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Plant porn

...and other great design ideas from BIO 50


Too often in the breakneck industry of modern design everyone is focused on the finished product. “Shipping is a feature” began as an axiom in software programming but has since been adopted in the design world, and basically means “Get something to market!” As a result, this push to sell typically makes the design process get lost in the noise. But at BIO 50 in Ljubljana, Slovenia, this past September, process was the point.

Relatively unknown in the West, BIO was Europe’s first design biennial when it was founded in 1964, making 2014 its 50th anniversary. To stir things up a bit, an ambitious transformation was undertaking, refocusing BIO from a traditional industrial design exhibition into a six-month collaborative process. This experimental framework – devised by renowned Belgian critic and curator Jan Bolen, head of the Social Design department at the Design Academy in Eindhoven and chairman of the Flemish Committee for Architecture and Design – involved 120 international multidisciplinary designers engaged in a large-scale collaborative effort over a period of six months to devise possible futures for design. Different groups tackled the themes of Affordable Living, Knowing Food, Public Water Public Space, Walking the City, Hidden Crafts, The Fashion System, Hacking Households, Nanotourism, Engine Blocks, Observing Space and Designing Life, creating specific projects displayed at various galleries and museums during the Biennial.

Following this period of intense research, where collaboration and learning were fundamental values, the outcomes were widely diverse, ranging from a series of household appliances developed under the same principles that shape open-source software to a garden pavilion developed with local residents to encourage new discussions about food. Other outcomes included a performative experiment that challenges the way one experiences walking in a city, as well as a multipurpose engine that doubles as a survival tool in a dystopian vision of the future. While decidedly unsexy and in most cases nowhere near market-ready, these “products” came out of a design biennial with such a strong experimental approach and ambitious goals that it should be seen as a case study for what design and design events can be in the contemporary world..

THEMES, MENTORS AND BIO 50 PARTICIPANTS

1. AFFORDABLE LIVING: In Slovenia, as in many parts of the world, contemporary cities seem to be filled with empty, unused buildings, kept off limits by invisible policies and regulations. Simultaneously, city residents young and old face on-going difficulties when it comes to housing, one of their basic rights. Questioning and exploring the causes and consequences of this trend, this team will develop strategies and tactics aimed at making contemporary affordable living a reality. Team mentors: Tadej Glaar, architect and professor at the Faculty of Architecture, University of Ljubljana; Rianne Makkink, architect and designer, co-founder of Studio Makkink & Bey www.studiomakkinkbey.nl. Partners: Regional Development Agency of the Ljubljana Urban Region www.rralur.si; Faculty of Architecture, University of Ljubljana www.fa.uni-lj.si; ProstoRo, www.prostoroz.org. Team members: Uroš Babnik, Lee Ivett, Adrian Friend, Dirk Osinga, Staša Dabi Perica, Georg Rafailidis, Maša Mertelj, Brina Vizjak, Lukas Wegwerth, Austin + Mergold (Jason Austin,Aleksandr Mergold), Martina Muzi, Silvia Dini Modigliani, Simon Beckmann, Gregor Bucik, Mika Cimolini, Aleš Ogorevc, Fala Atelier (Ana Luisa Soares, Filipe Magalhães)

2. KNOWING FOOD: What are the new discussions we can have about food? From healthy eating to new scarcities, from harvest to consumption, the food networks of the industrial age are becoming smaller, more local and specific. Tapping into local knowledge of food, resources, production and distribution, this team will strive to create a new consciousness about what lies on and beyond the plate. Team mentors: Lucas Mullié, foodcurator, co-initiator of Foodconvertors and Tijdrestaurant www.lucasmullie.nl; Digna Kosse, designer, www.digna-k.nl. Team members: Udeleenci: Nuša Jelenec, Gaja Menari Osole, Rita João, Frederico Duarte, Leonora Jakovljevi, Jan Kikelj, Katarina Dekleva, Ema Gerovac , Sergej Kuckir, Amélia Desnoyers, René Bosch

3. PUBLIC WATER PUBLIC SPACE: From the immediate dissolution of rainwater into any city’s sewage system, to the removal and disrepair of drinking fountains in urban centres, water has, in recent years, progressively disappeared from public space. In a country like Slovenia, with an abundant supply of pristine water, can we return this essential component of everyday life to public space? This team will strive to raise awareness of these questions and concerns, and reintegrate local water on the stage of daily public life. Team mentors: Marko Fatur, civil engineer, expert on water cycle and water systems, working at the Urban Planning Institute of Ljubljana, www.luz.si; Aldo Bakker, product designer, working in his own studio since 1994, www.aldobakker.com. Team members: Henriëtte Waal, Asnate Bokis, Matic Vrabi, Vanja Gortnar, John Stanislav Sadar, Bennie Meek

4. WALKING THE CITY: Walking in an urban environment is an essential component of contemporary life. From the mundane – the stroll of the flâneur or a functional shopping walk – to the ritual – a religious procession or a political protest march – the pedestrian has rights and agency, and yet seems to neglect or have forgotten them. Returning to a pedestrian scale, this team will devise new ways of urban action and reclaim public space as a privileged platform for walking. Team mentors: Marko Peterlin, architect and urban planner, co-founder of Institute for Spatial policies (IPoP) www.ipop.si; Judith Seng, product and process designer, working in her own Berlin studio since 2005 www.judithseng.de. Partner: Institute for Spatial Policies (IPoP) www.ipop.si. Team members: La Jetée (Paolo Patelli, Giuditta Vendrame), Maja Baloh, Ben Landau, Aya Bentur, Mima Suhadolc, Marta Ostajewska, Martin Abbott, Carolien Van den Hole, Sophie Rzepecky, Matthew Collings

5. HIDDEN CRAFTS: Is there new life to found in the methods, outcomes and distribution of craft? What can designers learn from a country’s craft tradition? Tapping into Slovenia’s rich craft history, the country’s manufacturers will be chosen to collaborate with designers in a discovery process. All participants will contribute with t
ime and engagement, embarking together on a trip that has no pre-defined destination. Mentors: Tulga Beyerle, freelance design expert, writer and curator, co-founder and director of Vienna Design Week www.viennadesignweek.at. Partner: Regional Development Agency of the Ljubljana Urban Region www.rralur.si. Team members: Emanuel Gollob, Zaven (Marco Zavagno, Enrica Cavarzan), Beno Ogrin, Klemen Smrtnik, Dejan Kos, Ernest Nograšek, Dea Kaker, Urša Vrhunc, Oloop (Jasminka Ferek, Tjaša Bavcon, Katja Burger), Marko Drpi, Gregor Humar, Alessandro Fonte, Emile De Visscher, Klemen Zupani, Klara Zalokar, Liene Jãcobsone, Anna Badur, Janez Mesari, Annika Frye, Mima Suhadolc, David Tavar. Partner companies: Interseroh & Consensus & Plastika Skaza; Kamena; Petri; Rokodelski center Ribnica; Steklarna Hrastnik; Tiporenesansa

6. THE FASHION SYSTEM: From textile production to retail, merchandising and all the stages in-between, the means by which we clothe ourselves are complex and multi-layered. Tradition and technology are part of the fashion industry, while links between designers, producers and consumers introduce new dynamics into the fashion system. Questioning the institution of fashion and its many facets, this team will seek to understand the human position within the machine that clothes us. Team mentors: Tina Hoevar, architect and designer, initiator of the Paul Malina project www.paulmalina.wordpress.com; Eugenia Morpurgo, designer, author of the Repair It Yourself (RIY) and footMade projects www.eumo.it; Evan Frenkel, student at Design Academy Eindhoven, researcher of open and active clothing manufacturing systems. www.efrenkl.blogspot.nl. Partners: Faculty of Natural Sciences and Engineering, University of Ljubljana www.ntf.uni-lj.si; Nataša Peršuh, SQUAT, Ljubljana www.squat.si. Team members: Tanja Paan, Elena Fajt, Clara Vankerschaver, Nina Mlakar, Linda Ogrizek, Martina Obid, Tijana Todorovi, Tjaša Avsec, Nataša Kova, Olivia de Gouveia, pH15 (Lucija Jankovec, Nika Batista, Katja Grman, Maruša Kranjc, Karmen Sedeljšak, Ana Jazbec, Elena Fajt)

7. HACKING HOUSEHOLDS: Traditional household appliances are created as a closed system; when something goes wrong, the most cost-effective solution is to throw out the appliance and replace it with something new. In an age when 3D printing and DIY circuitry make industrial processes accessible to any individual, this team will build upon users’ newfound abilities and opportunities to repair, customize, modify and repurpose existing products, creating a family of appliances designed for disassembly, repair, and modification. Team mentors: Tilen Sepi, designer, photographer and multimedia artist, co-founder of design collective Rompom http://fablab.popupdom.si/; Jesse Howard, designer and co-initiator of the OpenStructures project (OS), www.jessehoward.net. Partner: Lidija Pritrnik, Gorenje Design Studio, Gorenje www.gorenjedesignstudio.com. Team members: Thibault Brevet, Leonardo Amico, Jure Martinec, Nataša Muševi, Coralie Gourguechon

8. NANOTOURISM: After decades of a booming tourism industry with wide impact on territories and economies all over the world, are there smaller-scale, non-intrusive ways of promoting a tourism experience? The Nanotourism team will work in two different constellations: the first group will research possible experiences of tourism, exploring relevant global references as well as regional potentials. This research will be the basis for the second group, which will come to fruition during the AA Visiting School Slovenia, a workshop taking place in Vitanje in July 2014. This application is valid for the first group of Nanotourism. Team mentors: Aljoša Dekleva and Tina Gregori, architects and founders of studio Dekleva Gregori arhitekti www.dekleva-gregoric.com. Partner: Architectural Association (AA), School of Architecture, Visiting school, www.aaschool.ac.uk/STUDY/VISITING/slovenia. Team members: Barbara Nawrocka, Dominika Wilczyska, iga Rošer, Silvia Susanna, Living Courtyards Initiative/ Association House (Katja Beck Kos, Nadja Dodlek, Maša Kresnik, Samo Lorber, Kaja Pogaar, Maja Pegan, Niko Poljanšek, Tjaša Perovi, Robert Veselko), Maja Jenko, Oaza (Nina Baun, Ivana Borovnjak, Roberta Bratovi, Tina Ivezi, Maja Kolar, Ana-Marija Poljanec), Marjeta Fendre, Alessandro Fonte, Bla Šef

9. ENGINE BLOCKS: Vehicles have become increasingly specialized and unique, yet their mechanical essence remains largely the same. Could the future of transportation lie in a sustainable, modular mechanical solution where the main element – an engine – is adaptable in and to a variety of local contexts? Working towards an evolutionary, modular transportation device, this team will aim to create a system of objects with a hacked, interchangeable and easily removable engine. Team mentors: Gaspard Tiné-Berès and Tristan Kopp, product designers and founders of Re-do Studio, www.re-do-studio.com. Partner: Tomos, d. o. o. www.tomos.si. Team members: Antoine Monnet, Ricardo Carneiro.

10. OBSERVING SPACE: Slovenia harbors a budding space scene, epitomized by the recently formed Cultural Centre of European Space Technologies (KSEVT), which promotes research on “space culturalization” and “through its Composite Missions of art and science”. Harnessing the potential of this remarkable convergence, this team will explore new ideas that can be sparked by the presence of the human in outer space. Team mentor: Miha Turši, director and co-founder of KSEVT – Cultural Centre of European Space Technologies www.ksevt.eu. Partner: KSEVT – Cultural Centre of European Space Technologies, Vitanje www.ksevt.eu. Team members: Mats Horbach, Daniela de Paulis, Rogier Arents, Carlos Gendall, Joseph Popper, Andrej Strehovec, Pomme Van Hoof, Tanja Grosman

11. DESIGNING LIFE: In recent years, the intersection of design and science has created and opened doors to new explorations of speculative futures, creating possible scenarios for daily life in coming years. Building upon Slovenia’s bio-art scene and pharmaceutical industry, this team will engage with various sciences and biology to strengthen and develop existing ties and create multiple new experiments.

Team mentors: Jurij Krpan, architect and curator, art director of Kapelica Gallery www.kapelica.org; William Myers, writer and teacher, author of Biodesign: Nature + Science + Creativity www.william-myers.com,
www.biology-design.com. Partner: Kapelica Gallery, Gallery for Contemporary Investigative Arts, Ljubljana www.kapelica.org. Team members: Dimitrios Stamatis, David Benque, Špela Petri, Pei-Ying Lin, Jasmina Weiss

 

CURATORIAL STATEMENT

Since its founding in 1964, the Biennial of Design (BIO) in Ljubljana has surveyed the state of contemporary design from the heart of Central Europe. Witnessing the many shifts and changes the discipline has undergone in the last 50 years, BIO has seen design transition from its birth at the crossroads of industrialization and modernism towards a discipline that permeates all layers of everyday life. Ultimately, the many steps in this transition have illustrated the fragility of the discipline’s initial framework. The contemporary world is no longer a place of and for mass production and distribution; instead, design has migrated through the multi-layered networks of today towards local, specific, customizable scenarios where the designer is no longer an all-powerful creator, but an element in a network of collaboration and influence.

Similarly, in a world over-saturated with products and projects, the fundamental goal of design ceases to become the production of yet another chair. Today, design has become a form of enquiry, of power, and of agency. With it, the role of any event that seeks to represent and disseminate design has also fundamentally changed. On its 50th anniversary, BIO embraces this opportunity to build upon its own tradition and history, advancing into an experimental, collaborative territory where design is employed and implemented as a tool to question and transform ideas about industrial production, public and private space, and pre-established systems and networks.

Engaging designers and multidisciplinary agents from Slovenia and abroad, BIO 50 will create eleven teams to work on a wide and comprehensive range of topics that resonate with local and global demands. Team mentors will elaborate a brief for each category, guiding participants in the creation of one or more projects to be developed and implemented during the Biennial. BIO 50 will be a complex, transformative effort that seeks to strengthen local and international design networks, search for alternatives to implemented systems where design can play a role, and create bases for resilient structures that can develop through time, beyond the duration of the Biennial.

    Jan Boelen / Z33


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