Architecture, design, Travel
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Top 5 Biennales to visit the summer

It’s Biennale Season (or Biennial depending on which part of the world you are from:). As the world slowly opens up after a year of shutdowns and lockdowns countries are moving forward with big cultural events. If I were to travel this year (Canada’s vaccine rollout is not the best at the moment) this would be my itinerary for the biggest Biennale circuit all happening this year!

London Design Biennale – June 1 – June 27, 2021, Somerset House

First stop, I would take a redeye and fly straight to London. I usually book with to get the best prices. As the UK is opening up more quickly than other countries this would be a good first place to start. Depending on quarantine rules, I would take the full month and enjoy the sites of London and how the world’s most ambitious and imaginative designers and curators will respond to Artistic Director Es Devlin’s theme of Resonance with pavilions set across the historic location of Somerset House.

Full disclosure: L’Institut, Red Studio and Kirsh Design will be featured in Somerset House as our project Limitless Potential was chosen to be on show in the Cathedral of Creativity, curated by London Design Biennale Director, Victoria Broackes, designed by Juliet Quintero of award-winning architecture, art and place-shaping studio Dallas-Pierce-Quintero, and with graphics by world renowned design studio Pentagram.  It will be presented in three galleries at the heart of Somerset House.

Venice Architecture Biennale – May 22 – November 21, Giardini / Arsenale

Second stop, I would travel to Venice and take in the beauty that all Venice as to offer. Use to get a good scan for the best inter-European flight deals. Once again, depending on quarantine rules, I would take the full month to visit all the exhibitions onsite and throughout the city. If traveling to Venice is your first time I would suggest buying a multipass ticket for the Vaporettos as it is the main mode of transportation in Venice.

Make your way to the Arsenale first as it is the main exhibition site and will set the tone for the rest of the event. On your next day, head to the Giardini to see how the country pavilions interpreted the theme. And finally, take time to find all the satellite sites throughout the city. They will be scattered throughout the city, so think of it as a fun biennale scavenger hunt.

If you have never visited the islands, take this time to see them all. You will be able to experience them without the mass of tourists:)

Helsinki Biennial – June 6 – September 26, 2021

Helsinki Design Week – September 9 – 19, 2021

Next, I would take some time in the Finnish capital. Again, I use to get the best flight connections. The worst is having a long stopover. This is a 2-for-1 punch with their first Art Biennial as well as their Design Week both on display during September. Here you will get a healthy dose of contemporary and modern Finnish art and design. This is the land of Aalto so get ready to see glimpses of his influence throughout the event. I’ve been to Helsinki several times but never for a Biennial or Design Week so this would be an exceptional experience. Get ready to learn some Finnish!

Chicago Architecture Biennial – September 2021

And last but not least, I would come back Stateside to Chicago, the land of architecture. I’ve used to find the best flights with the least stopovers. As this is the only Architecture Biennial in North America it is an important event to attend to get the pulse of what is happening closer to home. Their theme is “The Available City” is headed by Artistic Director David Brown who is a designer, researcher, and educator based at the School of Architecture at the University of Illinois at Chicago. Brown investigates non-hierarchical, flexible, and variable approaches to urban design.

What will be interesting after this Biennale Tour de Force is how these cultural events either talk to eachother with their thematics, continue on the narrative or look at new ways of addressing systemic problems.

After seeing all these different perspectives, you will have a very knowledgable point of view on how some of the top capitals in the world curate, collect and share their views on global and local narrative around the world of design, architecture and art.

If anyone does go on my proposed circuit please do let me know. I would love to schedule a virtual coffee to get your thoughts.

Richelle Sibolboro
Richelle Sibolboro

Design strategist and content creator for hire with a passion for arts and culture specifically in design, architecture, and travel. She has produced content for designboom, Azure magazine, Open City Projects, Digifest, and World Design Weeks. Follow her on Instagram, YouTube and LinkedIn.

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