by Devanshi ShahSep 18, 2021
Design communities often create their cultural sub-sections. Driven by their geographical or cultural connections and aesthetics, these variations are often subtle and can only be deciphered when seen together. Adorno London has created a show that does just that. Following their success as a digital destination at last year’s London Design Festival, they returned as one of the leading virtual design destinations for the London Design Festival 2021. Through a combination of immersive digital content and physical exhibitions in London, Adorno invited curators from Austria, Belgium, Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, the Netherlands, Norway, and Sweden to put together a cluster of mini-shows. Each of the curated collections presented new work, ranging from collectable design to functional art. The overall theme of this year’s exhibition was Designing Futures; curators put together collections that utilise a combination of country-specific environments, innovative visions of design, and a variety of philosophies to explore what it truly means to design the future. Essentially, Adorno London put eight independent shows under one central theme.
Austria: Postapocalyptic Kaffeehaus, curated by Gabriel Roland
Looking at the post-apocalyptic possibility of the future, Roland chose to present the show in a Viennese coffee house sometime after a future apocalypse. Using the familiarity of the space the show examined the relationship between habit and objects of design. It also intended to make one wonder ‘what will become of habits once the world in which those habits were created drastically changes?’ Roland, who is also the Director of Vienna Design Week, featured 11 designers whose work reflected on this correlation between rituals and design. In an official statement, Roland explained, “Our lives are shaped by rituals, which in turn are embedded in the objects we surround ourselves with. The Postapocalyptic Kaffeehaus examined what the core of these symbolic behaviour patterns might be and what remains even when the circumstances change radically.”Belgium: We (Be)Come One, curated by Elien Haentjens
While not physically in London, We (Be)Come One was presented inside Brussels’ landmark structure, the Atomium. Constructed for the World Expo in 1958, in Brussels, the building encapsulated the idea behind this particular show and emphasises the importance of crafting connections for the future of design. Elien Haentjens curated a collection that features nine designers whose work unites through a diversity of form, material, and technique to address issues relating to the environment and the need for a greater shift toward sustainability in our world.
Estonia: Revisiting the Past, curated by Kai Lobjakas
The complex interplay of what was, what is and what can be and carefully analysed, was presented through this collection. Inspired by Estonian-artist Riin Maide’s installation Paper Castle, it reapproached the multi-faceted subject of the past through design. The collection traced every day and the conventional, translating observations, reconsiderations, and hints of the past into contemporary design. In addition to the virtual exhibition, a selection of pieces from the collection were exhibited as part of “Tactile Baltics”, a joint presentation of the participating Baltic countries at Dray Walk Gallery in Shoreditch.
Latvia: Repurposing for the Future, curated by Dita Danosa
A virtual participation, the exhibition was located in the newly renovated culture centre, Hanzas Perons, in Riga. The collection of objects explored how designers and makers have uncovered forgotten materials, reinterpreted established uses, and how technology has been a tool to repurpose the residual and waste material in collectable objects and forms. The featured objects questioned the tendency of the past decades, to use rare and expensive materials, to create what would be considered ‘good design’. Danosa and the show postulate that it is now time to break away from this idea, to create work that is sustainable, beautiful and attainable for everyone.
Lithuania: Living Above the Water, curated by Audrone Drungliaté
The collection works with a hypothesis of what kind of values will be important to future generations if the global water levels were to rise. The collection was presented above a swamp in a possible future home. The selected pieces engaged with the notion of learning from the past and predicting the future and address the themes of overconsumption, material wastes, evolving habits, and nostalgia.
The Netherlands: An Irregular Future, curated by Rive Roshan
Curated by design studio duo Rive Roshan, the collection was set in an oil-filled, brutalist concrete space. The objects were selected for their rejection of the over-simplification and standardisation of design in favour of irregular objects and unfamiliar uses of materials. Questioning the status quo, the show is wary of a future that is more systemised, organised, and modular. The curated objects stand in as a disruption. Ruben De la Rive Box and Golnar Roshan, the namesakes of Rive Roshan, in an official statement said, “The main themes in the selection of objects are irregular or unfamiliar uses of materials. All familiar materials which we are used to seeing and experiencing in our daily lives, but with a new purpose and function.”
Norway: (Re)New Generation, curated by Kirsten Visdal
Elevated on pedestals in a quiet, industrial gallery space, curator and interior designer Kirsten Visdal interpreted the analogue and handmade, in comparison to the digital and virtual world. In a smooth transition between design and art, the selected objects highlighted a new generation of Norwegian designers and makers. The collection featured work that shows their abstract interpretations, where the function is no longer an essential feature of the object. Designers go back in time and bring out traditional techniques while using natural materials and processes that take time, and leave imprints of the hands in their creation. The expression is wild, organic, and unique.
Sweden: Maximalist 180°, curated by Stephen Markos
The Swedish collection focused on designers whose works indicate a shift in Sweden’s design philosophy. Presented in a concrete skatepark surrounded by a field of flowers, Maximalist 180° showcased the balance between refined and rustic, executed through new and innovative crafts techniques. Ten selected designers demonstrate a new wave of maximalist inspired design which blends traditional handicrafts with new techniques and materials and moves away from the stereotypical minimalist aesthetics associated with Scandinavian design.