Modernist Indignation, Winner of The Most Outstanding Overall Contribution in LDB 2018

London Design Biennale 2018

Edited by: Sundos Abu Reyal


London Design Biennale Announced that The 2018 Medal, awarded to the most outstanding overall contribution, supported by Poly Culture has been awarded to Egypt.

The installation is curated by Mohamed Alshahed and the exhibition was designed by Suzanne Gaballa, Modernist Indignation mourned the loss of the country’s modernist architecture, a rich heritage that has been left to ruin or violently erased, and asks the question: how can a design language that was once embraced by a society be so easily forgotten and denied a place in history


Modernist Indignation, curated by Mohamed El-Shahed, is an elegy for a rapidly disappearing culture, seen through the prism of the first Arabic design magazine.


Visitors will see a contemporary reinterpretation of a fictional 1939 exhibition put on by the editors of Al Emara, the first Arabic-language design magazine, which was published between 1939 and 1959. The original exhibition would have explored the magazine’s mission, but now it stands as a testament to a lost culture, says curator Mohamed El-Shahed.


“In the absence of accessible archives for the study and documentation of modernist architecture in Egypt, the magazine, scattered between private collections and antique booksellers, is the most comprehensive record of the country’s embrace of modernist design. Many of the buildings published in the magazine have been demolished, mutated or suffer from poor upkeep and no heritage status has been granted to any structure of modernist design.”


The display included a video shot in the house of Sayed Karim, the architect who founded Al Emara, who ran into political trouble with the state in 1965 after an illustrious career. The slow, contemplative journey through the house is accompanied by a voiceover of Karim’s 1939 manifesto, “What is architecture?” Meanwhile, as visitors walk around the exhibition, they will unwittingly participate in erasing the logo of the magazine, temporarily inscribed on the floor. “A design language can be popular yet it can be done away with and forgotten so swiftly without proper documentation, study and archiving,” says Elshahed. “Design culture is vulnerable.”

awards four medals each year to the best contributions from the participating countries, cities and territories. There are four categories, one of them is The London Design Biennale 2018 Medal, awarded to the most outstanding overall contribution, supported by Poly Culture has been awarded to Egypt, The Modernist Indignation.

The medal’s winner is selected by the Biennale’s International Jury, a group of 14 world-leading design experts and influencers.


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Curator: Mohamed Elshahed.

Administering bodies: Zein Khalifa (Tintera) and Cairobserver.

Design team: Suzanne Gaballa (Lund  Gaballa  Architects), Nick  Westby (Westby  &  Jones  Ltd.), Ahmed Tahoun, Valerie  Arif, Amarasri Songcharoen (Seam  Design).

Supporting  Bodies: Orascom Developments, Pharos Holding for Financial Investments, Barjeel Art Foundation, British Council, Mrs. Sherine Sawiris, Mrs.Cherine Helmy.

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