June & July 2021

Artistic Theme

ALTER-REALITIES: Designing the Present

How can we make and prototype together, reveal, critique and amplify Alter-Realities in order to reorientate ourselves towards futures where trust in each other is restored, where regeneration not destruction is evident, and where we find a new relationality between us and Others?

We are tired of real, imagined or manipulated multiple crises. Inaction deepens our weariness, blunts our intellect, dulls our bodies and erodes our souls. We need to re-make worlds, re-animate ourselves and forge new relations while rejecting unsustainable hegemonies and divisive ideologies. Designing in the present can show us how to live better despite times of contagion and crisis.

To address our challenge, we build on the first edition of the Porto Design Biennale by developing four interrelated themes.

Alter-Scapes focuses on creating new perceptions of the city as a means to reorientate ourselves. What systems, objects, maps and interventions can we create to shift our current perceptions through alternative cartographies, mobilities, architectures and/or energy flows to “see” and experience our cities differently?

Alter-Care focuses on care not only as a matter of human life, but of all life, as continuous struggle, empathy, notions of Otherness, and in the cause of women’s rights. Women continue to bear the burden of caring for families, dependents and others. How do we materialize design as care? How can this improve the lives of women and girls? How do we deal with cultural, social and political differences in notions of care?

Alter-Production focuses on modes of production that can re-invigorate communities, neighbourhoods, craftspeople, small-scale industries, local food production, urban habitats and more. How might we combine local resources with open everything (design, production, software, information, knowledge) to reimagine ways of making things, services and experiences?

Alter-Livelihoods focuses on applying modes of designing that encourage autonomy, new relations and ways of being to explore more fulfilling ways of living, working, playing and giving/receiving. How can we co-construct these livelihoods through design to give us pleasure, restore our dignity and protect our well-being? Can design slow us down, help us find meaningful work and generate novel forms of income?

Throughout the 2021 edition of Porto Design Biennale we aim to:

  • Experiment through materializing and prototyping;
  • Grow new social imaginaries;
  • Create fruitful, pleasurable and meaningful experiences;
  • Promote walking as a means to navigate, explore and inhabit the present.

We aim to achieve this with you by encouraging participation of citizens, amateurs and professionals in practical, tactical and strategic alliances.

Together, we can make communities of difference. Join us!
Access here the full version of the curatorial proposal.



The Porto design biennale

Organized by esad—idea, Research in Design and Art and promoted by the Porto and Matosinhos Municipalities, Porto Design Biennale aims to promote Portuguese Design in dialogue with the global context, taking on the role of the discipline in building culture, critical knowledge and responses to the most pressing issues posed by contemporaneity.

With the first edition held in 2019, Porto Design Biennale seeks to foster Design as a common language for thinking, questioning and sharing ideas against a backdrop of global uncertainty and rapid change.

At a time when one must quickly create alternatives and make informed and ethical choices, we believe an event of this nature and scope must be able to foster debate, embrace concerns and multiple points of view. Likewise, it must encourage interest in Design in order to promote new discourses and practices, integrating Design’s prospective ability to create innovative solutions to collective problems.

Essential in crafting new social, political and cultural paradigms, and placing itself as a pivotal interface with arts, industry and the economy, Design stands as a key player in facing climate change and in promoting sustainability. Thus, Design’s role entails rethinking globalisation and the movement of goods and persons, as well as mass production and consumption and the growing presence of technology in many aspects of human life.

Committed to the Porto and Matosinhos’ territory and identities, valuing craftsmanship, embodiment and material experience, Porto Design Biennale presents itself as a broad-spectrum thinking exercise. It stems from the local context and dynamics to trigger speculation and debate on global issues. Thus, Porto Design Biennale seeks to become a platform for dialogue between society, academia, industry and both national and international institutions and cultural agents.

Though concentrated over a short period of time, the series of exhibitions, conferences, workshops and publications that make up Porto Design Biennale aim to leave an imprint of debate and thinking about Design as a contemporary discipline of great prominence and responsibility concerning collective and environmental survival.

Porto Design Biennale aims to create moments for discussion and inquiry, but also, and mostly, a space for celebrating Design, its positive assertion and pervasive growth in an inclusive and sustainable society.


Promoted by
Câmara Municipal do Porto & Câmara Municipal de Matosinhos

Organized by
Esad-Idea, Investigação em Design e Arte

Luísa Salgueiro,  Rui Moreira, Sérgio Afonso.

Executive Director
Magda Seifert

Advisory Board
Nuno Faria (CMP), Maria Milano (CMM), Magda Seifert (esad-idea), José Bártolo, Andrew Howard, Bárbara Coutinho, Mariana Pestana, Fernando Brízio.


WebsitePorto Design Biennale 2021