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Utopia by Design: London Design Biennale 2016

The Wish Machine Autoban


The Wish Machine
Candies, plastic, hot gold foil stickers, 55 x 40 x 170 mm © benjamin loyauté studio / photography by Sven Laurent

© benjamin loyauté studio / photography by Sven Laurent

Candies, plastic, hot gold foil stickers, 55 x 40 x 170 mm
Otium and Acedia Porky Hefer

Porky Hefer

Otium and Acedia
Mezzing In Lebanon Annabel Karim Kassar

Annabel Karim Kassar

Mezzing In Lebanon
Eatopia  Rain Wu & Shikai Tseng

Rain Wu & Shikai Tseng


8 September 2016
by Grace Bremner

This week marks the launch of the first ever London Design Biennale, in partnership with Jaguar and Somerset House. The capital will play host to installations, artworks, prototypes and designs from 37 countries and territories who have come together to explore the role of design in our collective futures.

Each exhibit is a response to the Biennale’s 2016 theme ‘Utopia by Design’, chosen as part of Somerset House’s UTOPIA 2016: A Year of Imagination and Possibility, to mark the 500th anniversary of the publication of Thomas More’s text. The resulting commissions are richly varied, including fantastical imaginings of future cities, homages to unrealised utopian proposals of the past, and innovative solutions for issues in 21st-century life. 

In addition to the installations, artworks and designs, London Design Biennale will host a full programme of talks and lectures by world leading designers, curators and thinkers. See the full programme here.

To help you navigate this huge event, we give you our highlights: 


The Wish Machine - Autoban

Wish Machine, by multi-disciplinary practice Autoban, is a contemporary version of the 'wish tree' on which people tie notes of hope. Messages fed into the Wish Machine are carried through a tunnel of transparent pneumatic tubes and around the West Wing of Somerset House, before being deposited into the unknown, like coins tossed into the bottom of a well. 


Le Bruit des Bonbobs - Benjamin Loyauté

Memories of Syria are collected and shared through Le Bruit des Bonbons — The Astounding Eyes of Syria, in a bid to preserve, stir up and share immaterial memories of its living heritage. Benjamin Loyauté visited displaced Syrians and refugees to make a film that tells of the tragedy of the war and the memories that survive untrammelled. By collecting 'memories of sweets', Loyauté hopes to preserve these stories, while also provoking our will to act. The visitor is invited, in a performance, to buy packets of Loyauté's candy, modelled on an Assyrian idol, from a vending machine. All proceeds will help educate children of displaced families and refugees.

South Africa

Otium and Arcadia - Porky Hefer

South Africa's installation, Otium and Acedia, celebrates liberation and playfulness as fitting statements of a country reborn from a convoluted, visceral history. Porky Hefer has designed a series of hanging nests in the form of animals, into which you can climb. The animals are fairly ferocious: aquatic predators such as the killer whale and the piranha whose gaping maws bristle with teeth. But Hefer's sub-aquatic utopia is also quirky and cheerful. For a country 'emerging' from its past struggles, a pervading sense of liberation and innocence takes on an emboldened meaning alongside the theme of utopia.


Mezzing in Lebanon - Annabel Karim Kassar

Mezzing In Lebanon brings a slice of Beirut street life to the centre of London, celebrating utopia through the everyday designs of the people of Lebanon. The installation brings a bustling scene of falafel and coffee stalls, a small lounge cinema, street signs, carts, and even an authentic barber shop to Somerset House. As you sit, eat, drink, smoke and talk, you will be transported to the streets of Beirut.


Eatopia - Rain Wu & Shikai Tseng

Taiwan's installation, Eatopia, celebrates diversity in the pursuit of a utopian state, and offers visitors a unique culinary experience in a tranquil forest-like setting. In More's Utopia, a contented community eats lunch and dinner together every day, and food is always plentiful. These meals play a crucial part in creating the ideal society's strong social bond. For the Biennale, architect Rain Wu and designer Shikai Tseng have rethought the utopian dining experience with a constructivist menu designed to explore the creative melting pot of Taiwanese identities. The installation promises to engage all of the visitors' senses, to refresh and provide 'food for thought'.

The London Design Biennale 2016 is open daily from 11am and runs from 7-27 September 2016. Tickets: £15/£10 concessions on sale via ticketmaster.