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Standout Asian pavilions at London Design Biennale

The theme of this year’s London Design Biennale, which runs from 1-27 June, is “resonance” – and it’s all about addressing the world’s biggest challenges through design.

Standout Asian pavilions at London Design Biennale

Photography by Ed Reeve

The London Design Biennale was originally set to go ahead in September 2020 – but was put on hold due to COVID-19 and is now taking place at Somerset House from 1-27 June 2021. Given the way the event has been shaped by global events, it’s perhaps fitting that this year’s theme, as chosen by Artistic Director and renowned stage designer, Es Devlin, is “Resonance”.

“We live in an age of hyper resonance, the consequences of which are both exhilarating and devastating,” says Devlin. “In our global, digital era, design can instantly permeate borders and bridge cultures. As a community of designers approaching shared global challenges from culturally diverse viewpoints, the collective resonance of our ideas and our actions has the power to be truly transformative.”

There are 29 design teams from around the world taking part this year, and they have tackled everything from climate change, water scarcity and colonialism to the ongoing effects of the COVID-19 pandemic. And, the result is set to be a thought-provoking exploration of some of the world’s most pressing issues. Below is our pick of the pavilions that shouldn’t be missed.

Taiwan – Swingphony


Photography by Ed Reeve

Taiwanese believe that worship brings blessings and peace to the world, so much so that religious belief has become a cornerstone of Taiwan’s social stability. The ritual act of worship is symbolised in the swinging pendulum of metronomes to create Swingphony – a warm hearted melody from Taiwan to the world. The melodies concerto of goodwill, faith and compassion is Taipei-based design studio, bito’s attempt to help people overcome anxieties caused by the pandemic.

Japan – Reinventing Texture


Photography by Ed Reeve

In times like these when travel has been restricted and physical barriers reinforced, architectural designer Toshiki Hirano invites visitors to travel between Tokyo and London, and take in the urban sights, colours and sounds through his experimental immersive installation. An homage to the ancient Japanese art of Washi paper-making and papier-mâché, Reinventing Texture celebrates texture without touch – playing with multiple scales and projections like illuminated watercolours. It’s a graphic poem of the two cities and showcases the spirit of invention in Japan that still resonates with its history.

Indonesia – The Invisible: Free The Space


Photography by Gianfranco Chicco

Using projected screen to show the interior of public houses in Indonesia within the walls of Somerset House, designer Dea Widya invites visitors to witness the shortcomings faced by the indigenous community in their modern domestic space, where communal culture and the inhabitant’s psychological needs are disregarded. There are seven fragments of narrative within these illusory interiors performed through audio and visual. Each calls on inclusive design and social equality as one size does not fit all.

Hong Kong – Sandtable 沙盆推演


Photography by Ed Reeve

Drawing inspiration from the Chinese culture of fortune-telling, visitors are invited to develop stories, dreams and speculations on the histories and futures of Hong Kong through Sandtable. Captured in sand, visitors’ written strokes will be projected in the installation, forming an archive of resonance on site and online.

Global Goals Pavilion – Forest for Change


Photography by Es Devlin

Though not an Asian pavilion, this is one that shouldn’t be missed as it resonates with us all, regardless of location, race or gender. Visitors are welcomed to Somerset House by this powerful interactive installation that illuminates the United Nations’ Global Goals for Sustainable Development. The lush forest of 400 trees – all of which will be replanted in London after the event – is the vision of Artistic Director, Es Devlin. Intriguingly, it was inspired by the banning of trees in the Somerset House courtyard when it was originally built 250 years ago. Wander through the forest accompanied by a soundtrack of birdsong curated by Brian Eno to discover a clearing with a pavilion of 17 mirrored pillars. Here, visitors can choose the goal that most resonates with them and record a short message expressing their hopes for change.

Related: 5 notable installations at the Singapore Pavilion at Venice Architecture Biennale

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