2016 saw the first edition of the London Design Biennale, bringing together 37 countries exhibiting one language: Design. Held at the Neoclassical Somerset House from the 7th - 27th of September the Biennale offers much design for thought regarding “big questions and ideas about pollution, social equality, migration, sustainability, energy and cities’’ with the aim of conceptualizing an ideal world through the realm of design.
Representing the UK were British designers Edward Barber & Jay Osgerby. Their installation Forecast makes reference to a national obsession: the weather. It consists of a group of wind masts and rotating elements, inspired by weather-measuring instruments. Movement is triggered as wind speed increases or changes direction, creating an effortless kinetic sculpture in parallel to the elements. Striking as it is functional, Forecast brings forth the realization of a more sustainable future through harnessing the power of wind energy - a clean and non-polluting fuel source.
Of particular interest was Austria’s mischer’traxler who produced an impressive light sculpture named LeveL, which can be seen as a metaphor aimed to reflect the fragile balance of utopia itself. When the sculpture is perfectly still, the lights are at their brightest, indicating a utopian moment. Exposed to the slightest touch or movement the lights alter in appearance, becoming dimmer and even turn off when hand grabbed. I was guilty of this along with many other visitors and it just goes to show the delicacies of a utopian state and how in real life, due to human error a perfect world would never endure.
Each country creates a meaningful installation in response to the theme - Utopia by design. Utopia itself is synonymous with the imaginary concept but designs present at the Biennale were not to be overlooked. I found it to be pleasantly interactive and inspiringly innovative but also an educational experience. It really opens your eyes to appropriate and beneficial designs perfect for an imperfect world. It will be interesting to see if a design proposal once seen as utopian becomes reality.
Written by Camron Intern Samuel Kolawole.
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