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nanotourism at BIO50

by Lauren Grieco

Jan Boelen broke the stale pattern of biennials and turned Slovenia into a laboratory and aptly named it: BIO 50: 3, 2, 1 … TEST. 

The word 'biennial' carries the weight of two years on its shoulders, pooling the best design works from local sources to go on display for a few months. Visitors from all backgrounds attend these events and become exposed to well-versed or undercurrent designers which collectively represent the present direction of design. The items take centre stage for a few months, but typically fade to a distant memory after the biennial shuts it's doors.

Since 1964, Ljubljana — Slovenia's capital city — has held a design biennial of its own. The BIO series has highlighted Slovenian creators since it's inception. For the 50th year, the Museum of Architecture and Design (MAO) selected Jan Boelen — current director of Z33 in Hasselt, Belgium — as curator to apply his atypical approach to the scale of a biennial. Instead of following suit, he broke the stale pattern of biennials and turned Slovenia into a laboratory and aptly named it: BIO 50: 3, 2, 1 … TEST.

Six months before the biennial's opening, 120 international designers from diverse disciplines embarked upon a collaborative experience via digital communication outlets including Skype and Facebook. The following themes which were explored by the groups: affordable living, designing life, engine blocks, the fashion system, hacking households, hidden crafts, knowing food, nanotourism, observing space, public water pubilc space and walking the city.

Presented the Biennial's Best Collaboration Award, a group of architects, designers and students mentored by Aljoša Dekleva and Tina Gregorič assessed a small-scale form of tourism dubbed ‘nanotourism’. A growing grassroots alternative to conventional resorting turns any city – big or small – into a place to be experienced and explored like a local. Taking the new concept for a spin, the BIO 50 } hotel is a temporary accommodation set up within the MAO in Ljubljana, Slovenia. Alessandro Fonte and Silvia Susanna conceived of the temporary accommodation as part of BIO 50's nanotourism theme.

After check-in, visitors receive pillows and blankets to make themselves comfortable within the MAO. Guests are free to rest their weary head on temporary beds made from a block of solid foam, a site-specific hammock or an engineered levitation suit for 3D sleeping suspended from overhead beams. Loose wooden planks can be moved with a wheel barrow and configured into a personalized bed. Instead of a monetary payment for their stay, guests are asked for a 1:1 exchange in the form of a contribution by either rearranging the exhibition’s contents or giving a lecture to museum visitors. Their activity within the museum’s Biennial exhibitions will keep the cultural institution activated after closing time.

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