London Design Festival 2016 – A wishing machine propelling ‘wish notes’ into the unknown and a parade of white flags… A weather station measuring Britain’s period of turbulence, a vintage smartcity in Salvador Allende’s Chile and a visionary archive of never realised projects by Soviet designers. Somerset House hosts the the inaugural London Design Biennale . We selected 10 national participations at the Venice Biennale-inspired event.
RELATED STORIES: Read more about London Design Festival on ArchiPanic.
“How can designers transform our future world? How do perspectives differ across the globe?” Said Dr. Christopher Turner, director of the London Design Biennale that goes on show until the 27th of September. “All the 37 national pavilions have come together in an entertaining and inspiring exploration of the role of design in our collective futures”.
UK installation was curated by Barber & Osgerby. Located in the courtyard of the Neoclassical building, the project aims to help Londoneers to find their way “at a time of national turbulence“. Inspired by traditional weather instruments, the installation features three elements: a weathervane, an anemometer that measures wind speed, and a turbine that harnesses the power from gusts of air.
After the Brexit vote and the consequent chancheable politics, the designers felt it seemed approriate to present an installion that “constantly shows a different route”.
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Turkey joins London Design Biennale with a Wish Machine by Autoban. The installation invites visitors to write a wish on a piece of paper and feed it to the machine. The note is carried through a tunnel of transparent pneumatic tubes and around the West Wing of Somerset House, before being deposited into the unknown. Like tossing a coin into a well.
“The gesture of casting a wish into the dark reflects the profound hope of those among the biggest movement of people in recorded history, who search for utopian lands with dreams of a better future” say at Autoban.
Russia pavilion offers a glimpse into an idealised world created by Soviet designers. “In the Soviet Union, designers developed daring projects that were inspired by ‘utopian’ visions of the future.” Says curator Alexandra Sankova. Visitors can discover an archive of forgotten projects that, for the most part, never left the studio.
Chile recreates The Counterculture Room, a 1970s utopian project that aimed to give to the socialist state a democratic electronic backbone. Basically, the first smartcity ever. The socialist government of Salvador Allende imagined giving the state a cybernetic spine, enabling ministers to view economic information in real time and make informed decisions from a futuristic hub that resembles a set from Kubrick’s 2001.
In the main courtyard, the Albanian participation consists in a concentric arrangement of stainless steel columns and benches that reference to utopian city planning. Reflecting surfaces and the circular disposition falicitate democratic and exchange. The installation referers to the current migration crisis as well. “The core of the installation bears the engraved outline of Europe’s borders, considered by many refugees as a modern-day utopia” say at Helidon Xhixha design team.
Curated by Milan Triennale, Italy exhibition features the work of 20 designers who re-interpreted the White Flag. “Not a surrendering concept but a symbol of truce” say curators Silvana Annicchiarico and Giorgio Camuffo. On show a free-roaming stateless flag, a flat-pack kit and another featuring the star symbol from the EU flag cut into a sheepskin.
India pavilion weaves ancient mitology and modern design with the Chakraview installation. “Like the seven chakras, our visions of utopia are simultaneously spiritual and progressive.” Says curator Rajshree Pathy who worked with leading scenographer Sumant Jayakrishnan. Circular forms, traditional textiles and writings cover the walls while large pendant designs made of colourful cords hang from the ceiling reflecting on a mirrored floor.
Austria Pavilion by mischer’traxler is a kinetic light sculpture that reflects on the fragile balance of utopia. A responsive lighting set provides a full bright environment if everybody in the room stays still. “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.” said at mischer’traxler to ArchiPanic, “This is what utopia is about, an extremely delicate balance”.
South Africa‘s installation celebrates liberation and playfulness as fitting statements of a country reborn from a convoluted, visceral history. Porky Hefer has designed a series of quirky hanging nests in the form of animals, into which you can climb.
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The Netherlands pavilion features Studio Makkink & Bey’s Design Diorama: The Archive as a Utopic Environment, a narrative installation of objects, products and memorabilia drawn from the home of architect Rianne Makkink and designer Jurgen Bey. “We elaborated on the narrative power of objects and index their relations to the world” say the designers.
All photos by Ed Reeve and Bradley Lloyd Barnes – Courtesy of London Design Biennale.