From spotlighting the global ecological crisis and seeking inspiration from the past to address it, to an award-winning celebration of the joys of daily life, countries form the Middle East made their mark at the inaugural London Design Biennale.
MEZZING in LEBANON
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. The installation, bustling scene of falafel and coffee stalls, a small lounge cinema, street signs, carts, and even an authentic barber shop brings a sliver of Beirut street life to the centre of London, celebrating utopia through the everyday lives of the people of Lebanon. The installation was awarded the London Design Biennale 2016 Meal for outstanding design contribution to the event.
Saudi Arabia’s presentation 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.
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.