The first London Design Biennale is taking over Somerset House this month, with newly commissioned works from 37 countries and territories.

Exploring the theme, Utopia by Design, the London Design Biennale incorporates installations curated by the leading museums and design organisations of the world. These include the Smithsonian Design Museum (USA), the German Design Council, the Victoria & Albert Museum (UK) and Austria Design Net.

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Utopia by Design

The theme aims to explore the big questions of the world, including sustainability and water scarcity, migration and conflict, pollution, energy and technological innovation, cities and social equality. It’s part of the wider theme at Somerset House of ‘UTOPIA 2016: A Year of Imagination and Possibility’ – marking the 500th anniversary of Thomas More’s text. Design teams at the biennale are comprised of designers, architects, scientists, writers and artists.

“All over the world, nations and cities are increasingly recognising the power of design to bring social change and economic growth. They are realising that creativity, with design at its heart, can play a vital role in providing solutions to problems which affect the way people live.” – Dr Christopher Turner, director of the London Design Biennale

London Design Biennale: the installations

The installations at the London Design Biennale include an array of innovative and creative installations from across the world. They include:

United Kingdom

Edward Barber and Jay Osgerby have worked alongside the Victoria & Albert Museum (V&A) and British Land to produce their installation ‘Forecast’. The 14-metre kinetic sculpture has wind masts and rotating elements, exploring the nation’s relationship with wind energy. The UK is at the forefront of the development in wind energy, with as much offshore capacity already installed as the rest of the world combined.

“Striking a delicate balance between functionality and beauty, Forecast will be an expression of what might be possible: much like Thomas More’s vision of Utopia itself.” – Victoria Broackes, V&A Curator

UK at London Design Biennale: Edward Barber and Jay Osgerby have worked alongside the Victoria

Photo: UK at London Design Biennale – Edward Barber,  Jay Osgerby and V&A. Photo by Ed Reeve.


‘Utopia means elsewhere’ is the participative-associative installation created by the German designer Konstantin Grcic. A tribute to the American actor John Malkovich, visitors enter a glaringly white, brightly lit room that is insulated from noise. With a fire blazing on a fireplace on a screen, visitors are invited to let their thoughts wander and immerse themselves in another world.

Germany at London Design Biennale: ‘Utopia means elsewhere’, Konstantin Grcic

Photo: Germany at London Design Biennale: ‘Utopia means elsewhere’, Konstantin Grcic

The Netherlands

Studio Makkink & Bey, the ambassadors for Dutch Design Week in Eindhoven, created the Dutch contribution to London Design Biennale, called ‘Design Diorama: the Archive as a Utopic Environment’. Invited to the biennale by Het Nieuwe Instituut, the installation translates the studios international network into a diorama that is an idealised version of the personal salon of the studio’s founders, Rianna Makkink and Jurgen Bey. It includes memorabilia from a number of influential individuals in the Dutch design world.

The Netherlands at London Design Biennale - 'Design Diorama: the Archive as a Utopic Environment', Studio Makkink & Bey

Photo: The Netherlands at London Design Biennale – ‘Design Diorama: the Archive as a Utopic Environment’, Studio Makkink & Bey

In other installations, Mexican architect Fernando Romero explores the ‘transnational’ border city as a solution for migration and increasing populations; Israel presents an innovative proposal for how first aid might be distributed in disaster zones; a trio of Nigerian designers look at how environmental balance might be restored to the Niger Delta. Parawifi from Cuba looks at how urban spaces in the country aren’t yet prepared for the new phenomenon of Wi-Fi, while Cape Town designer Porky Hefer is showcasing his suspended animal-cocoon environments in collaboration with Southern Guild.

“The London Design Biennale celebrates design as an international language, which everyone can understand. It does not recognise boundaries or borders. It is always seeking to make the world a better place.” – Dr Christopher Turner, director of the London Design Biennale

The London Design Biennale 2016, in partnership with Jaguar and Somerset House, runs from 7-27 September 2016.

Website: London Design Biennale

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