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Porto Design Biennale 2021

The Porto Design Biennale ends up filling the void since the closure of the old Lisbon biennale, Experimenta Design.

When we remember these two events, we realise that, over the years, some differences have occurred in design, and various needs have arisen since the first biennales in Portugal.

Social concern in design has also increased. Interventions in communities have grown to guarantee cultural preservation and tackle local environmental issues.

The Porto Design Biennale 2021 addresses this concern. It is based on debate, an open dialogue, and does not ignore the presence of all stakeholders. Designers, artists, craftsmen, thinkers, citizens – all seek ways to solve problems that have begun to emerge in society, where design can play a fundamental role.

This year, the curator-general of the Biennale is Alastair Fuad-Luke. For those who know design, he is an indispensable figure in this area. He is a renowned thinker, and the Biennale could not be better represented.

Fuad-Luke created the iconic Eco-Design Handbook published in 2002. It is a work that, given its size, presents designers and manufacturers with a variety of green materials and solutions to protect the environment, or at least to minimise the effects of the human footprint on the planet.

Fuad-Luke, with the same intensity with which he brought together materials and ecological solutions in his work twenty years ago, wants in this biennale to continue developing strategies, such as adapting to nature, respecting its cycle, considering the living parts of our planet. In the projects developed in the biennale, the local culture, the socio-political system, the prevailing economic conditions, the regional natural resources are also taken into account.

As Fuad-Luke said in his 2002 catalogue, “ecological pluralism is evolution and revolution”. In the current biennale in Oporto, with the motto “Alter-Realities: Landscapes, Care, Production and Experiences”, the curator wants to convey a concern and an ecologically plural focus, as there is not just one path, solution or model for design, but rather several possibilities.

For this reason, the Biennale privileges the debate among citizens. On the event’s website, there is an online space where people can expose their ideas. The biennale is also considering creating “communities of change”, where everyone can be heard, to create beneficial futures for all.

With the various challenges faced by citizens, especially in a pandemic, Fuad-Luke, as well as Caroline Naphegyi and Sam Baron – curators of the Autre programme – are looking to develop projects and debates that fit into people’s everyday lives. For example, Caroline Naphegyi, in partnership with Sam Baron, wants to develop a bridge between the French and Portuguese project-driven reality. Through debate, the flow of ideas, dialogue and openness to different realities, the aim is to cement relationships with both creative realities, create new paths for design, allowing a more human and inclusive society. Job creation, use of autochthonous materials, preservation of the local culture and ecosystem.

The biennale aims to be developed “based on the present”, as Fuad-Luke says, and to help people’s lives concretely and plurally.

Carla Carbone was born in Lisbon, 1971. She studied Drawing in Ar.co and Design of Equipment at the Faculty of Fine Arts in Lisbon. Completed his Masters in Visual Arts Teaching. She writes about Design since 1999, first in the newspaper O Independente, then in editions like Anuário de Design, arq.a magazine, DIF, Parq. She also participates in editions such as FRAME, Diário Digital, Wrongwrong, and in the collection of Portuguese designers, edited by the newspaper Público. She collaborated with illustrations for Fanzine Flanzine and Gerador magazine. (photo: Eurico Lino Vale)

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