy mountains - has been digitally transformed into an interactive map that you can manipulate with physical gestures, zooming in and navigating through different levels of abstractions, and by adding your own visions of utopia.

Russia

Russia on display at Somerset House for the London Design BiennaleRussia on display at Somerset House for the London Design Biennale

Images: Ed Reeve

Discovering Utopia: Lost Archives of Soviet Design offers a glimpse into an idealised world created by Soviet designers that, for the most part, never left the space of their workshops. In the Soviet Union, designers developed daring projects that were inspired by 'utopian' visions of the future. The Russian installation, presented as a rediscovered archive, tells the story of the forgotten projects created at the All-Union Soviet Institute of Technical Aesthetics (VNIITE) and Soviet Design Studios (SHKB) between the 1960s and 1980s. The institute brought together designers, sociologists, philosophers, cultural and art historians, working at the forefront of design theory and research.

Saudi Arabia

Saudi Arabia on display at Somerset House for the London Design BiennaleSaudi Arabia on display at Somerset House for the London Design Biennale

Images: Ed Reeve

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 have drawn on this situation in their installation to highlight the need for a global structural change towards sustainable use of resources.

South Africa 

South Africa on display at the London Design Bienalle

Image: Martyn White

South Africa's installation, Otium and Acedia, celebrates liberation and playfulness as fitting statements of a country reborn from a convoluted, visceral history. Porky Hefer has designed a series of hanging nests in the form of animals, into which you can climb. The animals are fairly ferocious: aquatic predators such as the killer whale and the piranha whose gaping maws bristle with teeth. But Hefer's sub-aquatic utopia is also quirky and cheerful. For a country 'emerging' from its past struggles, a pervading sense of liberation and innocence takes on an emboldened meaning alongside the theme of utopia.

Spain

Spain on display at Somerset House for the London Design BiennaleSpain on display at Somerset House for the London Design Biennale

Images: Ed Reeve

With thousands of sensors that monitor things such as air pollution, noise and temperature, the smart city of Santander uses technology to improve urban life and the environment. Inspired by its success, VRPolis, Diving into the Future asks what a smart city could be capable of 100 years from now. An immersive 360-degree virtual-reality film imagines how medium-sized towns of the future could harness new technologies to make improvements in the fields of energy, mobility, connectivity, habitat, architecture, water and waste. This project shows prospective and possible sustainable futures based on emerging trends. It is a practical tool and could play an inspirational role for inventors and innovators.

Sweeden

Sweeden on display at Somerset House for the London Design BiennaleSweeden on display at Somerset House for the London Design Biennale

Images: Ed Reeve

Welcome to Weden rethinks design and manufacturing on collaborative, artisanal grounds. The name emphasises the 'we' in Sweden, and points towards a more inclusive future society - a 'wetopia'. The project promotes the strength of collaboration, inviting 15 designers and manufacturers to work together on different, more equal terms. The installation shows the result of these collaborations—design projects that point towards smaller-scale and non-hierarchical local production, with room for the artistic process. All parties share the rewards as well as the risks. It presents an intriguing counter-strategy to the existing model of unethical, far-flung, large-scale mass production.

Switzerland

Switzerland on display at Somerset House for the London Design BiennaleSwitzerland on display at Somerset House for the London Design Biennale

Images: Ed Reeve

Seven Swiss design studios have partnered with seven specialist industrial manufacturers, each with niche knowledge of a particular field, for In-between: The Utopia of the Neutral - a project that reflects upon cultural identity, design tradition and exchange of knowledge. It's an interpretation that draws on Switzerland's traditions of political neutrality and Swiss design history, and has led to experimental collaborations that demand 'speculation, fluidity and dialogue'. Against a perception of the neutral as the hidden, static or indifferent, the project imagines the 'in between' as a fundamental space to probe neutrality as a catalyst for movement.

Taiwan 

Taiwan Eatopia at the London Design Biennale

Image: Martyn White 

Taiwan's installation, Eatopia, celebrates diversity in the pursuit of a utopian state, and offers visitors a unique culinary experience in a tranquil forest-like setting. In More's Utopia, a contented community eats lunch and dinner together every day, and food is always plentiful. These meals play a crucial part in creating the ideal society's strong social bond. For the Biennale, architect Rain Wu and designer Shikai Tseng have rethought the utopian dining experience with a constructivist menu designed to explore the creative melting pot of Taiwanese identities. The installation promises to engage all of the visitors' senses, to refresh and provide 'food for thought'.

Tunisia

Tunisia on display at Somerset House for the London Design BiennaleTunisia on display at Somerset House for the London Design Biennale

Images: Ed Reeve

In Pulse Diagram, architect Chacha Atallah, working in collaboration with artist Haythem Zakaria, reflects on the fragile foundations of so-called utopias. It is composed of 54 pylons, which refer to the 54 cities in More's Utopia, linked to each other by charred beams, created using an ancient Japanese technique that scorches the wood to extend its lifespan. In the early 1960s, the architect Yona Friedman proposed a 'mobile city', a series of moveable and floating megastructures, suspended on a grid of stilts so that they left a minimal footprint. With its burned wood supports, the Tunisian installation both celebrates Friedman's 'feasible utopia', and points to its fragile foundations.

Turkey

Turkey on display at Somerset House for the London Design BiennaleTurkey on display at Somerset House for the London Design Biennale

Images: Ed Reeve

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.

UAE

UAE on display at Somerset House for the London Design BiennaleUAE on display at Somerset House for the London Design Biennale

Images: Ed Reeve

A vast system of planned irrigation once stretched across the Gulf, bringing water and vitality to desert communities. Al Falaj: Water Systems of the Gulf's Oases shows how it could again be relevant to the UAE's rapidly globalising cities. Based on studies of the few authentic examples of falaj channels still in use, the exhibition explores how the idea could be adapted for use today. As well as an effective agricultural system, Al Falaj is a utopian idea in nature. Applied over centuries of development, the channels have become places where public and private realms meet, facilitating exchange. It is also a fair way of dividing water, a measured way of allocating resources in a hot and dry climate.

United Kingdom

United Kingdom on display at Somerset House for the London Design BiennaleUnited Kingdom on display at Somerset House for the London Design Biennale

Images: Ed Reeve

Edward Barber and Jay Osgerby's installation Forecast, in collaboration with the V&A, moves with the wind, evoking Britain's nautical past and its future use of renewable energy. Historically, Britain has relied on harnessing the wind for transportation, migration, trade and exploration. Today it is one of the leaders in wind power generation. The kinetic sculpture, fabricated by Litestructures with engineering by Arup and Mott MacDonald, evokes the romantic image of a tall ship sailing, as well as the opportunity to harness the wind for a sustainable future for our planet. As Thomas More wrote in Utopia, " You wouldn't abandon ship in a storm just because you couldn't control the winds."





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