London Design Biennale – Top 10

The first ever London Design Biennale opened to the public on 6th September, taking over the entirety of the iconic Somerset House for a three-week exploration of the role of design in our collective futures.

The theme of the inaugural edition of this presentation, ‘Utopia by Design’,  concurs with Somerset House’s UTOPIA 2016: A Year of Imagination and Possibility, to mark the 500th anniversary of the publication of Thomas More’s tome, Utopia.  Installations, artworks, prototypes and designs from 37 countries and territories have come together in an entertaining and inspiring show of creative might and human spirit.

Here’s out top pick of the London Design Biennale 2016 installations

A site-specific sculpture installation for the courtyard of Somerset House, Albania’s entry designed by Helidon Xhixha is a concentric arrangement of stainless steel
columns and benches that are designed to encourage both self-reflection and solidarity. The circular layout of the benches aims to facilitate democratic discussion and exchange, demonstrating the need for community and unification in any ideal city.

Curated by Dino Korca.

Fernando Romero‘s Border City presents a vision for a bi-national 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 hexagonal master-plan is conducive to both sides of the border, drawing upon industrial, employment and trade opportunities, while recognising shortcomings in urban planning. Administered by Embassy of Mexico in the United Kingdom.

Administered by Embassy of Mexico in the United Kingdom

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.
Curated by Tami Warshavski and Hila Shaltieli.

Curated by Tami Warshavski and Hila Shaltieli.

Russia’s presentation 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 and Soviet Design Studios between the 1960s and 1980s.
Curated by Alexandra Sankova

Curated by Alexandra Sankova

Conceived by the Turkish 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. 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.
Administered by Istanbul Foundation for Culture and Arts

Administered by Istanbul Foundation for Culture and Arts

Designer Brodie Neill‘s project highlights 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.
Curated by The National Gallery of Victoria.

Curated by The National Gallery of Victoria.

Austria’s 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.

Curated by Thomas Geisler / MAK Vienna

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 mega-structures to accommodate a growing population of young immigrants, and to support an improved quality of life through shared public facilities and integrated technological solutions.
Curated by Xiaodu Liu.

Curated by Xiaodu Liu.

Indonesia’s presentation designed by Adi Purnomo, Irwan Ahmett and Bagus Pandega 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.

Curated by Danny Wicaksono, Diana Nazir, Hafiz Rancajale, Hermawan Tanzil


VRPolis is an immersive virtual reality installation that allows users to explore a utopian city from the future – a habitat where technology, quality living standards and a healthy environment co-exist with an economy free of fossil-fuel dependence. For this purpose, the city of Santander was studied in-depth; then, key locations were filmed in 360-degrees, shaped and reconstructed in 3D by the team at Dímelo a mí Productions. The production house worked tirelessly, transforming these films into compositions that brought to life an optimistic peek into the city’s future. More than 50 innovation strategies related to the fields of energy, mobility, connectivity, habitat, architecture, water, waste management and   environment were woven into the virtual reality experience that required visitors to walk through a ‘time tunnel’ wearing a VR headset.

Curated by Maite Cantón

Curated by Maite Cantón

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