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TDC’s top picks from the London Design Biennale 2023
Across 1 – 25 June 2023, the fourth edition of the London Design Biennale took place at Somerset House, with a richly packed programme of thought-provoking exhibition pavilions, talks and events.
Following the theme ‘The Global Game: Remapping Collaborations’ the 2023 edition, led by the Het Nieuwe Instituut and their Artistic Director, Aric Chen, looks to explore design beyond borders, new forms of international collaboration and communication, and exploring how through design and participation, we can create an alternative geopolitical landscape driven by cooperation.
‘The Global Game: Remapping Collaborations’ aims to create an alternative geopolitical landscape driven not by competition nor conflict, but rather cooperation,’ comments Chen. ‘We all agree that global challenges require global collaboration. This is easier said than done, but in some small way, we hope real international exchanges will arise from this biennial in a way that also invites visitors to become part of the process.’
The biennale features 40 exhibitors from across the world, and at the 2023 edition, the first-ever humanitarian pavilion designed by Japanese architect Shigeru Ban. We visited the London Design Biennale’s opening event and these are some of our favourite installations and country pavilions.
Taiwan: Visible Shop
‘The Visual Shop’ celebrates the country’s unique location and geographical characteristics that form Taiwan as a trade hub, and an important part of the world’s manufacturing supply chain. The exhibition is focused on celebrating the country’s small and medium-sized enterprises, which are full of vitality and creativity. The installation showcases a metal supply area and ‘workshop’, to demonstrate the collaborative nature of industries in Taiwan, which are all individual and depict the diversity of the country’s location.
Austria: BROT: baking the future
Design studio Chmara Rosinke’s concept for the Austrian pavilion is based on the curious complexities behind the matter of bread – ‘from geopolitical contexts to microbiological processes to multi-sensory experiences, bread and bread making [they believe] can open up a whole new universe and pathway for transformative design practices.’ The exhibition looks at the cultural surge around bread in recent years – from boutique bakeries in urban areas, to home bakers exploring sourdough in scientific meticulousness almost acting in rebellion against the industrialised production of bread. The pavilion offers a sensory experience of the matter, whilst exploring what we all learn or take inspiration from the process for transformative design practice.
Poland: Poetics of Necessity by TŁO Michał Sikorski Architects
One of the most poignant projects presented at the London Design Biennale is the Polish pavilion – Poetics of Necessity, which explores how unexpected objects, such as reclaimed windows emerge from the world of reuse, and crisis collaboration. Inspired by the WINDOW project – a call to action to collect reusable windows, given by Poles to Ukranians stripped of dignified living conditions as a result of war, and there is a fascinating trajectory of a window going from home to home. Discarded windows were collected from the UK as part of the installation, are shown at Somerset House before being sent on to Ukraine. The pavilion asks questions around the durability of the windows on display, to be used in a time of crisis and insecurity – and what is expected of a modern designer for these moments of need. The exhibition also presents one of the more than 100 techniques, devised by curators in collaboration with local architects, for how the windows can be installed.
In Somerset House’s Courtyard: Malta and Turkey
Malta: Urban Fabric
The Malta pavilion greets visitors as you arrive through the main entrance of Somerset House. Presented as a ‘village square’, the structure aims to merge traditional city planning concepts with textile designs created with traditional Phoenician-Maltese fabric production methods and the dyeing of multiple colours of Phoenican purple. Striving to encourage discourse about the environment, the installation was conceived through a fusion of art, architecture and innovative design and based upon an original concept from research that was carried out at the National Museum of Archaeology in Valletta, where the team retraced the footsteps of the Phoenicians to use this as a foundation for the design.
Turkey: Openwork by Melek Zeynep Bulut
One of the TDC highlights is the giant wind chime built by the Turkish pavilion in the central courtyard. Created by Melek Zeynep Bulut, the pavilion acts as a theatrical representation of the concept of gates and their role in enforcing borders and social hierarchies. The installation behaves like a giant hexagonal wind chime that forms a series of steel gates. The steel rods in the design dangle from three smaller arches that in turn create a gateway that musically chimes in the summer breeze.