IABR-2020-

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 IABR–2020 starts 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 whomwhile doing it?

Water and Energy Transition
IABR–2020, having as its provisional working title Down to Earth, will focus on two immense challenges, energy transition and water –too much, too little, too dirty. We approach them as levers, that is, they are not only challenges for which we have to find solutions, they are also leverage for the transformative comprehensive change of our urban landscapes, and for learning new ways to inhabit the Earth.

Curator Team
To address these issues, from the global level to that of the urban quarter, a new curatorial team has been appointed.
Sarah Ichioka has been appointed curator for Water as Leverage, and Thijs van Spaandonk curator for Energy Transition as Leverage.
As in 2012 (5th IABR, Making City) George Brugmans will chair the curator team. He wrote an open letter to the curators in which he outlined the challenges and starting points.
The curators will work closely together with a small group of co-curators. One of them is Robbert de Vrieze, co-curator in and on behalf of the Bospolder-Tussendijken, the city district in Rotterdam where the IABR–Atelier Rotterdam explores the concept of the “energy district” and that will be one of two locations where IABR will manifest itself in 2020.
Other co-curators will be appointed after the Summer.

THE MISSING LINK – a diptych
Arguing that spatial design is crucial leverage, the IABR–2018+2020–THE MISSING LINK focuses on the question of how we can effectively realize the urgent acceleration and scaling of the transition to a resilient future. Initially, in 2017 and 2018, we concentrated on the Delta of the Low Lands, among many other things by establishing and implementing collaborative research projects with partners, provinces and municipalities in the Netherlands and in Belgium. What and how can design contribute to our future in the delta?
Click here to read more about IABR–2018.

In 2020 we will not just focus on our own Delta, but reconnect the IABR to the world; building, for instance, on the Water as Leverage/Asia practice, spearheaded by Henk Ovink, and that IABR co-initiated.
More information about IABR–2020, about plans, planning and approach, follows after the summer when the Curator Statement and Open Call will be published.

The New Normal?
Family in flood water, Semarang, Indonesia

M4H+BoTu
IABR–2020 will take place in the autumn of 2020, to be able to connect to the International Climate Adaptation Action Summit that will be hosted by The Netherlands, with much of the action happening in Rotterdam.
The most important locations of IABR–2020 are the Merwe-Vierhavens area (M4H) and Bospolder-Tussendijken (BoTu): a city harbor that is a breeding ground for the new circular economy, and a vulnerable and culturally very diverse 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, in and after 2020.


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.
The IABR is a research and development institute as well as an international cultural platform. Therefore, contribute we can with the tools that we have: research by design, the power of the imagination and the potency of design.