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100 Links land surveyo chains CAB 5

Dezeen's top 10 design-festival installations of 2023

As part of our 2023 review, we've selected the top 10 installations from this year's design and art festivals, from a pavilion made from palm trees to a light sculpture in a cathedral.

The design calendar was back to full strength in 2023 following three years of pandemic-related disruptions, and Dezeen was in attendance at many of the major design and architecture weeks and festivals across the globe.

Below, we pick out the most noteworthy installations from our coverage of the must-sees at 10 major events this year.

For an up-to-date list of design and architecture events happening around the world, check out Dezeen Events Guide.

Aura by Pablo Valbuena at St Paul's Cathedral during LDF 2023
Photo by Ed Reeve

Aura, London Design Festival, by Pablo Valbuena

As part of the 2023 edition of London Design Festival, Spanish artist Pablo Valbuena created the Aura installation in Christopher Wren's St Paul's Cathedral.

The installation responds to noises made in the space, including the talking of visitors and music made by choirs, represented by a pulsating light under the church's dome.

Dezeen editorial director Max Fraser described the site-specific installation as "mesmerising".

Find out more about Aura ›

Photo of 100 Links: Architecture and land, in and out of the Americas
Photo by Tom Harris/Cory Dewald

100 Links: Architecture and land, in and out of the Americas, Chicago Architecture Biennial, by The Buell Center and AD–WO

Using surveyor chains, this exhibition on display at the Chicago Cultural Center for the Chicago Architecture Biennial was made to represent structural techniques used during the North American colonial period.

The installation is suspended from the ceiling of the centre and features books reflecting the piece's themes, which visitors are encouraged to take from the space.

Find out more about 100 Links: Architecture and land, in and out of the Americas ›

Ukraine Pavilion, Before the Future, at Venice Architecture Biennale
Photo by Sasha Kurmaz

Before the Future, Venice Architecture Biennale, by Iryna Miroshnykova and Oleksii Petrov

Architects Iryna Miroshnykova and Oleksii Petrov created an installation designed to reflect experiences of seeking safety from war for Ukraine's pavilion for the Venice Architecture Biennale.

The pavilion featured a grassy maze and the conversion of a hall into a small, bunker-like room intended to create a feeling of claustrophobia.

Find out more about Before the Future here ›

Photo of Of Palm pavilion by Abdalla Almulla
Photo courtesy of Dubai Design Week

Of Palm, Dubai Design Week, by Abdalla Almulla

For Dubai Design Week, architect Abdalla Almulla created the Of Palm pavilion from local bark and fronds from palm trees featuring a ceiling, pillars, stools, display cases and flooring.

The pavilion explores sustainable design, addressing how local, organic materials can be used to create shelter, equipment, food and fuel.

Find out more about Of Palm ›

Biofoam designs by Natural Material Studio
Photo courtesy of Natural Material Studio

Human Nature, 3 Days of Design, by Natural Material Studio 

Human Nature debuted at art gallery Copenhagen Contemporary during 3 Days of Design, comprising of seating and draped textiles made from biomaterials.

Designed by Natural Material Studio, the handcrafted installation uses 150 square metres of material, dyed with chalk and clay to create white and green hues.

Find out more about Human Nature ›

NYC Design Pavilion by Michael Bennett
Photo by Jennifer Trahan

Pavilions at NYCxDesign by llLab and Michael Bennett

Chinese studio llLab and Studio Kër designer Michael Bennett partnered to create pavilions for NYCxDesign made from cross-laminated timber and bamboo.

The pavilions were designed to serve as a "sacred space" and explore sustainable, durable building practices.

Find out more about the pavilions here ›

Momentum by MAD
Photo by Moreno Maggi

Momentum, Milan design week, by MAD

Beijing architecture practice MAD installed a 12.5-metre-tall cube at the University of Milan for the city's 2023 design week.

The cube was made using plastic polymer ETFE and iron, reflecting light during the day and emitting it at night using artificial sources from L&L Luce&Light.

Find out more about Momentum ›

Photo of A Subtle Alchemy by Dan Lam
Photo by Kevin Todora

A Subtle Alchemy, Miami art week, by Dan Lam

Located at art museum Wynwood Walls in Miami, this metal and styrofoam sculpture is layered in automobile paint to create a colour-changing iridescent effect.

The installation, which was part of the Miami art week programme, features four legs and a dripping shape reflected in the marks created by the paint.

Find out more about A Subtle Alchemy ›

Jabal: 9 Ash Cleansing Temple by Yussef Agbo-Ola
Photo by Tom Ravenscroft

Jabal: 9 Ash Cleansing Temple, Sharjah Architecture Triennial, by Yussef Agbo-Ola

Jabal: 9 Ash Cleansing Temple is a fabric, tent-like temple that was showcased in a classroom at the Al Qasimia School during the second Sharjah Architecture Triennial.

The fabric used by architect Yussef Agbo-Ola to create the piece was knitted together using jute, hemp and cotton yarns, aiming to address sustainability and biodiversity in the city of Sharjah.

Find out more about Jabal: 9 Ash Cleansing Temple ›

Photo of BitCube by Colin O'Donnell
Photo by Gurpreet Chawla

BitCube, Burning Man, by Colin O'Donnell

Designer Colin O'Donnell created the BitCube structure for Nevada-based arts festival Burning Man, made from 224 standard IBC water containers.

The installation serves as a light display, with each cube acting as a single pixel to create varying patterns, and the inside of the cube is accessible for visitors to explore through a side doorway.

Find out more about BitCube ›

Dezeen review of 2023

2023 review

This article is part of Dezeen's roundup of the biggest and best news and projects in architecture, design, interior design and technology from 2023.