Building on the success of the inaugural 2016 London Design Biennale, 40 countries, cities and territories from six continents take part in this second edition of London Design Biennale at Somerset House, which opened to the public on Tuesday 4th and runs till the 23rd of September.
Under the theme 'Emotional States', designers, innovators and cultural bodies from each country have been called upon to interrogate how design affects every aspect of our lives and influences our very beings, emotions, and experiences. With the current political climate of the world, the theme seems very much in tune with what's on everyone's mind at the moment.
On the Asian contemporary scope, Egypt's petite installation about the country's first Arabic architecture magazine won the "most outstanding overall contribution", with China's installation of the Nanjing Yangtze River Bridge getting an honourable mention. India, Pakistan, Vietnam, and Mongolia all tackle issues of sustainability and social aspects of their clothes-making industry, while Hong Kong and Qatar turn to our sense of smell to evoke mouth-watering senses. Meanwhile, Saudi Arabia and Lebanon focused on calmness by providing a safe haven for reflection.
Here are more about these incredible, if not emotional, installations from Asia:
Lebanon - The Silent Room
This Egyptian installation mourns the loss of the country's modernist architecture, a rich heritage that has been left to ruins or violently erased, and poses the question: how can a faction of design that was once embraced by a society be so easily forgotten and denied a place in history?
The small and quaint installation features a contemporary reinterpretation of a functional 1939 exhibition put on by the editors of Al Emara, the first Arabic-language design magazine, which was published between 1939 and 1959. The display also includes a very fashion film-inspired video shot in the house of Sayed Karim, the architect who founded Al Emara, who ran into political trouble with the state in 1965 after an illustrious career. The video is accompanied by a voiceover of Karim' s 1939 manifesto, "What is Architecture?".
China - The Memory Project of Nanjing Yangtze River Bridge
Much like Egypt, China's installation went back down memory lane and reminisced the time when the Nanjing Yangtze River Bridge became a popular icon, and how it became part of the nation's collective emotional states. The bridge, which was completed in 1968 during the Cultural Revolution, was the first modern bridge in China to be designed and built without foreign assistance. As such, it symbolized a national technological achievement.
People from all over China had their own stories to tell about it. So from 2014, LanD Studio collaborated with historians and local artists on the Memory Project of the Nanjing Yangtze Bridge, amassing an archive of artefacts, memories, audio and visual evidence – a selection of which is on display at London Design Biennale.
Hong Kong - Sensorial States
Qatar - The State of You
It might seem quite a novel idea, but smells do evoke memories of a time and place. Whether it is a delicious egg tart or roast duck from Hong Kong or the smokiness from Qatar, both resuscitate so vividly our dormant emotional states.
Qatar's installation by Aisha Nasser Al-Sowaidi is inspired by the sense of nostalgia that pervades life in a city such as Doha, which is in the process of constant, rapid reinvention. Using seven dome-like "worlds" made out of concrete and lined with a patterned ceramic, they release different scented smokes that unfortunately, gets muddled in the open space.
On the other hand, true to its name which translates as 'Fragrant Harbour', Hong Kong's Sensorial Estates installation space was plastered with scratch-and-sniff wallpaper and on the Mahjong tables, a series of boxes of objects infused with Hong Kong aromas. We aren't quite sure if opium is an appropriate aroma though, taking into account its ugly and horrific history...
Vietnam - Khải (L), India - State of Indigo (R)
Mongolia - Toirog
These are the four different countries known for their clothes and fabric making industries. India's 'State of Indigo' installation explores the emotional charge of indigo - a natural colour created from the Indigofera plant. Whilst it has become synonymous with India's identity, it has also become inextricably linked with colonial trade and slavery. The same goes for Pakistan's Aangan installation, which celebrates the unsung heroes of the cotton picking industry: women.
Khải, Vietnam's installation, shows how a new generation of design thinkers are applying modern techniques to Vietnamese design without losing the emotional resonance of traditional handcrafting; while Toirog, Mongolia's installation, traced the circle of cashmere production across all the entities and lives. It's presented as a big pile of cashmere cloud, which visitors can touch and feel. It evokes a sense of serenity, akin to the feeling from a close relationship with the land. It aims to support the vision of the Sustainable Fibre Alliance, that all cashmere is produced in an environmentally friendly way that safeguards the livelihoods of herding communities, protecting the important and fragile environment in which they live.
Saudi Arabia - Being and Existence
Lebanon - The Silent Room
Best known for her public shelter design, Lebanon designer Nathalie Harb finally gets a chance to show off her work at London Design Biennale. Her "Silent Room" installation is a cocoon-like space isolated from the city's overstimulating noise. It offers the luxury of silence to everyone, regardless of background or status. It redresses the sonic inequity within the contemporary urban landscape.
The same goes for Saudi Arabia's installation. Artist Lulwah Al Homoud develops an abstract form of language, evolved from the Arabic alphabet and taking the form of a geometric pattern to explore the relationship between language and our emotional state. The darkened room with the animated patterns intends to convey the sense of a universal language for all and instil serenity and tranquillity.
London Design Biennale is on show until 23rd September. For more information, click here.
Any views or opinions in the post are solely those of the authors and do not necessarily represent the views of the company or contributors.
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