The London Design Biennale 2018 Wows Us With Cocooning Tunnels And Cashmere Clouds

London Design Biennale, Somerset House ★★★★★

Tabish Khan
By Tabish Khan Last edited 67 months ago

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The London Design Biennale 2018 Wows Us With Cocooning Tunnels And Cashmere Clouds London Design Biennale, Somerset House 5
Flyyn Talbot's light installation looks absolutely stunning.

Stick your hands into 40kg of Mongolian cashmere and feel like you're caressing clouds. Write your name on a condensation covered surface and watch it disappear in two minutes. These are just two of the highlights at the excellent London Design Biennale at Somerset House.

The Biennale brings together 40 countries, cities and territories to showcase the most innovative designs through impressive installations. We absolutely loved the first incarnation of this event two years ago, and we're excited to report this year is equally superb.

Draw and write to your heart's content - it'll be gone two minutes later.

The theme is emotional states and we're put through the full range of emotions across all the pavilions. The UK is represented by Turner Prize nominees Forensic Architecture, who are gathering and reconstructing data on the Yazidi people being targeted by ISIS. It's a harrowing piece on the tragic genocide committed against a people, and it's very current given these attacks are continuing today.

At the other end of the emotional spectrum, Berghaus has brought some humour to its presentation. We enter a tunnel where we're bombarded by dissonant sounds and captions on the floor asking us whether 0% battery life is ruining our day or if we're stuck in meetings about meetings. It will bring a smile to any one who has worked in a big corporation. We emerge from the tunnel to a calm painted landscape and are encouraged to take a postcard and write back from where we've escaped from the rat race. It's a humorous display but captures the stresses of modern day life, and yes we're now planning our next escape.

The Pakistani pavilion looks at the construction of garments.

The Biennale is stuffed full of big ideas but there are more practical designs on display too. We particularly like a classroom designed for sick children that allows them to join their class remotely and participate in quizzes. A rather smart robot called AV1, by No Isolation, is designed to only transmit video one way as sick children can be rather conscious of how they look.

A very different, but equally important, product is the Power Plant. It's a futuristic greenhouse that uses solar glass to power itself and to grow plants in a confined space. It's perfect for densely packed countries and cities, plus it uses 90% less water than usual agriculture — sounds like London needs more of these.

Step through and be cocooned by this tunnel.

One of our favourites is in the courtyard — a rather narrow tunnel that looks too small for us to navigate. However, with each step the walls in front of us pull apart so we can walk forward, and they close behind us. It's as if we've been cocooned inside our own personal tunnel and it's both disconcerting and magical.

Nearby is the strangest interactive experience, where visitors can kiss in front of famous landmarks in Budapest. Once inside we can only see a green screen and it's those outside who get to see the smooching. It's unsettling but this is the Instagram age we live in where anyone can know the intimate details of our lives if we choose to share them.

Power Plant is a sustainable and remarkably efficient greenhouse.

There are so many great installations here that we could prattle on for another 500 words but it's best we leave some surprises to wow, provoke and entertain visitors to yet another brilliant London Design Biennale.

London Design Biennale is at Somerset House until 23 September 2018. Tickets are £19.50 for adults.

Last Updated 05 September 2018