The World Around Summit 2022
A one-day immersion in the design thinking of today.
Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, New York City
5th February 2022
AT THE START of her career, New York-based curator and design critic Beatrice Galilee determined her own path in the field. “I knew my skill set is to apply creativity to unconventional situations to discover the intriguing elements,” she tells The Design Edit. “Conferences or academic symposiums may be dry formats to convey ideas, but I come in to introduce different concepts.”
‘The World Around’ is the most vivid example of Galilee’s talents for re-shaping the international think tank format. Taking place at New York’s Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, the annual day-long panel gathers pioneering designers, architects, tastemakers, activists and academics from around the world to discuss the role of design in an ever-changing global landscape. After last year’s virtual edition, the forum is adopting a hybrid solution in which a large portion of the speakers – including Dutch architect Winy Maas, Ghanaian architect Lesley Lokko and research practice Design Earth – address the audience in person, while others, including architects Tadao Ando and David Chipperfield, deliver presentations digitally through projections on stage.
“The future is already here – it’s just not very evenly distributed,” says Galilee, quoting American science fiction author William Gibson and suggesting the thread that runs through the summit’s “confrontational” approach to pressing issues of global warming, social instability and unjust distribution of resources – all filtered through the lens of an ongoing pandemic. “The presentations aim to capture the time’s ethos and ethics back-to-back, almost like an exhibition’s artworks on a wall,” the curator explains, justifying the program’s marathon nature. “Different projects rub off against each other – this is a certain experience of immersing yourself in what has happened in the design world within a year.”
Galilee’s appointment as The Met’s first curator of contemporary design and architecture in 2014, paved Galilee’s way to ‘The World Around’. “I joined the museum during its expansion to the Breuer building and a new design phase,” she remembers. Besides organising exhibitions of Cornelia Parker and Adrián Villar Rojas for the museum’s Roof Garden Commissions, the In Our Time public talk series was a critical part of the post. “I invited design and architecture experts from around the globe whenever they happened to be in New York,” she says.
Looking back at the first iteration of ‘The World Around’ in February of 2020, Galilee sees it as a prototype for the future chapters. “I am a believer of the ‘do-first-and-learn-from-it mentality’,” she says. Since then, besides the bureaucratic necessities of putting together a board and gaining non-profit status with her co-founder Diego Marroquin, Galilee has become attuned to the different needs of panelists and audiences. “Architects and designers may tend to discuss technicalities about their practices, while the audience seeks to learn about public-facing intriguing aspects,” she says.
‘The World Around’ keeps discussions lively throughout its six-hour run by offering a diversity of topics and a variety of multimedia presentations. This year, Academy Award-nominated filmmaker Matthew Heineman’s documentary ‘The First Wave’ draws a picture of the pandemic’s first responders in New York; Top Manta is group of Barcelona-based Senegalese street vendor-turned-designers who unionised and set up their own clothing label; Alessandro Petti and Sandi Hilal of DAAR (Decolonizing Architecture Art Research) discuss their application to UNESCO for recognition of Dheisheh Refugee Camp in Palestine as a World Heritage site.
“The conference has a time capsule purpose,” Galilee explains, “to later reflect the crux of its moment for future decades.”