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About BIO

BIO - The Biennial of Design is an international collaborative process where designers and creatives of different backgrounds question design as a creative discipline and develop alternatives to the established systems. This experimental interdisciplinary process, hosted by the Museum of Architecture and Design and the Centre for Creativity, enables creative research and innovation to create imaginative responses to contemporary needs and challenges. BIO works as a testing ground, utilizing design and curatorial strategies as a tool to rethink systems, production, services, scientific research, humanistic issues, and unexpected conditions for the production of our habitat. This diverse array of topics addressed through BIO resonates with both local and global demands and wishes to spill even beyond design itself. 


BIO27: SuperVernaculars, 2022
Photo: Klemen Ilovar

More about BIO27 (2022)

More about BIO26 (2019)

More about BIO25 (2017)

More about BIO50 (2014)

BIO’s History

Officially established in the fall of 1963 at the initiative of Ljubljana City Council, the Chamber of Commerce of the Socialist Republic of Slovenia, and different professional associations, the Biennial of (Industrial) Design was designed as a biennial comparative exhibition of Yugoslavian and foreign achievements in industrial design. Next to the Triennale di Milano, BIO was one of the most important European design events in the 1960s and the first biennial of its kind in the world.

With BIO, Yugoslavia, Slovenia, and Ljubljana became venues where people came to see the state of design in the West as well as in East Europe. West Europeans came to BIO out of curiosity, to see what was happening behind the “iron curtain”, and East Europeans came because Yugoslavia was the only country they were allowed to travel to. So in this way, BIO assumed an excellent strategic position as an interface between the two, and by analogy, its reputation was high on both sides.


Exhibition design for BIO1, 1964
Photo: archive MAO

The purpose of the biennial was to encourage and facilitate the development of Yugoslavian industrial production, influence the exchange of well-designed industrial objects in domestic and international markets, and raise the general level of user requirements and good taste through education and information campaigns.

To boost the development of design in Slovenia, it was necessary to establish a proper institution that would serve as a guiding light for the industry to recognize the complexities of an industrial serial market product. For these purposes, there should have been originally established a Slovenian Center for Design.

While the many efforts that should have contributed to its formation may not have borne the desired fruit, fortunately they gave rise to the Biennial of Industrial Design, which in the following decades would often assume the tasks of a center for industrial design.


Part of exhibition for BIO5, 1973
Photo: archive MAO

For more than forty years, BIO exhibitions followed the same concept created for the first biennial (BIO1, 1964) when objects were organized according to the following categories: Furniture, Lamps, Textiles, Hospitality and Household Equipment and Appliances, Optical Objects, Electrotechnic Machinery and Telecommunication Devices, Machinery, Industrial Products from the Engineering Industry, Sports Equipment, Toys, Architectural Details, Transportation, Packaging, and Visual communications. By opening competitions in different categories, BIO showcased (industrially designed) products from everyday, public, working, and domestic environments with varying significance and importance over the years.


BIO7, 1977
Photo: MAO archive

The organizers of the first exhibition demonstrated their intention to draw comparisons and connections between the objects on display in order to emphasize the exhibition's comparative element by grouping the pieces together regardless of their country of origin. The exhibition also had a competitive aspect. An international jury presented awards: gold medals for the best product, honorable mentions and prizes for best design concepts (introduced with BIO4, 1971).

These winning designs went on to become a vital component of the Museum of Architecture and Design – MAO archives, which serves as a great resource for illustrating the evolution of design throughout the years.

To be part of BIO1, manufacturers, designers, and artists either submitted work themselves or were invited to participate. However, at the request and recommendation of design associations, exhibitions from BIO2 (1966) and up until BIO20 (2006) were based on national selections prepared for individual participating states by their national design associations.


BIO11, 1986
Photo: MAO archive

At the end of the first decade of the 21st century, the Biennial witnessed gradual changes in its concept. BIO21 (2008) dispensed with national selections, thereby giving everyone the opportunity to enter their works. All works were reviewed by an international selection committee, and as always, awards were presented by an international jury. In 2011, the Biennial of Industrial Design was renamed the Biennial of Design as the design discipline itself accelerated to change radically and it was no longer relevant to focus only on the industrial design sphere. BIO23 (2012) was the first curated biennial (Margo Konings in Margriet Vollenberg), its theme being Design Relations.


BIO23: Design Relations, 2012
Photo: MAO archive

The rethinking process that resulted from Jan Boelen and the MAO team's collaboration was a manifestation of design's urge, as a creative profession, to examine its place in society.  If the Biennial of Industrial Design started and for the past fifty years practiced criticism of the trivial by presenting the outstanding, then BIO 50 is its exact opposite. By utilizing the trivial and the reality, it is a criticism of the outstanding and the elite. At the same time, BIO 50 is an attempt to look for and find the outstanding within the routine everyday life. Being critical of the ever increasing number of design festivals, the curator Jan Boelen transformed BIO into a production platform. Its framework is collaboration. BIO 50 became a complex, transformative effort that seeks to strengthen local and international design networks, search for alternatives to implemented systems where design can play a role, and create bases for resilient structures that can develop through time, beyond the duration of the Biennial.


BIO50: 3, 2, 1, TEST..., 2014
Photo: Alessandro Fonte