London design Biennale 2016:
[Utopia by Design]
Functioning as both a strategic PR move and reassuring promise, the #LondonIsOpen campaign launched earnestly following months of isolationist and xenophobic rhetoric. This culminated in the Brexit vote that saw the majority of the United Kingdom voting in favour of leaving the European Union. It is within this socio-political landscape that the inaugural London Design Biennale opened from September 7th to the 27th at Somerset House. The theme, “Utopia by Design”, was not chosen incidentally. While it does mark the 500th anniversary of Sir Thomas More’s prolific text, the subject matter and questions Utopia raises are gravely relevant considering London’s current position as a ‘global’ city striving to keep its doors open while the rest of the nation pushes them closed: What does Utopia look like? Does it look like More’s self-contained, mono-cultural island? Is Utopia even possible?
With 37 countries and territories interpreting the theme and presenting newly commissioned works, the London Design Biennale explored big questions and ideas about sustainability, migration, pollution, energy, cities, and social equality. Visitors saw engaging and interactive installations, innovations, artworks, and proposed design solutions - all in an immersive, inspiring and entertaining tour of the world.
The following images and descriptions illustrate some of the highlights of The  Design Collective’s visit.
While common threads run through many of the installations (mass migration, limited resources, climate change), the questions that Utopia poses were mostly deliberated and answered within a localized context. Designers and creatives each found the problem and the solution internally. Utopia, it seems, is possible, and is tied to the people and places themselves. Using existing ideas and resources in different ways and seeing them through various perspectives.
With the pathway to the United Kingdom’s exit from the EU still being deliberated, it is unclear what effect this may have on events such as this, that require freedom of open discussion and cultural exchange across borders. The next London Biennale is set for September 2018.
Descriptions provided by the respective designers in the 2016 London Design Biennale Catalogue can be found at:
Photographs provided by The  Design Collective.