Celebrating London as an internationally revered centre of the design, the London Design Biennale showcases creativity and innovation from countries across the globe. The event, which runs for three weeks in September and is held at Somerset House, follows a single theme each year and presents a series of thought provoking, design-led installations. Here, Dr Christopher Turner, the curator of the London Design Biennale and Keeper of Design, Architecture and Digital at the Victoria & Albert Museum, provides an introduction to the showcase and this year’s intriguing theme.
Why did you decide to launch London Design Biennale in 2016?
Sir John Sorrell and Ben Evans – founders of London Design Festival – launched London Design Biennale in 2016 in line with their vision to celebrate and promote London as the design capital of the world.
Great design is part of everyday life in London. Yet in a quickly changing world, design is also a powerful way to imagine an alternative. London Design Biennale is a vital international forum for this important conversation towards our collective future.
How has the event developed since its inception two years ago?
The nations of the world created an outstanding exhibition of ideas and ingenuity for the inaugural London Design Biennale, and following the enormous success of 2016, the Biennale is firmly established as a new highlight on the cultural calendar. The 2018 edition will bring the best international design thinking back to London’s world stage – illustrating how design can challenge, engage, educate and surprise audiences.
What makes Somerset House such a great venue for London Design Biennale?
The Biennale will return to the grand network of historic galleries at Somerset House with up to 40 participants invited to exhibit exceptional and original design installations in response to the theme, Emotional States. The historic and listed former Royal palace is a centre of contemporary culture in one of London’s finest and largest 18th century buildings.
Why is London such an important centre for design?
London is the gateway to the international design community and the world’s leading stage for design innovation and thinking. London Design Biennale is now a key calendar moment of London’s autumn creative season, alongside London Design Festival, London Fashion Week, Frieze Art Fair and the London Film Festival, attracting the greatest thinkers, practitioners, retailers and educators to the capital, in a citywide celebration.
What led you to decide on this year’s theme of Emotional States?
Emotional States has been chosen to provoke a broad interpretation across design disciplines, with immersive and engaging installations that interrogate how design affects every aspect of people’s lives – the way we live and how we live – but also influences our very being, emotions and experiences.
Emotions are universal, with shared meanings that transcend borders. Thoughtful design and technology can create positive emotional experiences, facilitating new social possibilities by enabling connectivity and contact, and the forging of meaningful connections between people.
The discipline is at the forefront of change-making, with architects and designers working imaginatively to try and create positive conditions for human flourishing, and we hope countries and cities will explore such socially responsive designs for 2018. The theme offers numerous possibilities to explore the sensorial qualities of design, with visceral exhibits and experiences that evoke moods and explore a particular country’s design story. Together they will present an exciting laboratory of ideas that will investigate the important relationship between design, strong emotional responses and real social needs.
What can visitors to London Design Biennale look forward to in 2018?
London Design Biennale 2018 is devoted to the theme, Emotional States. Taking over the entirety of Somerset House, including The Edmond J. Safra Fountain Court and River Terrace, it will explore big questions and ideas about sustainability, migration, pollution, energy, cities, and social equality. Visitors will enjoy engaging and interactive installations, innovations, artworks and proposed design solutions – all in an immersive, inspiring and entertaining tour of the world. The Biennale will see some of the world’s most exciting and ambitious designers, innovators and cultural bodies gather in the capital to celebrate the universal power of design and explore the role of design in our collective futures.
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