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Visiting London’s first Biennale

Last week I checked out the London Design Biennale. The only other Biennale I’d ever been to was the Venice one, which is pretty spectacular and probably takes you 2 or 3 days to visit it all, including all the collateral events across the city. For those not aware what a Biennale is, it’s basically “A world fair of contemporary art…” and it happens every two years. Every city can have its own one. The London one is only a baby, this year is the very first year they’ve done it, and it only takes you a day or less to visit.


Nations from six continents presented newly commissioned works that explore the theme Utopia by Design. Taking over the entirety of Somerset House, including The Edmond J. Safra Fountain Court and River Terrace, the London Design Biennale explores big questions and ideas about sustainability, migration, pollution, energy, cities, and social equality. So without further ado, here’s a selection of my favourite rooms/ countries.


Turkey – The Wish Machine by Autoban
Messages fed into the Wish Machine are carried through a tunnel of transparent pneumatic tubes and around the West Wing of Somerset House.


The Netherlands – Design Diorama by Studio Makkink & Bey
The whole room was made in blue foam.


South Africa – Otium and Acedia
Porky Hefer has designed a series of hanging nests in the form of animals, into which you can climb.


India – Chakraview by Sumant Jayakrishnan
Circular forms, traditional textiles and ancient mythology weave together a sense of modern India in Chakraview.



Russia – 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.




Japan – A Journey Around the Neighbourhood Globe by Yasuhiro Suzuki
Probably one of my favourites. Yasuhiro Suzuki’s installation 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’.


Austria – Level by mischer’traxler studio 
A reflection on the fragile balance of utopia, mischer’traxler’s kinetic light sculpture, Level, is poised to unsteady itself at the slightest movement.


Italy – White Flag  
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 http://www.triennale.org/

This is just a glimpse of what’s at the Biennale. There were so many pictures/ movies I would have liked to share, but it’s better if you go and check it out yourselves. It’s on until the 27th of September.


A mention: Cooper Hewitt Pen 

During the visit I was given a “pen” and was instructed to use it in each room, if I wanted to, to collect information about each country’s exhibition, by touching “plus” like symbols present in each room. It’s basically exactly like the Made.com showroom technology. It saves you time/ hassle to collect information via flyers etc. I thought it was quite handy (although bit clunky and some of the touch points in the rooms weren’t working properly).


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