Design in the age of crisis: creative ideas take flight

Architects and designers have responded to an open call from the London Design Biennale and Chatham House to generate radical ideas that will reshape our working world

What do we want from work in the 21st century? How can we organise work to create fair conditions and social protections for all? And how can the places and practices for work be reshaped in light of the Covid-19 pandemic? These were among the big questions at the heart of a joint initiative by the London Design Biennale and Chatham House, the prestigious Royal Institute of International Affairs in the UK, to give designers around the world a platform for radical thinking.

A global open call entitled ‘Design in an Age of Crisis’ was issued in July 2020, inviting creative proposals for change in the areas of work, health, environment and social empowerment. More than 500 submissions were received from 58 countries around the world. These have now gone on show in an online exhibition which showcases imaginative ideas related to the future of work.

Replacing the worker bee

Among the standout work entries, mother-and-daughter design team Daniella Jenkins and Hazel Jenkins replaced the idea of the worker bee in the modern workplace with the hummingbird; Brown Office with Jon Abbot Studio created The Out of (Paper) Office to fill the social voids in our working-from-home life with a printable and customisable set of archetypal paper office props; and Anu Chatterjee of AECOM proposed, in her Future Gazing entry, a ‘live’ digital simulation which immerses the person into a London where the ‘large corporate beast’ no longer exists.

Chatterjee wrote: ‘In 2050, the large corporate beast will be extinct. Organisations won’t have employees, they will rely on a network on communities to deliver packages of work. People will be aligned to a communities of like-minded individuals. These communities will be agile, adaptable and most of all operate on a common value system.’

Winning entries also be exhibited live at the London Design Biennale at Somerset House, London, in June 2021, as well as considered for further development and implementation by Chatham House.

Redesigning Work seminar

To discuss the work entries to the Design in the Age of Crisis project, Chatham House organised a virtual seminar called Redesigning Work. This featured WORKTECH Academy Director Jeremy Myerson, who co-chaired the work brief steering group, Federica Saliola, Lead Economist, World Bank Group, and Nasim Koerting, Head of Design, The Office Group.

You can catch up with their conversation below.

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