Seb’s Visit to the London Design Biennale 2016

London Design Biennale at Somerset House

“if creativity is what fuelled and drives design; it is hope that fuelled and drives utopias”

The first London Design Biennale at Somerset House comprises newly commissioned installations  and works by more than 30 countries across six continents that explore the theme “Utopia by Design”.

So, what do we know about the word “utopia”? Why utopia? What does it mean?

Invented in Greek in 1516 by Thomas More in his book “Utopia” in which island society in the Atlantic Ocean was described.  The word was coined from the Greek ou (not) – topos (place) meaning “no place” or “nowhere”.

For thousands of years human beings have dreamed of perfect worlds, worlds free of conflict, hunger and unhappiness. But can these worlds ever exist in reality?

Nowadays the meaning of the word is known as an imagined community or society that possesses highly desirable or nearly perfect qualities.  Utopian ideals often place emphasis on egalitarian principles of equality in economics, government and justice, though by no means exclusively, with the method and structure of proposed implementation varying based on ideology.

Somerset House
Somerset House

I attended one of the talks given by Adelia Borges, a design curator and writer. She lives in São Paulo, Brasil and was formerly the director of the “Museum da Casa Brasileira”, a governmental museum specialising in design and architecture (2003-2007). As a journalist, she was director of the magazine Design & Interiors (1987-1994), the design editor of Gazeta Mercantil, daily business newspaper (1998-2002) and a freelance writer for many Brazilian and international magazines.She has also written numerous books, among them “Designer não é Personal Trainer” (2002) and Sergio Rodrigues (2005).

The talk included examples of objects conceived by people who have little or no formal education to meet their needs, mostly in Latin-American locations. Kitchen utensils, fishing implements, street karts, barbecue ovens, toys, benches, and graphic signs show perfect functionality, sustainable use of materials and present simple and intelligent solutions. The form transcends the function, to follow the heart and the emotions. There is no fear of ornamentation and vivid colours.

London Design Biennale Installation Close Up
London Design Biennale Installation

The Biennale explores big questions and ideas about sustainability, migration, pollution, energy, cities, and social equality. The participants had the opportunity to create engaging and interactive installations, innovations, artworks and proposed design solutions.

London Design Biennale
London Design Biennale

“Den City (above) – A reachable utopia in Shenzhen”;cities, like dreams, are made of desires and fears, even if the thread of their discourse is secret, their rules are absurd, their perspectives deceitful and everything conceals something else. – Italo Calvino. The people of Shenzhen might be those who understand most what Calvino means. Shenzhen was merely a collection of villages housing 300,000 people when it became a city 36 years ago, known back then only as a border town of Hong Kong.  Today it has grown into a megalopolis of 17 million, a pioneering migrant city of passion and creativity for contemporary China.

And to finish my blog I would like to share these words….

“We live in a terrifically dynamic time, a time full of dangers. The occasion is piled high with difficulties. But we may not flee from these difficulties. We must rise to the occasion. But the dogmas of the quiet past are inadequate to the stormy present. As our case is new, we must think anew, act anew, shape anew, reshape anew. We must disenthrall ourselves”.

Sebastian Pennella – Designer and Store Planner