Art

London Design Biennale 2021 confirmed 1 – 27 June: Artistic Director Es Devlin to design forest of 400 trees

Somerset House courtyard to feature a forest with 400 trees, designed by Es Devlin for The Global Goals Pavilion, in partnership with Project Everyone. Forest for Change – The Global Goals Pavilion – will showcase the facts behind the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals and the urgent pathway of action to a better and fairer future.

London Design Biennale announced Forest for Change, the centrepiece of its 2021 edition, which will be held from 1- 27 June 2021 at Somerset House, welcoming a host of countries, cities and territories to highlight the role of design in addressing global challenges and crises.

Sir John Sorrell CBE, President, London Design Biennale says: “Great design ideas can help change things for the better, inspire people and give them hope for the future – never more needed than now. At Somerset House in June, the London Design Biennale will present inspired thinking from across the world in a unique exhibition designed to entertain, inform and spark action.”

Taking over Somerset House, both inside and outside, the 2021 Biennale programme includes Forest for Change, The Global Goals Pavilion, which drives awareness of the United Nations’ Global Goals for Sustainable Development – an ambitious plan to eradicate poverty, fight inequality and tackle the climate crisis.     

This forest of 400 trees from 23 varieties typical of those found across the UK and Northern Europe, will create a magnificent green landscape and centrepiece in Somerset House’s courtyard. The Pavilion will offer a journey of discovery and interaction, with a Global Goals installation in the central clearing of the forest. The forest will bring to life the solutions needed to achieve the Goals and gather voices from across society to create a powerful collective message for change in an effort to combat climate change, reduce inequality and include everyone in the Covid-19 recovery.

Designed by leading international artist and designer, and Artistic Director of the Biennale, Es Devlin, in collaboration with Landscape Designer Philip Jaffa and Urban Greening Specialists Scotscape, the outdoor experience is presented in partnership with Project Everyone, a not-for profit agency founded by Richard Curtis, Kate Garvey and Gail Gallie to further awareness and engagement with Global Goals.

Es Devlin, Artistic Director of London Design Biennale, says: “When I was first shown around Somerset House many years ago, I discovered that the Enlightenment principles on which the building was conceived, specifically forbade the introduction of trees into the courtyard. Of course, the first thing we wanted to do when considering this year’s Biennale was to counter this attitude of human dominance over nature, by allowing a forest to overtake the entire courtyard. In literature forests are often places of transformation: the forest of Arden in Shakespeare, the enchanted forests of the Brothers Grimm. The UN Global Goals offer us clear ways to engage and alter our behaviour and it is our hope that an interaction with the Goals in the forest will be transformative.”

Forest for Change, The Global Goals Pavilion. Render by Es Devlin Studio, Photo credit Somerset House/Kevin Meredith

At this year’s Biennale, exhibiting countries, territories and cities from six continents, including Antarctica, Austria, Canada, Hong Kong, India, Israel, and Venezuela, and special projects featuring designers from the MENA region among others, will respond to Es Devlin’s call to action: “how can design provide solutions to the major challenges of our time?” Captured in the Biennale’s 2021 theme of Resonance, this question considers the ripple effect of ground-breaking design concepts on the way we live, and the choices we make, exploring issues from the pandemic to climate change, equality to migration, through international collaboration, policy making and communication. A series of digital sessions will also complement and extend the 2021 programme, to ensure a full engagement of London Design Biennale’s global community.

In addition, this year’s Biennale will present ‘Design in An Age of Crisis’, an exhibition of radical design thinking from the world’s design community, the public and young people, in response to a global Open Call created in partnership with Chatham House that attracted 500 submissions from over 50 countries across 6 continents.

There will also be a special ‘Sustainability and Innovation’ exhibition consisting of a series of installations by a selected group of universities, organisations, and brands demonstrating their contribution to these global issues through design.

The Mayor of London, Sadiq Khan, says: “I am delighted that the London Design Biennale will once again bring prominent designers, curators, and design institutes from around the globe to our capital. It has been an incredibly difficult year for the industry, but this programme will bring us together as an international community to reflect and collaborate on the challenges that lie ahead. London is a global creative capital, which will play a key role in our economic recovery from the pandemic.”

Victoria Broackes, Director, London Design Biennale, says: “This year’s Biennale will give visitors the chance to experience the world in the heart of London.  The opportunity to come together, exchange and reflect on where we go from here, as you meander through the forest and tour the globe via international pavilions, will be extraordinarily welcome.”

Richard Curtis, film writer, director and co-founder of Project Everyone, says: “In the Forest, we put the power of creativity behind the Global Goals to make something truly beautiful that would communicate our vision of a better, fairer world. Bringing a forest into the courtyard at Somerset House for the first time is a bold statement that mirrors the audacious nature of the Goals – they are the most ambitious plan the world has to end poverty, fight inequality and stop climate change. The Goals are the answer to the challenges we are facing, and a pathway towards building a better and brighter future for everyone, everywhere.

Kate Garvey, co-founder Project Everyone, comments: “2021 is a pivotal year for the global community to address the most urgent issues we have seen in a generation. As the host of both the G7 and COP26, the UK Government has a real opportunity to show leadership on the Global Goals for Sustainable Development and drive action to address climate change, growing inequality, and the recovery from covid.

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This year, London Design Biennale will have a one-way route, and timed ticketing with a set capacity, to ensure the safety and wellbeing of visitors and staff, adhering to government guidelines and Somerset House health and safety compliance requirements.

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