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The future of urban living: events and exhibitions to start 2024

From the Middle East to the United Kingdom, via Germany: the most interesting events among cultural institutions describe the contribution of design disciplines in the search for sustainable solutions dedicated to energy and living

It is a geography permeable to emerging destinations in the global cultural landscape that is outlined by the exhibitions and events to be visited in early 2024. Between the ambition to live in self-sufficient cities, the urgency to reduce global carbon emissions and the revival of ancient manufacturing techniques.

Design-related disciplines can be architects of effective solutions to the problems of the present, affecting the way we inhabit (and exploit) the planet: many cultural institutions around the world are convinced of this. The must-see exhibitions and events in early 2024 document that it is still possible to overturn the status quo. And address, in a shared manner, issues such as resource scarcity, climate change and the green transition.

Design Doha

Where&When: Msheireb, Doha - Qatar. 24-28 February 2024

It aims to become the benchmark for design-related disciplines in the Middle East and North Africa region, Design Doha, the biennial event making its debut in Doha in February 2024. Instituted by Al Mayassa Al Thani, the president of Qatar Museums, the new event brings together Arab designers, providing a platform for sharing practices and visions, perfecting and testing themselves. The setting for the event, directed by curator and author Glenn Adamson, is the Msheireb district, an example of a smart city in the heart of the capital city. Architecture, urban planning, landscape design, graphic design, textile design are among the fields addressed by the programme. The exhibition Arab Design Now (open until 5 August, at M7 in Doha) stands out: curated by Rana Beiruti, founder of Amman Design Week, it offers a survey of the region, highlights its distinctive aesthetics and techniques and reveals the possible future of traditional methods and materials.

Sharjah Architecture Triennial 2023

Where&When: Sharjah, United Arab Emirates. Until 10 March 2024

We remain in the Middle East with the third edition of Sharjah Architecture Triennial (SAT), the cultural project instituted in 2018 that introduces itself in key locations in Sharjah (such as the Al Jubail Vegetable Market or the Al Qasimiyah School) with exemplary architectural and urban planning interventions. Works promoted, in particular, in the African, West Asian and South Asian contexts. The Triennial Beauty of Impermanence: An Architecture of Adaptability, curated by the Nigerian architect Tosin Oshinowo, brings together the design proposals of 29 studios, architects and designers from 25 countries, unified by the use of tools and solutions that are deeply linked to local communities, long accustomed to coping with the consequences of climate change and the scarcity of resources. Exhibitions, installations and expert discussions aim to demonstrate the potential of re-use and re-appropriation. As in the case of the Eta'dan masonry prototype, developed by the Accra (Ghana) multidisciplinary firm, Hive Earth, using rammed earth and plant residues from agriculture.

How to Build a Low Carbon Home

Where&When: Design Museum, London. Until 10 March 2024

It is a relentless commitment of the Design Museum to understand the contribution of design disciplines to countering the effects of the climate emergency. Here, 2024 will be marked by (at least) two initiatives aimed at publicising the trajectory followed by an increasing number of designers. The realisation that almost 30 per cent of global carbon emissions depend on the construction and operation of buildings also calls for a rapid turnaround. How? For example, by demonstrating how wood, stone and straw could take the place of the materials commonly used in construction today: the projects by the likes of Waugh Thistleton Architects, Material Cultures and Groupwork, and the acknowledgement of what is happening in the UK, through photographs, drawings, renderings and videos, testifies to a non-utopian scenario. From June to September 2024, it will be the turn of the exhibition linked to the new cycle of the Design Researchers in Residence project, focused this year on solar energy.

Makerversity: Designing for the Real World

Where&When: Somerset House, London. Until 4 February 2024

Final weeks in the British capital for the exhibition taking stock of the tenth anniversary of Makerversity, a pioneering community of over 300 creative talents active at the intersection of design, engineering and digital practice. Climate change, health and inequality constitute the thematic axis addressed by the work of these designers, who, driven by a desire to have a concrete impact on everyone's life, are developing products and processes in response to the major contemporary challenges. Any examples? These range from the amphibious, 3D-printed garment that acts like a gill and would allow humanity to survive underwater to The Tire Collective, which uses electrostatics to reduce microplastics from tyre wear (a major source of ocean and atmospheric pollution).

Transform! Designing the Future of Energy

Where&When: Vitra Design Museum, Weil am Rhein - Germany. 23 March to 1 September 2024

From smart mobility to self-sufficient cities, from renewable energy harvesting devices to solar buildings and wind turbines: energy is everywhere. Indispensable, sought after, not inexhaustible. Vitra Design Museum examines this fundamental element from a design perspective, inviting us to think as much about the ongoing evolution in its production and destruction as about the good practices that can be implemented, day in and day out, by every individual. A focus on individual actions and collective policies that together can make a difference so that energy transition does not remain just a word.

Valentina Silvestrini

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