The inaugural London Design Biennale is taking place at Somerset House this month, showcasing installations from over 37 countries around the world.

This year’s theme is Design by Utopia where some designers have explored innovative solutions to creating a happier, healthier world. Other’s have created more hypothetical ideas or used design as a way to create their own interpretations of utopia and dystopia.

Here are a few of our favourite picks from the show:


Israel – Human.Touch

ACT Shenkar presents two innovative projects: a device for parachuting supplies into disaster areas, and Louder, a pair of speakers designed for deaf people.

Israel’s Human.Touch shows how design can address social needs and impact positively on society. Yaniv Kadosh’s AIDrop is a first-aid distribution system that employs self-rotating units to drop 3kg cartons of supplies over disaster zones, serving wide and potentially remote places until further essentials can be delivered by road. Sharona Merlin’s Louder is a pair of speakers for the deaf and hard of hearing that translates sounds into visual textures and floor vibrations that can be felt through the feet.

Israel’s exhibition looks to design as a strategic tool to help resolve the complex challenges of our economy and society.


Turkey – The Wish Machine

Turkey’s modern-day wishing well is a simple but touching way of inspiring hope in a country which has been at the centre of the migrant crisis.

The Wish Machine invites visitors to write their wish on a piece of paper, roll it up and slip it inside a futuristic pod, then step across a tunnel of transparent hexagonal tubes to drop it into the suction-powered machine. You can watch your wish spiral through the tubes, and even make its way around the West Wing of Somerset House, where the tubes have been neatly laced across the walls.

The destination of the messages is unknown, and the Somerset House staff certainly won’t give anything away. While the wishes themselves may be trivial, the installation gives hope and consideration for others through design and brings an ancient concept into 2016.


Pakistan – Daalaan

Daalaan is a collaboratively designed abstract ‘playground’ that breaks down social barriers and invites interaction between strangers.

Taking the simplicities of our childhoods as a reference, the Pakistani design team have created a playroom ‘where imagination has no bounds’, to encourage people to meet through play and transport them back to a time when they were unhindered by adult anxieties.

Their playful installation – which features Sheesham wood objects, Lattoo Stools (spinning tops), hand-drawn artworks and henna-dyed screen prints will encourage people to converse and share ideas with open minds.

Also look out for:

  • China: DenCity presents intricate, small-scale models of a possible block-based building solution to the ever-growing population in Shenzhen, accompanied by animations of people interacting in that space. By Urbanus.
  • South Africa: South Africa’s fluffy depictions of dangerous animals with their jaws wide upon hang from the ceiling of the Embankment gallery, inviting visitors to climb inside. These giant, playful seats toy with conflicting ideas of innocence and corruption, a symbol of the country’s troubled history.
  • United Arab Emirates: Al Falaj: Water Systems of the Gulf’s Oases presents small-scale models which convincingly depict how the UAE’s current water systems could be modified and improved using an ancient water drainage system.
    By Cultural Engineering.
  • United Kingdom: Barber & Osgerby’s majestic installation Forecast, which looks at the influence of the wind and renewable energy, sits at the centre of Somerset House’s central courtyard. By Edward Barber and Jay Osgerby.

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