Arts Thread

BIO27 - Slovenian Design Biennale

BIO27 - Slovenian Design Biennale

26th May 2022
23rd Oct 2022

ARTS THREAD is proud to be a media partner to the 27th edition of BIO Ljubljana (BIO27), the oldest and one of the leading design biennials in the world, opening on 26 May under the curatorship of Jane Withers, brings together forward-thinking and environmentally conscious designers, architects, thinkers and researchers from around the globe.

The theme for BIO27, Super Vernaculars, explores a growing and ambitious movement that takes inspiration from vernacular architecture and design intelligence to shape a more resilient and equitable future.

Super Vernaculars reveals how designers and architects are taking note of vernacular traditions and value systems largely ignored in the modern era to create imaginative responses to contemporary challenges such as water scarcity, waste and declining biodiversity.

The projects featured in BIO27 foreground localism, connection to nature and ecological resilience. Super Vernaculars approaches include a city-wide nature-based water management system, low-energy alternatives to air conditioning, zero-waste food systems and design that supports local communities and landscape regeneration.

Curated by leading independent curator, design consultant and writer, Jane Withers, with assistant curator Ria Hawthorn (UK), Super Vernaculars is envisaged as a collection of stories told through case studies that show how these ideas serve as a springboard for contemporary innovation.

Based at the Museum of Architecture and Design (MAO) and created in cooperation with, the Centre for Creativity Slovenia (CzK), the Biennial comprises the Super Vernaculars exhibition; a presentation of the five production platform commissions; and a vibrant programme of talks, workshops and engaging events.

The introductory section of the BIO27 exhibition is staged as a Wunderkammer of objects and ideas that illuminate the beliefs underpinning this contemporary movement. Drawing on works from Slovenian national heritage and beyond, it shows how vernacular practices inspired designers throughout the 20th century and were often an unacknowledged element of modern design. Setting the scene are works by Enzo Mari and Bruno Munari (Italy)*, alongside Marjetica Potrč (Slovenia), and Adam Štěch (Czech Republic).

*The section includes 6 works curated by Marco Sammicheli, Director of the Museo del Design Italiano of Triennale Milano, demonstrating how the vernacular has influenced 20th century Italian masters such as Enzo Mari and Bruno Munari, as well as designers working today.

Negotiating Traditions

Through the works of Carolien Niebling (the Netherlands), Ant Studio (India), Alicja Bielawska + Centrala (Poland), Francesca Sarti of Arabeschi di Latte (Italy), and others, Biennial visitors have an opportunity to explore how contemporary designers are reimagining, adapting and subverting traditional ideas and deep-rooted practices to address contemporary needs and challenges.

Reimagining systems and infrastructures

Super Vernaculars’ third exhibition section showcases various design processes and systems proposed as alternatives to the centralised infrastructures that accommodate our modern lives and, in many cases, are no longer able to sustainably support the requirements of growing populations in a time of climate change. Projects such as Marjan van Aubel’s (the Netherlands) solar panels, new material research by Atelier LUMA (France), and water systems by Ooze Architects (the Netherlands) reveal hidden local-scale processes and rethink them in terms of circular, nature-based systems.

Catalysing Community

Exhibiting at BIO27 are the NGO project Isla Urbana (Mexico), Girjegumpi Sami Library (Norway), Kamikatsu Zero Waste Village and Centre (Japan) and INDUS by Bio-ID Lab at the Bartlett School of Architecture (UK), all of whom present human- and community-centric research and projects that foster social justice and healthy, flourishing communities.


BIO27 Super Vernaculars’ production platform produced in cooperation with CzK, features five Slovenian interdisciplinary teams mentored by internationally acclaimed mentors to tackle compelling problems of local communities and the environment. CzK programmes are built on international production projects by MAO, among which BIO is of key importance. BIO has shown that an experimental interdisciplinary process is conducive to creative research and innovation, making social or entrepreneurial progress possible. This is why CzK is the co-producer of this element of the Biennial.

Forbidden Vernaculars

Design collective Krater in dialogue with Atelier LUMA (France) and BC Materials (Belgium) is developing ongoing research into rammed earth architecture to create a teahouse that is situated on the crater-like construction site in the heart of Ljubljana occupied by Krater. More at @kratercollective

Grains for Brains

Delving into the ‘world of grains’, team based in remote Alpine village Topolò and mentored by designer and food futurist Carolien Niebling (the Netherlands) is drawing on Slovenia’s rich cultural, agricultural and culinary heritage to redesign the Slovenian tradition of buckwheat use. More at @r_o_b_i_d_a.

Water - Designing a BioVernacular

Pjorkkala, the team mentored by Shneel Malik (India), an architect, biodesign researcher and social entrepreneur, is addressing the problem of pollution in natural water sources in Slovenia by creating prototypes for local, nature-based solutions. More at @pjorkkala.

Communicating Modern Architecture

Adam Štěch, an architectural historian and co-founder of the creative group OKOLO (Czech Republic) is mentoring Garnitura to communicate the architectural legacy of the renowned Slovenian architect Jože Plečnik to new audiences by drawing on the architect’s profoundly human vision for the city of Ljubljana. More at @garnitura_

Regenerative Cultural Production

Futuring is undertaking an environmental audit of the Super Vernaculars biennial and is guiding the reduction of its environmental impact. Mentored by designer and sustainability expert Sophie Thomas (UK), Futuring is developing an open source toolkit to help BIO27’s design teams to raise their awareness and reduce the impact of their work. The pioneering toolkit will be published and available to designers and cultural institutions globally, sharing the Biennial’s sustainability study for others to build upon.

Image credit: photo Peter Rauch MAO

BIO27 - Slovenian Design Biennale