New London Design Biennale Brings Utopia by Design to Somerset House

Cooper Hewitt will install an "Immersive Room" for the US.

An image from Eataipei at Tent London Taiwan's contribution to London Design Bienniale will be Eatopia. Photo courtesy London Design Biennale.

The first edition of the London Design Biennale will take place at Somerset House this September, bringing together 37 countries showcasing their best in innovative design under the theme of “Utopia by Design.”

Somerset House, which contains the Courtauld Institute and Gallery as well as its own galleries, has dedicated their program to the celebration of the 5ooth anniversary of Thomas More’s philosophical work of fiction Utopia, with many themed events throughout the year.

“We chose the inaugural theme to celebrate the 500th anniversary of the publication of Thomas More’s classic, and to reflect on the rich history of the modernist design it inspired,” said London Design Biennale director Christopher Turner in a statement. “Design teams from over thirty countries will exhibit ambitious installations that explore how architecture, design, and engineering might contribute in some way to making the world a better place and our cities more livable,” he added.

Japan_Untitled © Yasuhiro Suzuki

Untitled from Japan’s contribution to London Design Biennale A Journey Around the Neighborhood Globe. Photo ©Yasuhiro Suzuki

The three-week biennial, put on by the same people who organize the well-respected London Design Festival, will see countries ranging from Norway and Russia to Japan and India each presenting their own themed section.

The Cooper Hewitt Smithsonian Design Museum will be representing the United States, exhibiting their Immersion Room. The interactive space will include full scale digitized wallpaper which will allow visitors to create their own designs incorporated with the wallpaper from Cooper Hewitt’s own collection. The idea behind the project is to explore how people envision their own domestic utopia, at home.

USA_Installation view of Immersion Room_photo Matt Flynn©2014CooperHewitt,Smithsonian Design Museum (1)

Installation view of Cooper Hewitt’s Immersion Room in 2014. Photo Matt Flynn © 2014 Cooper Hewitt, Smithsonian Design Museum

The 101 wallpapers available for experimentation have been selected by Cooper Hewitt’s assistant curator of wall-coverings, Gregory Herringshaw. All of the designs have been selected to fit in with the utopian theme and feature patterns reflecting “youthful indulgences, secret gardens, and exotic landscapes” from the 18th to 21st century.

“Cooper Hewitt’s interactive technologies bring design to life in innovative ways and invite people to explore the joy of creativity,” said Smithsonian Secretary David Skorton in a statement. “As we develop our long-term partnership with the Victoria and Albert Museum on a permanent exhibition space in London, the London Design Biennale is another opportunity to introduce the Smithsonian’s vast resources and knowledge to a global audience, building a bridge to the important theme of utopia.”

India_Fabrics made by Aadyam ©ChakraView

A rendering of Chakraview India’s contribution to London Design Biennale. Photo courtesy the London Design Biennale

Austria will present a kinetic light sculpture; China’s contribution Shenzhen: New Peak will address the issues of the megalopolis; Cuba will present PARAWIFI, mobile wifi hotspots used there as Cuba undergoes a digital revolution; and India will present Chakraview, examining the country’s many interpretations of utopia using traditional textiles and ancient mythology.

The London Design Biennale will run from September 7 -27, 2016.

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