Whether online or in real life, attending architecture and design events is an important way of keeping up on the big conversations and of stimulating our own creativity, especially during the cold winter months. Here, we’ve selected 10 of the best architecture and design exhibitions and talks around the world – on subjects as varied as the Bouroullec brothers’ latest products, Forensic Architecture’s human rights investigations and architecture’s role in creating Black spaces – that we are excited for. Check out our events listings for more.
Few designers boast a portfolio as prolific as that of the Bouroullec brothers. The award-winning French duo opened their studio in 1999 and have since worked with renowned brands from Cappellini to Vitra. On until May 30th, this exhibition at the Philadelphia Museum of Art features their work over the past decade, which spans furniture, lighting, textiles and architecture that combine traditional craftsmanship with a contemporary sensibility. Along with their studio, the Bouroullecs also designed the gallery space itself for an all-encompassing showcase of their signature design approach.
Women have been paving the way in the world of design long before even the days of modernist icons Florence Knoll and Eileen Grey, but their accomplishments have long been undervalued in comparison to those of their male counterparts. This year, the Vitra Design Museum is re-writing this narrative by celebrating women’s contributions from 1900 to the present day. This four-part exhibition — on until March 6th — highlights the design history and standout stars of each era, from Charlotte Perriand to Patricia Urquiola. Visitors can also explore a second female-focused exhibition, entitled Spot On: Women Designers in the Collection, on view at the Vitra Schaudepot.
While the COVID-19 pandemic left most of us isolated at home — which was mostly uninspiring — for designers it reinforced that there are many problems they can help to solve, including when it comes to healthcare and healing. Across disciplines and the world over, architects, industrial designers and graphic artists have accepted this challenge, producing innovative works that address the barriers that inhibit access to care, thereby working to mitigate systemic inequities. On view at the Cooper Hewitt Smithsonian Design Museum, this exhibition curated in collaboration with MASS Design Group highlights the ingenuity of designers in responding to COVID-19 and pandemics past and envisioning a better future.
Though Foster + Partners only published its sustainability manifesto in 2019, its contents have been part of the firm’s design ethos from the outset. On until February 18th, this exhibition at Shanghai’s Xintai Warehouse showcases the firm’s environmentally sensitive design approach in China, in particular, through models, photos and videos of notable projects, including the masterplan for the Shanghai Bund, Suhe Centre in Suzhou Creek, and the Yuexiu Global Financial City. “China has shown remarkable vision in endorsing a green future,” explains Senior Executive Partner Gerard Evened. “The exhibition explores how the different teams in our studio work – and how, when it comes to design and innovation, an integrated approach sets us apart.”
“How are some bodies, subjects and citizens included in the construction of built environments and others are marginalized?” This is the question driving a week-long series of online seminars run by the CCA in Montreal, and beginning January 31st, that will unpack how the legal system influences equity in the built environment. Led by Shiri Pasternak, the talk “Bad Company: Infrastructure in Canada” will explore the connection between the built environment and colonial practices. Next up, Rosten Woo will speak to examples of informality and sidewalk vending in L.A. and New York in his talk, “Shifting Power in the City.” On February 2nd, Manuel Shvartzberg Carrió will reflect on the use of spatial practices to manage territorial conflict. Rounding out the series, the final talk, led by Brenna Bhandar, will touch on housing regulations in the UK, examining the concept of “organized state abandonment.”
Each year, Rome’s MAXXI invites an established designer or studio to reinterpret the work of an architect included in the museum’s permanent collection. For the 4th annual iteration of this programme, Neri & Hu’s Traversing Thresholds reinvents the work of Carlo Scarpa, by “building a cultural bridge between West and East, past and present.” The work of Scarpa, a master of Italian architecture who died in 1978, is interpreted by the contemporary architects through the concept of “threshold,” present in both the Chinese jian and the Japanese ma, which can be translated as “space” and “pause.” The installation reinterprets this suspension in an architectural sense as a physical mediation between two contiguous spatial environments.
The University of Toronto’s John H. Daniels faculty is well-known for its ongoing lecture series, bringing in scholars and professionals to discuss the latest issues in architecture, art and design. Since the pandemic, these talks have mostly moved online — thereby also allowing the worldwide design community to join in from anywhere. On February 3, “In Conversation with Black Students in Design: Building Black Spaces” will bring together leading scholars Rashad Shabazz, Dr. Elizabeth (Dori) Tunstall and Dr. Rinaldo Walcott to discuss the role of architecture in defining Black spaces, the history and contributors to these spaces and how we can all participate and advocate for improving them.
Since 2014, off-season visitors to Toronto’s Woodbine Beach have been welcomed with a playful spectacle — that of Winter Stations, an annual public art event which invites the international design community to reimagine unused lifeguard stations along Lake Ontario’s edge. Over the past seven years, the competition has seen submissions from over 90 countries, and it’s showing no signs of slowing down. Case in point, this year’s theme is “Resilience”: fitting for a public art event that has had to content not only with a global pandemic, but also with the unpredictable elements of Toronto’s winters. The six winning proposals will be exhibited on the beach from February 21 to March 31. Each of the stations — from a trellis-roofed bright red pavilion, to a hexagonal structure reminiscent of a bee’s nest — symbolizes the staying power of art and design in the face of even the most challenging circumstances.
At the Louisiana Museum in Denmark, an exhibition series entitled The Architect’s Studio focuses on a new generation of practitioners working with sustainable and socially aware architecture while facing the challenges of globalization. London’s Forensic Architecture studio, headed by architect Eyal Weizman, is the fifth exhibitor in the series: the Goldsmith, U.K.-based research group works with “evidence, aesthetically and socially” to reconstruct world events – through films, images and sound – such as drone strikes, industry-caused environmental disasters, the plight of boat migrants and police brutality. The practice has made architecture a form of bearing witness to, and providing much-needed clarity on, various forms of injustice.
As part of the Architectural Association School of Architecture’s AAction Lecture Series, entitled Who’s Counting?, this online lecture hosted by social geography expert and Newcastle University professor Helen Jarvis tackles a nuanced topic in social housing and architecture: What are the gendered consequences of the omnipresent dream of property? The talk will address the ways in which climate justice intersects with feminism through a dual focus on co-housing and eco-feminism, which sees our ecological future as inextricable from women’s liberation. Understanding how the two are intertwined could help to bolster co-housing as a model for creating both low-impact and gender-equal housing.
Check out our events listings for more inspiring lectures, exhibitions and workshops.
We’ve rounded up some of the most exciting exhibits, talks and lectures on design and architecture this year.