Somerset House welcomes trees into its courtyard for the first time

London’s acclaimed Somerset House was designed based on the principles of the Enlightenment and has maintained that aesthetic ever since — until now.

Traditionally, trees and anything with leaves was forbidden in the Somerset House courtyard based on the building’s founding principles. However, Es Devlin, the biennale’s artistic director, decided to challenge these strict values in favor of a “more resilient and inclusive future” for a world that faces a dire climate crisis.

When planning this year’s biennale, she aimed to “counter this attitude of human dominance over nature, by allowing a forest to overtake the entire courtyard.”

Taking inspiration from literature, where forests often represent transformation (think the enchanted forests of the Brothers Grimm or the Forest of Arden in Shakespeare), Devlin’s vision was for the Somerset House’s courtyard to become the Forest for Change, featuring a clearing where passersby can educate themselves about the UN’s sustainable development goals.

According to the president of the London Design Biennale, Sir John Sorrel, “Great design ideas can help change things for the better, inspire people, and give them hope for the future—never more needed than now.”

After the biennale, the trees in the courtyard will be donated to boroughs all over London for planting in October, creating a “living, durable legacy” that will continue to motivate change.

Source Image: London Design Biennale

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