In the Mix

Brighter Days

Design Miami

Two new design initiatives respond to the climate crisis by fostering innovation and fresh ideas

This fall, a pair of new, climate-focused design initiatives make their debuts. Each aims to nurture and empower the next generation of design innovators, encouraging fresh responses to one of the greatest challenges of our time. Read on to learn more.


The Solar Biennale

Image courtesy of the Solar Biennale

The inaugural Solar Biennale kicks off this month in The Netherlands, championing the potential of solar energy through design. Organizers aim to shift the current narrative around solar beyond tech and economics to also include a human-scale, cultural perspective—encouraging reflections on our day to day relationships to the sun.

Solar Shirt by studio Pauline van Dongen; Photo by  Liselotte Fleur, Courtesy of Het Nieuwe Instituut

Throughout its seven week run, ​the Solar Biennale offers a variety of programming in multiple Dutch cities—including talks, installations, hands-on workshops, and pop-up events that consider solar energy’s role in our everyday lives—culminating at Dutch Design Week at the end of October. In parallel, Rotterdam’s Het Nieuwe Instituut (cohost of the Biennale) has launched The Energy Show, an exhibition featuring dozens of examples of solar technology that collectively explore the question: What would the world look like if it ran on solar energy?

Solar Views (Staring at Art) by Mirka Laura Severa; Courtesy of Het Nieuwe Instituut

The Biennale was conceived by Dutch designers Marjan Van Aubel and Pauline van Dongen. As van Dongen, a fashion designer specialized in smart textiles and smart clothing, tells us: “The Solar Biennale aims to improve the impact and social acceptance of solar energy through solar design. The event is designed to appeal to a professional audience as well as a wider audience. On the one hand, we organize programs that establish and investigate solar design as a discipline, such as our Solar Seminar, the two Solar Labs and the Solar Pavilion at Dutch Design Week. On the other hand, we foster change from the bottom up by going into the city and its neighborhoods to meet residents on the street. For our SUNdays program, we pop up on markets and squares with accessible workshops and fun activities that invite you to think along and build a future powered by the sun. Our hope is that both tracks allow audiences to think about solar differently, on both micro (how do I integrate solar in my daily life?) and macro levels (how will we go from fossil fuels to solar powered energy?).”

The Solar Biennale is on view now through October 30, 2022. The Energy Show is on view through March 5, 2023.


Young Climate Prize

Image courtesy of The World Around

Launched in 2020, The World Around is a nonprofit dedicated to architecture and design discourse, with an emphasis on social, environmental, and spatial justice. In its first two years, the high profile platform—led by philanthropist Diego Marroquin and curator Beatrice Galilee—has used a range of formats to spotlight innovation in the field, including public programming, films, an annual summit, and a residency program at the Guggenheim Museum.

Its latest initiative, the Young Climate Prize, is an open call for under-25-year-old designers from around the globe to share their own self-started projects that respond to the climate emergency in their communities. Following the competition, which runs through October 31, 25 winners will be selected and connected to “Design Champions”—a cohort of design luminaries such as Paola Antonelli, Alice Rawsthorn, Wael Al Awar, Sumayya Vally, and others—in a bespoke academy and mentorship program.

Image courtesy of The World Around

Galilee tells us, “The World Around has always been focused on architectures now, near, and next. In this new initiative, I wanted to show what it could mean to not only platform and broadcast inspiring, visionary work of the very best in the world, but to demonstrate support and investment in the next generation; the ones who were born into the climate crisis and whose lives have been and will be fundamentally shaped by what the world does in the coming decade.”

Image courtesy of The World Around

She goes on: “We have already seen applications arriving, and it has made me understand the potential of this initiative on a global scale…There are very young people…working with passion, drive, and ambition to solve the climate crisis in their community. They are tackling issues that are dear to their hearts. Whether it is an issue of using solar panels to ensure access to energy because of poverty, or providing safer fuels to use in cooking because the traditional ways of cooking are so polluting, we are seeing how much The World Around's community of world-leading Design Champions can help give advice and scale these solutions as well as providing encouragement and support.”

Following the program, a selection of young talents will be invited to present their work at The World Around’s annual summit at the Guggenheim Museum in New York on Earth Day 2023.

Nominations and applications for the inaugural Young Climate Prize are open until October 31, 2022.