In Depth

London Design Biennale – changing the world through art

The capital's latest must-visit cultural event will bring an international perspective to solving global problems

Somerset House hosts the first London Design Biennale next month, when countries spanning six continents come together to showcase the best of contemporary design.

Taking place from 7 to 27 September, the event is produced by the team behind the London Design Festival – which it overlaps – and is set to become a must-attend event on the capital's cultural calendar.

The fair is part of Somerset House's year of events and exhibitions celebrating the 500th anniversary of the publication of Thomas More's Utopia and each country has been asked to interpret the theme of "Utopia of Design". The range of interactive installations, artworks and design solutions, curated by leading museums and institutions, aims to examine ways to improve the world, drawing on topics including sustainability, migration, pollution, water and social equality. 

"Design teams from more than 30 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 liveable," says Christopher Turner, the director of the London Design Biennale.

The UK's entry, curated by the Victoria and Albert Museum, is by London-based designers Edward Barber and Jay Osgerby. Inspired by meteorological machines and renewable energy, Forecast, which will be installed in Somerset House's courtyard, is a kinetic piece featuring masts and rotating elements that move according to the wind. Further works centred on nature include an installation from Australia highlighting how plastic, once perceived as an innovative product, has itself become a problem as it litters the oceans.

Other countries have attempted to broach issues affecting human populations. Israel's Yaniv Kadosh will present a first-aid distribution method for disaster areas, while French artist Benjamin Loyaute has drawn on his experience of visiting a Syrian refugee camp on the border between Syria and Lebanon. A resulting documentary will premiere at the Biennale and a vending machine selling an original creation by Benjamin Loyauté, the 'Louloupti' sweets, will be set up in the installation space, with proceeds going towards helping displaced Syrian families and refugees. One of Loyaute's signature mediums, the sweets represent the powerful ability to bring back memories and locations through certain tastes.

A varied programme of talks from the artists will give visitors an opportunity to understand more about the motivations behind the works and there will also be open discussions around big questions surrounding how we approach manufacturing, urban living and other challenges in order to create a sustainable and improved future.

The London Design Biennale 2016 is at Somerset House from 7 to 27 September. Entry is £15 (£10 concessions); londondesignbiennale.com

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