London Design Biennale 2016: Top 5 Picks


The first London Design Biennale was held at Somerset House this month, with over 30 countries participating from across six continents. The event showcased specially commissioned works that explored the theme Utopia by Design.

Here are our top 5 picks from the projects on display:

  • Taiwan’s installation, Eatopia, offered visitors a unique culinary experience in an immersive forest-like setting. Architect Rain Wu and designer Shikai Tseng rethought the utopian dining experience with a menu designed to explore the creative melting pot of Taiwanese identities. They hosted a dining event where participants could sample dishes created to reflect the combination of cultures residing in the country, while engaging all the senses.

Eatopia for Taiwan at London Design Biennale 2016

  • The Wish Machine, created by multi-disciplinary practice Autoban for the Turkey space, was a contemporary version of a ‘wish tree’ on which people tie notes of hope. Messages were fed into the Wish Machine and carried around a structure of transparent tubes, then out across the rest of Somerset House. The piece reflected the hope of migrating people – those who search for utopian lands with dreams of a better future.

Wish Machine for Turkey at London Design Biennale 2016

  • LeveL, on display in the Austria space, was a kinetic light sculpture reflecting the fragile balance of utopias. When the mobile was perfectly still, the lights were at their brightest, illuminating the room fully. As people moved throughout the space, drafts of air and light touches set the mobile out of balance, dimming the brightness of the lights. The delicate structure represented the precariousness of the utopian ideal, and its potential to unravel when subjected to the reality of everyday life.

LeveL for Austria at London Design Biennale 2016

  • Spain showcased their project VRPolis, Diving into the Future, questioning what a smart city could be capable of 100 years from now. An immersive 360-degree virtual-reality film imagined how medium-sized towns of the future could harness new technologies to make improvements in the fields of energy, connectivity, architecture, water and waste. This reflected the trend across both the Design Biennale and the London Design Festival for immersive and VR-based experiences.

VRPolis for Spain at London Design Biennale 2016

  • Bliss, designed by Helidon Xhixha’s for Albania, was a concentric arrangement of stainless steel columns and benches on display in the main courtyard of Somerset House. It was designed to encourage both self-reflection and solidarity, with the circular layout of the benches facilitating discussion and exchange. The piece also referenced the current migration crisis, with the core of the installation being engraved with the outline of Europe’s borders, considered by many refugees as a modern-day utopia.

Bliss for Albania at London Design Biennale 2016

USP: The London Design Biennale showcased the individual creative voices of countries across the world, while the threads of Utopia, migration, integration and community ran across the installations on display.