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London Design Biennale Overview, Participants, Reviews, Utopia

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A first step in London and a giant leap for Design – Introducing the London Design Biennale

The first edition of the London Design Biennale will take place at Somerset House this September. The first of its kind event brings together 37 countries showcasing their best in innovative design under the theme of “Utopia by Design.” Somerset House, has dedicated their program to the celebration of the 5ooth anniversary of Thomas More’s philosophical work of fiction Utopia, to reflect on the rich history of the modernist design it inspired and to explore how architecture, design, and engineering might contribute in some way to making the world a better place and our cities more livable.

The three-week biennial, put on by the same people who organize the well-respected London Design Festival, will see countries ranging from Norway and Russia to Japan and India each presenting their own themed section. The range of interactive installations, artworks and design solutions, curated by leading museums and institutions, aims to examine ways to improve the world, drawing on topics including sustainability, migration, pollution, water and social equality.

The Cooper Hewitt Smithsonian Design Museum will be representing the United States with an Immersion Room that explores how people envision their own domestic utopia, at home. The interactive space will include full-blown digitized wallpaper, which will allow visitors to create their own designs integrated with the wallpaper from Cooper Hewitt’s own collection. Cooper Hewitt’s assistant curator of wall-coverings, Gregory Herringshaw, has selected the 101 wallpapers available for experimentation. All of the designs have been selected to fit in with the utopian theme and feature patterns reflecting “youthful indulgences, secret gardens, and exotic landscapes” from the 18th to 21st century.

French artist Benjamin Loyaute has drawn on his experience of visiting a Syrian refugee camp on the border between Syria and Lebanon. A resulting documentary will premiere at the Biennale and a vending machine selling an original creation by Benjamin Loyauté, the ‘Louloupti’ sweets, will be set up in the installation space, with proceeds going towards helping displaced Syrian families and refugees. One of Loyaute’s signature mediums, the sweets represents the powerful ability to bring back memories and locations through certain tastes.

China’s presenting Shenzhen: New Peak, which will address the issues of the cosmopolis; Austria will present a kinetic light based sculptural installation; Cuba will present PARAWIFI, mobile wifi hotspots from Cuba’s digital revolution.

India will present Chakraview unveiled by the India Design Forum (IDF), a platform to explore and educate others about the power of design. Chakraview expressively portrays the multiple utopias that India emulates. Weaving together ancient myth and modern design innovations, it captures a sense of the country’s past and current definitions of design and presents a unique blend that the social, political and religious climate of India has always been characteristic of. The installation features the works of Avinash Kumar (Design strategist and co-founder of Quicksand, a creative consulting firm), Hanif Kureshi, (Artist working with Street Art and Typography) and Rutva Trivedi (who along with Kureshi runs ‘Guerrilla’, an underground art and design studio in Delhi).

A varied programme of talks from the artists will give visitors an opportunity to understand more about the motivations behind the works and there will also be open discussions around big questions surrounding how we approach manufacturing, urban living and other challenges in order to create a sustainable and improved future.


Cover Graphic : Aniruddha Das


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