The UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change warned us in the fall of 2018 that to avoid catastrophe, human societies have 12 years to completely transform the way we use energy and land.
Change is urgently needed and on a scale for which ‘there is no documented historical precedent’. That is why we start from the premise that we are facing the deepest crisis in human memory. And that we have no time to waste. Can we transform our urban landscapes and living environments, comprehensively and democratically, with time for serious reflection on how we do it and for whom we do it – while we're doing it? Can we, as it were, re-settle ourselves on Earth, and in a more sustainable balance with nature?

There are plenty of good plans and ideas, also from spatial designers and architects, to achieve a more sustainable balance between people, other species and nature, but they rarely become concrete projects. There is a gap, a missing link, between plans and projects, between knowing and doing, an incredibly persistent issue that IABR–2018–THE MISSING LINK has put on the agenda.
The next biennale, DOWN TO EARTH, asks where we can land and examines how we can tackle the issue in concrete terms: how now? For one thing, the IABR does this by applying existing, major and urgent challenges as a lever both in exploring the integrated transformation of our urban landscapes and societies and in the public debate on the nature, quality and property of the transformation.

From: Down to Earth, Bruno Latour


Water and Energy Transition
The two that we have chosen are water management and energy transition-related challenges. How can design driven responses to these challenges help us to develop new approaches to inhabit the earth, in a much more balanced way, one that helps us realize the Sustainable Developments Goals?

How can designers tackle water issues - too much, too little, too polluted - in such a way that they become also the starting point for working on resilient cities? We research this in particular in our two Water as Leverage Ateliers, the IABR–Atelier Dordrecht and the IABR–Atelier Drought in the Delta.

And (how) can designers help realize the energy transition so that we can simultaneously use it as a lever for socially inclusive urban planning? We investigate this in particular in our IABR – Atelier Rotterdam, Energy Transition as a Lever for a Socially Inclusive City.

As of 2016, the IABR has fully committed itself to contribute to the realization of the Sustainable Development Goals of the United Nations and of the objectives stated in the Paris Climate Agreement. It has firmly anchored its commitment to the SDGs in her multi-year policy plan 2021 - 2024, Where Can We Land?

What does that mean in concrete terms? That the IABR, as a cultural institution, wants to contribute to solving the great challenges we face with the most appropriate means available to us as a research and development institution as well as an international cultural platform: research by design, and the power of the imagination and of design.

Curator Team + Designers
To address this issue, how to take action now, from the global level to that of the urban district, IABR–Ateliers have been started and a new Curator Team has been appointed, consisting of George Brugmans, Rianne Makkink and Jurgen Bey Thijs van Spaandonk and Robbert de Vrieze.

Studio Makkink & Bey will design the exhibition, Roosje Klap (ARK) is responsible for all graphic design.

M4H + BoTu
The locations of DOWN TO EARTH are the Merwe-Vierhavens area (M4H), a city harbor that is a breeding ground for the new circular economy, and Bospolder-Tussendijken (BoTu), a self-reliant and culturally very diverse but socioeconomically vulnerable Rotterdam district.
M4H + BoTu: two adjacent areas we jointly named Test Site M4H+ during the previous biennale. Together, they are representative of the many challenges facing not only the city of Rotterdam but also many other cities. The water challenge and energy transition play a part here, but here we can also explore the new circular economy, the housing challenge, accessibility, and social inequality. Here, the poor and unemployed live alongside start-ups and enterprising artists. Old and new meet, city and port, rich and poor, local and global.
M4H+BoTu is an exemplary Test Site for the transition: challenges and approaches come together in the now and how, and in a very provoking manner as well. It is an ideal location for the IABR, for DOWN TO EARTH and for later biennale editions.