Virtual Design Festival

VDF cultural collaborations

Five pioneering Virtual Design Festival collaborations

A virtual-reality trip to Burning Man, the launch of an architectural intervention at Lisbon's MAAT museum and a live foraging tour in a Finnish forest are among the trailblazing events that took place as part of the world's first Virtual Design Festival.

For the festival, Dezeen teamed up with a number of cultural organisations whose plans had been derailed by Covid-19.

These included Stockholm Design Week, Serpentine Galleries, What Design Can Do, MPavilion and ArkDes, among many others.

With Virtual Design Festival coming to an end, we take a look back at how these VDF collaborators worked with Dezeen to pioneer new ways of bringing cultural events to online audiences.

Below are five of the most innovative digital events to take place as part of the festival. Details of all our VDF collaborations can be found at

MAAT museum launched its SO-IL collaboration

Lisbon's MAAT museum collaborated with Virtual Design Festival for the launch of its Beeline installation and Currents exhibition by architect SO-IL. Both had been due to open on 27 March as the first part of executive director Beatrice Leanza's new programme for the museum, but were delayed due to the coronavirus pandemic. MAAT instead premiered them on VDF.

Architecture studio SO-IL's Beeline installation, which creates a new public route through the middle of the museum, was showcased in an exclusive video, and VDF visitors were also given a sneak peek of the Currents – Temporary Architectures by SO-IL exhibition for this online exhibition opening.

The World Around celebrated Earth Day

VDF's collaboration with The World Around for 22 April, Earth Day, was a major event that featured a series of talks, interviews, short films and essays by over twenty visionaries at the forefront of ecological design, curated by Beatrice Galilee.

The initiative was split into three parts and featured designers Nelly Ben Hayoun and Thomas Thwaites, architects Kunlé AdeyemiCameron Sinclair and London studio Cooking Sections, as well as curator Aric Chen and many more.

VDF also hosted the premiere of a short film by Andrés Jaque and Ivan Munuera, The Transscalar Architecture of COVID-19, charting the global impact of coronavirus and documenting the dramatic transformations it wrought on the built environment.

Stockholm Design Week took us foraging in a forest 

VDF's partnership with Stockholm Design Week comprised six posts and included a DJ set, a relay talk with well-known Scandinavia-based designers and an exclusive tour of AI exhibition Hyper Human. The most surprising part of the collaboration, however, was its live foraging tour with chef Sami Tallberg.

The chef and food writer ventured into the Finnish forest during his live talk and showed viewers how to forage wild ingredients and create a salad from the pickings for this lecture on how to find your own food in the wilderness.

Arthur Mamou-Mani built a VR pavilion

French architect Arthur Mamou-Mani's 2020 Burning Man pavilion, Catharsis, was never built as the festival in the Black Rock Desert, Nevada had to be cancelled because of the pandemic.

Instead, Mamou-Mani put out a call on Dezeen for game developers to help him build a VR version of the structure.

Once it was built, he invited Dezeen founder Marcus Fairs and Virtual Design Festival viewers to visit a virtual Black Rock City on a virtual reality tour of the building as part of his VDF collaboration.

The tour also took in a virtual version of Galaxia, his 2018 temple that was burned at that year's Burning Man festival and has now been immortalised in cyberspace.

Nelly Ben Hayoun hosted a pioneering design/sport mashup

French designer Nelly Ben Hayoun teamed up with VDF to bring the worlds of sport and design together. Her unique relay talk saw her chat to creatives including designer Yinka Ilori (who jogged while discussing his new skatepark), Tea Uglow from Google's creative lab, sportscaster Leonard Elmond and Slowe Magazine-founder Ro Jackson.

Together, the collective discussed a wide range of topics, spanning from sports' relationship to nightlife to Black Lives Matter and how sport can have an impact on society.