bio 27: Super Vernaculars – Design for a regenerative future
Museum of Architecture and Design, Ljubljana
May 26 – November 29, 2022
The 27th edition of BIO, Europe’s longest-standing design biennale (since 1963), produced by the Museum of Architecture and Design in Ljubljana since 1972, will be curated by Jane Withers, a leading design curator, writer, and consultant based in London.
Global expansion and the pursuit of profit at the planet’s expense have precipitated the climate crisis and accelerated the massive imbalance between humanity and the natural world. Super Vernaculars, the theme for Bio 27, explores a growing and ambitious movement that takes inspiration from vernacular and indigenous architecture and design traditions around the world to shape a radical vision for a more resilient and responsive future.
Super Vernaculars – Emphasising Traditional Ecological Knowledge
In design culture, the term vernacular is generally associated with traditional architecture and design, but the approach defined by Super Vernaculars is in no way reactionary or retrogressive. At the intersection of innovation, anthropology, and ecology, the philosophy and movement gathering force around it are based on an increasing recognition of the value of TEK (Traditional Ecological Knowledge) as a catalyst for inspiring contemporary design culture, and for dismantling and reworking toxic value systems. In contrast to our extractive ‘take make waste’ economy, these practices are rooted in regenerative systems and cultures that live with the earth rather than from it.
Connecting Inspiring Designers and Thinkers
During BIO 27, Super Vernaculars will join designers and thinkers that are exploring alternative narratives to the industrial and technocentric as inspiration for 21st-century innovation. In the midst of the pandemic, and in a period of seismic change and improvisation, this call to explore cultures and wisdom traditions largely ignored in the modern industrial era is a sorely needed catalyst for designing a more equitable future. Super Vernaculars unites broader cultural and societal conversations, drawing its roots from the work of pioneering thinkers like Bernard Rudofsky (Architecture without Architects, MoMA 1964) and Julia Watson (Lo TEK 2019), who have been influential in illuminating indigenous cultures, vernacular traditions, and their priceless value for the contemporary world.
In his ‘Architecture without Architects’, Bernard Rudofsky argued that the philosophy and know-how of vernacular architecture presents a vast untapped source of inspiration for industrial man, as “they (anonymous builders) rarely subordinate the general welfare to the pursuit of profit and progress.” In Lo-TEK, Watson argues that it is time to reset our thinking. “The indigenous cultures of the world, many of which have been obscured by the shadow of progress, need to be recognized as innovative rather than primitive, and have their knowledge embedded in the thinking of our future.” These ideas have been gaining in credence and influence in recent years, and BIO 27 Super Vernaculars is an opportune moment to collect and interrogate proposals for alternative ways of building, farming, making, eating, and living that are inspired by experiences and value systems from diverse cultures.
Exploratory, interdisciplinary, and intercultural, Super Vernaculars will not be a conventional design or architecture show. Instead, it is envisaged as a collection of stories told through case studies that show how these ideas serve as a springboard for contemporary innovation. As well as showcasing design projects from different corners of the globe, visitors will encounter a series of live commissions that engage the next generation of designers and citizens and aim to demonstrate this approach’s ample potential to address regional and global issues at scale and to rank among contemporary approaches to climate change.
Bio 27 amplifies the biennale’s strategy to reflect on and deepen inquiries into the future while strengthening local impacts. The emphasis will be on a design that responds to local needs and context, and commissioned projects will draw on local conditions, resources, and materials. As the environmental impact of hosting international cultural events becomes clear, BIO has embedded a green commitment in its mission and strives to become a sustainable cultural producer, insisting upon an approach to manage and reduce its environmental footprint. The role to be played by design in tackling environmental and climate issues is a common thread that will weave through several upcoming editions of the biennale.