Design in an Age of Crisis
Playful design ideas that prove that, truly, necessity is the mother of invention.
London Design Biennale & Chatham House
From 14th January 2021
ON 14TH JANUARY the London Design Biennale launched the online gallery, ‘Design in an Age of Crisis’. Featured here are the shortlisted submissions to an Open Call issued in 2020 by the London-based think-tank Chatham House and London Design Biennale, inviting the design community to respond to the global crises underlined or exacerbated by the pandemic.
The organisers identified four particular challenges – the poor health and unhealthy living situations of millions of people; the climate emergency; the deeply embedded social and economic inequalities in our societies; and the rapid transformations in work and the economy which will affect employment and livelihood opportunities for all. Submissions fall under the four categories: Environment – How can we design better places?; Health – How can design make it easier to be healthy?; Society – How can design empower everybody?; and Work – How can work be designed to be more meaningful.
Among the more than 500 ingenious ideas submitted you can find pop-up greening systems, self-building air-drop shelters, radios created from electrical waste, and Steve Jensen’s futuristic vision, ‘The High Pad’, of a car-free green city served by networks of airborne electric vehicles. Object-lovers as we are at The Design Edit, we were charmed by Andrew Scott and Hangrui Zhang’s colourful London Orchestra from Waste Materials, a call for the therapeutic benefits of music. The collaborators intend to put on concerts with these instruments, to inspire audiences and to encourage the public to reevaluate what we consider to be trash.
Stephanie Kneissel from Austria, is also on a mission to persuade. She has devised a series of small, cute machines, ‘Pillow Talk – Technology for Awkward Questions’, to be used in Sex Education, to help people talk about how we should treat each other in vulnerable situations. Meanwhile, Anna-Sophie Dienemann’s ‘Bounding Spaces’ is a delightful response to the grim discipline of social distancing. Based on the technology of pop-up tents, no doubt they will soon become an essential summer festival accessory.
Anna-Sophie Dieneman, ‘Circular distance keeper’ from the Bounding Spaces collection, 2020
COURTESY: Anna-Sophie Dieneman
“These playful wearables use a pop-up tent technique to instantly unfold whenever others might come too close”
Anna-Sophie Dieneman, ‘Releasing’ from the Bounding Spaces collection, 2020
COURTESY: Anna-Sophie Dieneman
“When the belt is released, they pop into flamboyant distance-keepers with various prints and forms“
The idea behind the joint project is to create a new platform for the international exchange of radical design ideas, visible not just to the design community but to policymakers and influential figures beyond the design sector. Chatham House is organising a series of five virtual conferences on the themes of the Open Call and a curated selection of projects will be on view at the London Design Biennale at Somerset House (1st-27th June).