This September, London has been brimming with much excitement due to London Fashion Week and London Design Biennale's inaugural show—the latter running from September 7 to 27 at Somerset House, which used to host the former event until last year. The idea behind LDB is to follow both Venice's contemporary art and architecture biennales in surveying the state of design internationally; the difference is LDB's three-week duration compared to Venice's three months.
Arranged by Somerset House and other sponsors, this year's event was part of the special year-long events celebrating the publication of Thomas More's Utopia 500 years ago. The story was written in Latin and depicts a fictional island's perfect society. This happy, perfect spirit is represented by the custom-made, purple-coloured "smiley face" printed on a yellow flag that flies above the house this whole year.
Thirty-seven countries participated in the design contest under the "Utopia by Design" theme, exploring questions and ideas on sustainability, migration, pollution, energy, cities and social equality, among other topics. Visual artist Irwan Ahmett, Bagus Pandega and Yola Yulifanti; architects Adi Purnomo and Suyeni; along with designers Agra Satria, Fandy Susanto, Max Suriaganda dan Savira Lavinia: were in Indonesia's team chosen by Indonesia Agency for Creative Economy (Bekraf).
Titled "Freedome", Indonesia's installation was a hill surrounded by lighted coir—fibres made from coconut fruits—as spheres following the shape of a mandala. At the peak was a gravity-defying, floating bowl that suggested an "open satellite", which is an informational hub free from political points and territorial boundaries. The inspiration came from the 1955 Asian-African Conference in Bandung and its declaration to promote world peace and cooperation in accordance with the UN Charter.
Albania's "Bliss" was the winner of the Public Medal, awarded to the national entry that received most visitors' votes until September 19. Meanwhile, The International Jury, a global representative group of 12 creative experts, selected Lebanon's "Mezzing in Lebanon" for the LDB Medal, Russia's "Discovering Utopia: Lost Archives of Soviet Design" for Utopia Medal and Switzerland's "In-between: The Utopia of the Neutral" for the Jaguar Innovation Medal.
Fun fact: Somerset House was a property that belonged to the first Duke of Somerset, Edward Seymour, who was the uncle of King Edward VI and older brother of Queen Jane Seymour, the third wife of Henry VIII. Thomas More was the latter king' Lord Chancellor who was beheaded for refusing Henry's creation of Church of England and marriage annulment to Catherine of Aragorn.
Photo credits: London Design Biennale