The 2021 London Design Biennale has the idea of “can we design a better world” right at its heart. Set in the forecourt of London’s Somerset House, I was particularly drawn towards the Global Goals Pavilion with its Forest for Change. 400 swaying trees in such an historic place seem exhilarating. The planting and spacing is done in such a naturalistic way that it feels just like being in a magical, faraway forest.
The designer of this pavilion is Es Devlin who is also the Artistic Director of the Biennale. This event has attracted global interest from both exhibitors and visitors and it marks a dynamic effort to prompt debate, thought but also action to make the world cleaner, greener and fairer. It does all this without being worthy and judgmental and succeeds in laying down the challenges faced by this generation and the next in refreshing and stimulating ways.
LONDON, ENGLAND – JUNE 01: A general view of the atmosphere at the opening of “Forest For Change: The Global Goals Pavilion” at the London Design Biennale at Somerset House on June 1, 2021 in London, England. (Photo by David M. Benett/Dave Benett/Getty Images) DAVE BENETT/GETTY IMAGES
The Forest for Change plays with your senses and takes you to a different place. The sensitive planting of trees in a variety of shapes, forms, colors and sizes draws you away from the harsh stone of the forecourt and into the softer world of nature. Natural paths lure you towards the shelter of the swinging tree canopy where you hear the rustling leaves and enchanting birdsong curated by Brian Eno – a musician who has always led with innovation and originality.
Being in the forest screens out the noise of the city and there are real moments of calm as you make your way slowly towards the center of the Global Goals Pavilion. Here you will discover 17 colored pillars set in a circle with each reflecting one of the 17 Global Goals for Sustainable Development. Adopted by UN member states in 2015, this plan for the world seeks to end poverty, fight inequality and tackle climate change by 2030. It is ambitious, of course, but it is helpful to see the objectives for better and more sustainable lives laid out in such a clear and informative way.
(Photo by JUSTIN TALLIS/AFP via Getty Images) AFP VIA GETTY IMAGES
The design of the pillars incorporates mirroring so we can each take a moment to reflect on our own role in achieving the Global Goals. Every visitor also has the opportunity to record a short message saying which goal matters most to them and why. These recorded words are then woven into the music installation composed by Robert S Thomas which surrounds the pillars with sounds and sentiments.
Es Devlin has really succeeded here with his ambition to blend nature with the built-up world. It is a sharp way to remind everyone of the need to coexist and work together to build a more balanced natural world.
LONDON, ENGLAND – JUNE 01: General view of the Forest for Change from the roof of the building before the opening of the London Design Biennale at Somerset House on June 1, 2021 in London, England. (Photo by Ian Gavan/Getty Images)
Forest for Change will have a lasting legacy too. In the fall, all the trees will move to different parts of London to soften the urban landscape, filter pollution, generate oxygen, create summer shade and provide a home for wildlife. This careful planting program is a way to do something positive and practical about climate change. It will benefit future generations and will form part of the Queen’s Green Canopy Project to celebrate her Platinum Jubilee in 2022.
Stepping out of the forest and there is a deep feeling of having been somewhere special and memorable.
LONDON, ENGLAND – JUNE 01: General view of the Forest for Change before the opening of the London Design Biennale at Somerset House on June 1, 2021 in London, England. (Photo by Ian Gavan/Getty Images)GETTY IMAGES
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