Drop Everything represent Ireland at the London Design Biennale

The project was originally intended to be presented on-site at the Biennale but has now been adapted to a digital version.

Split screen of the Leabharlann on the left and the digital library on the right

An Leabharlann is a library collection and piece of micro-architecture situated on the seafront of Inis Oírr, the smallest of the Aran Islands. The project is being presented at the London Design Biennale, a yearly exhibition bringing together designers, innovators and cultural bodies from all over the world. It is a collaboration between participants of Drop Everything, a week-long multidisciplinary residency that takes place every two years.  An Leabharlann has been created by contributors working across design, construction, research and creative technology.

The structure itself is formed from modular rectangular prisms stacked at offset angles. Designer Harrison Gardner was inspired by the traditional building techniques on the island, including Inis Oírr’s characteristic dry-stacked stone walls, dividing the island into hundreds of grazing and growing fields. The functioning library collection inside focuses on the research interests of Drop Everything participants across art and design practices, and the resonance of these subjects through language and place.

An Leabharlann was originally to be presented on-site at Somerset House for the London Design Biennale, however, it has instead been adapted for a digital space at the exhibition. Two-time Drop Everything artist Jake Harper is the founder of a new image search tool, which is being used to digitally present over 1000 images of books and texts from the collection. Drop Everything have said they are excited to be the first public users of this tool and that this early iteration of the software has allowed them to exhibit the library’s collection in a very distinctive way.

The third edition of the London Design Biennale will take place from 1-27 June 2021, curated by Artistic Director Es Devlin.

Taking over Somerset House, participants will respond to the theme, Resonance, which considers the ripple effect of ground-breaking design concepts on the way we live, and the choices we make.

This AI-assisted image search tool is accompanied by a computer-generated model of the An Leabharlann site which together allow visitors to digitally explore the unique project. The contributors have stated that “presenting our contribution digitally allowed us to explore how challenges can inspire new design thinking, creating space for process and possibility.” They have also confirmed that this digital project is the first step in developing a fully formed computer game and education tool using Inis Oírr as the location.

Browse the collection online here. 

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