The first London Design Biennale will open this September at Somerset House with over 30 countries and territories participating (7 – 27 September). Nations from six continents will present newly commissioned works that explore the theme Utopia by Design. Promising a myriad of exciting and innovative ideas, we’ve put together a collection of our top 5 participants.
URBANUS – CHINA
Representing China with their installation Shenzhen: New Peak – Urbanus address the challenges of rapid urban development on limited land resources with a proposal for a series of megastructures that are small cities in themselves. 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 megastructures to accommodate a growing population of young immigrants, and to support an improved quality of life through shared public facilities and integrated technological solutions.
LEVEL – AUSTRIA
A 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.
PARAWIFI – CUBA
Cuba celebrated a political revolution in 1959; now it is on the cusp of a digital revolution, which is given structure in the modular system, PARAWIFI. There are now 135 wi-fi spots in Cuba, most in Havana. As smartphone users surf the web, using prepaid access cards, and engage with the utopian realm that is the virtual cloud, they have to stand or sit on the kerb and other makeshift street furniture. The designers Luis Ramirez and Michel Aguilar want to change all that with a series of pods, reminiscent of Verner Panton’s Living Towers, that can be clustered to form digital oases that radically rethink urban space.
EATOPIA – TAIWAN
Taiwan’s installation, Eatopia, celebrates diversity in the pursuit of a utopian state, and offers visitors a unique culinary experience in a tranquil forest-like setting. In More’s Utopia, a contented community eats lunch and dinner together every day, and food is always plentiful. These meals play a crucial part in creating the ideal society’s strong social bond. For the Biennale, architect Rain Wu and designer Shikai Tseng have rethought the utopian dining experience with a constructivist menu designed to explore the creative melting pot of Taiwanese identities. The installation promises to engage all of the visitors’ senses, to refresh and provide ‘food for thought’.
WELCOME TO WEDEN – SWEDEN
Welcome to Weden rethinks design and manufacturing on collaborative, artisanal grounds. The name emphasises the ‘we’ in Sweden, and points towards a more inclusive future society – a ‘wetopia’. The project promotes the strength of collaboration, inviting 15 designers and manufacturers to work together on different, more equal terms. The installation shows the result of these collaborations—design projects that point towards smaller-scale and non-hierarchical local production, with room for the artistic process. All parties share the rewards as well as the risks. It presents an intriguing counter-strategy to the existing model of unethical, far-flung, large-scale mass production.