Design Biennial questions "humans"

70 projects by over 250 international artists are exhibited around Istanbul
Istanbul Design Biennial, Human Helmet

This biennial thinks about the fact that the human is unique in its capacity to design but also continuously redesigning itself in a never ending loop that flings it into the world in unexpected ways. The human is a question mark and design is simply the way of engaging with the question.

Answers to this question can be found in the third Istanbul Design Biennial in Turkey, where over 250 participants, including designers, architects, artists, choreographers, filmmakers, historians and archeologists from more than fifty countries participate. The seventy projects including industrial products, films, sketches, illustrations, graphics and installations are exhibited mainly in five different venues around the city: Galata Greek Primary School in Galata district, Studio-X Istanbul and Depo in Karakoy district, Art Space in Bomonti district and Istanbul Archeological Museums in Sultanahmet district.


The Biennial opened to the public on the 22nd of October, organised by the Istanbul Foundation for Culture and Arts (IKSV) . The event will explore the intimate relationship between design and humanity over a time period that spans from the last two seconds to the last 200,000 years: “Humans have always been radically reshaped by the designs they produce and the world of design keeps expanding. We live in a time when everything is designed, from our carefully crafted individual looks and online identities, to the surrounding galaxies of personal devices, new materials, interfaces, networks, systems, infrastructures, data, chemicals, organisms and genetic codes,” reads a manifesto by two curators, Beatriz Colombian and Mark Wigley.


The Biennial has been one of the major contributors not only to the growth of the Turkish design industry, but also to the city's urban development. The Biennial's many video installations are exhibited in Art Space in Bomontiada, which was previously Istanbul's oldest beer factory. The aged industrial facility was converted into a complex of galleries, restaurants, a live concert hall and Leica photography showroom and gallery. The concert hall is own by Istanbul's prime live music house Babylon, known for its lively program of international and local acts, focusing on jazz, rock, world music, electronic and alternative pop music. Part of the complex is still under construction waiting to house more restaurants and event spaces.


As a former resident and frequent visitor of the city, I have seen Istanbul's design scene change over the past five years and the city keeps inspiring me with its creative development. The multi-cultural urban city on the threshold of potentially radical transformations is becoming one of the most important hubs for international creatives. The word "transformation" might be wrong to describe Turkish contemporary culture, as it is not just about destroying an old structure and making something completely new, but is developing a modern style without forgetting the tradition. Turkey's contemporary style cannot exist without the traditional essence. An exemplary feature is extremely visible in a place like Bomontiada. The venue represents the complex mixture of Turkish traditions and contemporaneity and the contrast cannot be more distinct. Walking through the complex built among modern skyscrapers and ruined wood houses, listening to the sound of metal teaspoon hitting a tea glass and eating local meze dishes of Turkish delicacies, you have an occasion to explore not only Turkish design industry, but also to experience the city's ongoing changes through the traditional and contemporary vibe.

  • curators: Beatriz Colombian and Mark Wigley

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