Hysterical Cell_ Leon Chew_ 2019

A project by Studio MiCat, There Project and Proud Studio

Commissioned by the Victoria and Albert Museum for London Design Festival, Sackler Courtyard, 14-22 September 2019

“As creators of new and desirable things, the design community is complicit in the current ecological and social crisis – despite often being torn between the love for their work and despair over the state of the planet. We believe in the power of design as a driver of change, to decouple the idea of progress from profit; to build upon and think beyond recycling and circular design; and to grow the appeal of a richer life with less.” Studio MiCat, There Project, Proud Studio

Non-Pavilion is an installation that draws attention to the repercussions of growth-driven economics and highlights the role design can play in shifting mindsets away from over-production and consumption.

Defined by its outer edges only, Non-Pavilion plays on the idea of ‘less’ as enrichment, not loss. Drawing on the simplicity of Swiss ‘Baugespanne’, erected to help the public visualise the impact of a proposed development, the pavilion only so much as hints at a space.

Augmented Reality (AR) commissions, projected into the Non-Pavilion space, transform it into a testing ground for alternative visions for the future. The provocations, designed by Leon Chew, Arne Hendriks, Leo Murray and Andrew Simms, LucienneRoberts+, Michael Schoner and Radical Norms, question the economic system within which we are made to operate. They aim to kick-start a debate about what life beyond consumerism and a different definition of abundance might look like. 

Six artists and design studios have responded to the Non-Pavilion call to provoke visitors into thinking differently about our current consumerist patterns, using Augmented Reality. Their proposals will be projected onto the Non-Pavilion via an App accessible via tablets available on site.

The Impossible Hamster

Andrew Simms / Leo Murray / Viki Johnson 3D animation by Hao Cai, 2019

What can an ever-growing hamster teach us about economic growth? 

Still from The Impossible Hamster animation, Andrew Simms, Leo Murray, Viki Johnson, 2010
Still from The Impossible Hamster animation, Andrew Simms, Leo Murray, Viki Johnson, 2010

This AR experience illustrates what would happen if there were no limits to the growth of a hamster – a metaphor for the absurdity and danger of limitless economic growth on a finite planet. Original animation commissioned by the New Economics Foundation in 2010

Prospect: The Bretton Wood Modules

Radical Norms, 2019

Can we reboot how we measure the wealth of nations from space?

Prospect The Bretton Woods Modules, Radical Norms, 2019
Prospect The Bretton Woods Modules, Radical Norms, 2019

A proposal for a new global economics conference unit onboard the International Space Station, to establish a new financial world order that benefits our planet and all that exists on it by speculative design studio Radical Norms, Toronto. 

The Incredible Shrinking Man

Arne Hendriks (in collaboration with Studio MiCat & Proud Studio) 2019

Can we shrink our way back to abundance?

The Incredible Shrinking Man, Arne Hendriks, 2013
The Incredible Shrinking Man, Arne Hendriks, 2013

Dutch artist Arne Hendriks’ long-running project, The Incredible Shrinking Man, speculates on the consequences of downsizing the human species to an average height of 50 centimetres, meaning only 2-5 percent of the resources we currently use would be needed. This concept is applied to London: how many terraced houses fit into the space of the pavilion? 

Awning Glory

Michael Schoner, 2019

Can the future still be joyful?

Awning Glory, Michael Schoner, 2019
Awning Glory, Michael Schoner, 2019

The Awning Glory pavillion invites us to holiday in our home towns instead of flying to far away destinations. Even if the future looks dire, people will want an escape, to discover a new place and experience leisure, and this pavilion offers it all. Designed by Netherlands-based 2&3D designer Michael Schoner.

Hysterical Cell

Leon Chew, 2019

Hysterical Cell_ Leon Chew_2019
Hysterical Cell_ Leon Chew_2019

 The Hysterical Cell pulsates at a seemingly random frequency, hovering above a turbulent body of water. It is delivering messages in Morse Code for participants to decode and interpret with the intention of provoking dialogue about concepts of change. Leon Chew is a London based artist and visual designer, working in film and photography. 

Restoring Balance – Down is Up / Up is Down

LucienneRoberts+ (Lucienne Roberts / David Shaw / John McGill), 2019

The world is dangerously out of balance

Down is Up_Up is Down, LucienneRoberts+, 2019
Down is Up_Up is Down, LucienneRoberts+, 2019

The three staircases in this installation and their orientations, colours and numbers of steps represent the current discordant relationship between people, planet and profit. For humanity to survive well, we need to recalibrate. Lucienne Roberts+ studio is known for its political engagement and ethical approach to design.

Talks and Public Programme


Non-Pavilion pop up design talk – 1pm 

Opportunity to meet the team behind the Non-Pavilion, who will be joined by some of the Augmented Reality contributors 


A one day public programme on Sunday 22nd September, in partnership with the V&A’s Exhibition Road Day of Design, invites festival visitors to join in debate and activities that contextualise the concept of degrowth and value-led design.

An Exploded View  

Free drop-in workshop by Other Today from 11am on Exhibition Road

Ever wondered who made your toaster and where all its parts come from? Visitors can take apart domestic appliances, find out how they’re produced, and devise how they could be better made to benefit the people who make them and cause less harm to the planet.

Non-Pavilion pop up design talk – 12pm 

Free talk at the Non-Pavilion, Sackler Courtyard, V&A

Opportunity to meet the team behind the Non-Pavilion, who will be joined by some of the Augmented Reality contributors.

Planet 2.0 Discursive Dining – 1pm

Drop in conversations and food on Exhibition Road

Non-Pavilion have curated two tables for the V&A’s food-waste feast by People’s Kitchen on upcycled tables along Exhibition Road. Visitors will have a chance to discuss important issues around the future of our planet with an expert while sharing a meal created from ‘food waste’. 

Table 1: ‘For a Socialist Architecture’ with Architects for Social Housing and Naomi Turner, Festival of Maintenance

Table 2: ‘Design Ethics and the Climate Crisis’ with LucienneRoberts+ 

Non-Pavilion Talk: Accomplices or Disruptors? Design takes on Growth 3 – 4pm

Exhibition Road talks area

What role can design play in disentangling the idea of progress from economic growth? How can it help grow the appeal of a richer life with less stuff so that the planet can regenerate?

A panel discussion with: 


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