London Design Biennale 2021
London Design Biennale is a global gathering of the world’s most ambitious and imaginative designers, curators and design institutes. This year’s festival responds to Artistic Director Es Devlin’s theme of ‘Resonance’, with pavilions set across Somerset House throughout June.
Spotlighting materiality, sustainability, and designing in an age of crisis, continue reading for some of our visit’s highlights.
Designing for Time
Four creative research projects undertaken by members of academic staff at Kingston School of Art stand out within the exhibition. Unified by the notion of designing for, and with, time, each project addresses one of the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals, all of which seek to enable a more sustainable future.
Projects include a collaboration between Kingston School of Art and CEPT University Ahmedabad, studying how people in the area adapted architecture to suit their everyday needs and the changing climate; the ‘Fixperts’ initiative, a hands-on, creative problem-solving learning programme which applies human centred design to create solutions to everyday problems; Whispers of the Garden, exploring the intersections between Western and Eastern philosophy, landscape architecture, aesthetics and ecosystems; and a collaboration with Body Shop International to create sustainable and reusable packaging.
German designers Kai Linke and Peter Eckart present Spoon Archaeology, exhibiting single-use cutlery as archaeological remnants.
Informed by the European Union’s ban on single-use plastic cutlery coming in to effect on 3rd July, Spoon Archaeology responds to the biennale’s theme – Can we design a better world? – and hopes to address issues of sustainability, highlighting the implications of throwaway and single-use products.
Finnish artist Enni-Kukka Tuomala’s inflatable installation, Echo Chamber, encourages visitors to step inside and reflect on their experiences together, created as a response to our growing global “empathy deficit”.
“There are olive trees in Greece which are over 2,500 years old, participating in human history and standing guard, as witnesses, of everything that connects us with our past.”
Greece’s immersive scene of illuminated olive trees, surrounded by sounds of Greek nature encourages us to contemplate feelings of origin, connection and separation.
The Clothed Home: Tuning in to the seasonal imagination
Poland’s exploration of the ways in which textiles are used to reflect the rhythm of seasonal changes in domestic interiors suggests how contemporary homes could both acclimatise and offer a multi-sensory experience.
Conceptually rooted in textile designs from pre-electric times, the installation recalls domestic rituals that allow us to cultivate our relationship with the natural world and react to its continued changes.
Traditional craft materials are reinvented and merged with digital technologies in Toshiki Hirano’s installation, exploring a new use for Japanese paper.
The Reinventing Textures installation combines traditional washi paper with digital projection mapping to explore the sounds, surfaces and objects on the streets of London and Tokyo. Taking to the streets of Tokyo with a 3D scanner, Hirano captured the objects and textures he found – from public transport to takeaway food – while a group of students from the Royal College of Art did the same in London.
This 3D information was then transformed into a papier-mâché wall relief, and using digital projection mapping, the “urban textures” of these two cities was combined.
Design in an Age of Crisis
The Design in an Age of Crisis Gallery features submissions to a global open call issued in 2020 by Chatham House and London Design Biennale, inviting radical design thinking from the world’s design community, the public and young people.
Responding to the Covid-19 pandemic and other critical issues, the open call seeks solutions for four areas: health, society, environment and work.
Through its exhibitions, the London Design Biennale poses some poignant questions, including:
If not now, when?
Can design change our habits?
Can we design better systems?
Can we drive positive change?
In raising these questions, we come to ask:
London Design Biennale continues until Sunday 27th June.