Tech-led ingenuity and sustainability through co-creation celebrated this year’s London Design Biennale theme ‘The Global Game: Remapping Collaborations.’ 40 international exhibitors were invited to present designs for a better world by curators Nieuwe Instituut and its artistic director Aric Chen, with communication and collaboration at the heart of every project.

Recycled windows in the background, with writing on the wall ‘Poetics of Necessity’. In the foreground, one recycled  window installed in a slanted fashion in a section of demo-wall.
‘Poetics of Necessity’ – Curated by Zofia Jaworowska, Petro Vladimirov and Michał Sikorski

Poetic Justice

A series of social innovations highlighted the necessity of the arts during times of crisis. This hints at a shift in mindsets towards evaluating creativity as a human right, particularly in the context of wartime welfare.

This year the biennale debuted its first humanitarian Paper Sanctuary pavilion by Shigeru Ban. The architect collaborated with a poet and a composer to illustrate the experience of everyday Ukrainian life and the materials used to construct the modular pavilion was recently used inside temporary shelters housing Ukrainian refugees. The audience is invited to navigate the pavilion and learn more about shelters for refugees, as well as contributing personal messages for the Ukrainians.

Another exhibit aiming to reframe what it means to be a refugee is the Bidi Bidi Music and Arts Centre by Hassell and The semi-open-air amphitheatre, constructed from low-cost, low-carbon local materials, will be made available to nearly 270,000 African refugees in north Uganda. The multifaceted space that promotes community gathering can be used as a performance venue, classroom, recording studio, and more. In addition, the structure includes a funnel roof designed to collect and filter rainwater for consumption, solving a basic community need where food and water shortages are deteriorating due to climate change.

Poland’s pavilion displayed the fruits of their efforts for Ukraine through Poetics of Necessity. Before the war, 80% of windows were imported from Russia and Belarus. This project improves wartime conditions by facilitating the grassroots reconstruction of windows using 95% recycled materials. This project, along with the aforementioned exhibits, demonstrate how the turbulence of war can generate new communities and more sustainable methods of production for future challenges.

Lots of white balls of varying sizes decorate a mantle piece and fireplace in the background. There is also lots of greenery and nine cream slabs. There are more white balls decorating a domed kinetic machine in the foreground.
‘Vatra Verde’ – Curated by George Ciprian Mihnea, Cluj-Napoca and University of Art and Design.


Designers explored the growing need for sustainable solutions in architecture by exploring connectivity, participation and working holistically with nature.

The Creative Difference series by Automorph’s global network of scientists and designers employed biomimicry to emulate nature’s self-morphing structures. The result is flat-pack material that can be constructed in situ without the external application of energy. What’s more, their biomimicking hydrophilic seeds allow agriculture to flourish; when exposed to water the seeds twirl and burrow into the ground, increasing yield.

Riding the hydrophilic current, the Denmark and Switzerland pavilion presented near-self-sufficient solar flax fibre homes. Co-created by young people from key stage 1-12, Blue Nomad re-imagines and optimises the first Polynesian outrigger. To promote nomadism, ocean and climate sustainability, the habitat will embark on a 3,000km voyage. The exhibitor reminded VML Intelligence that ‘it is of great significance to include visions of the youngest members of society’ when imagining future homescapes.

Children were also welcomed participants in Romania’s sustainable installation. The exhibitors were delighted to watch as a young girl wound a hand-crank to generate renewable electricity from their kinetic sculpture of mycelium cogs. This centrepiece was crafted from recycled paper and cereal husks, emphasising the rest of the room’s eco-first decor. In fact, the vibrations of plants were channelled through the entire space via speakers. This created a unique musical experience that morphed as visitors touched the plants.

The AI Dilemma

While some exhibitions explored the Symbiocene, others highlighted the exponentially complex nature of technology, demonstrating a movement toward nuanced tech-rhetoric.

An artistic series created by Ai-Da, the world’s first ultra-realistic robot, showcased beautiful yet functionally flawed work, including a hole-ridden spoon and teapot. Aidan Meller, creator of Ai-Da, explained to VML Intelligence that the robot’s jarring art poses a concern: “AI promises much, but we don’t know the domino effect. It could be far-reaching in a negative sense. When social media came out, it was going to connect people and be this amazing community. What it’s actually done is polarise, misinform and encourage addiction ... AI is way bigger than social media so these works are really trying to jar the whole process and say ‘Just because we can, should we?’”

Please provide your contact information to continue.

Before submitting your information, please read our Privacy Policy as it contains detailed information on the processing of your personal data and how we use it.

Related Content

A person stands holding a light blue record in front of their face in a room with a dark blue wall and a blue and orange floral curtain to the right.

Milan Design Week

Multi-sensory immersions and new tech perspectives stirred new conversation between exhibits this year.
Read Article
HERO Polymorf Symbiosis

SXSW 2023: Symbiosis

Redesigning the human body and upending human narratives.
Read Article