The World Around "speaks about design as current affairs" says Beatrice Galilee

Dezeen has teamed up with The World Around to live-stream its 2022 summit on 5 February. Ahead of the conference, founder Beatrice Galilee explains the summit's focus and forecasts the changes she expects to see in the design industry this year.

The 2022 edition of architecture symposium The World Around will cover a wide range of contemporary topics including the rights of forests and trees to whether refugee camps should achieve world heritage status.

According to founder Galilee, this is part of an attempt to "disentangle contemporary architecture from the narrative of a primarily western canon".

"We try to use The World Around as a way to speak about design as current affairs, not just describing objects or buildings," Galilee told Dezeen.

"This year we are seeing more and more people working to unpack and understand the intensely complicated world we are living in."

Speakers at this year's conference include curator Lesley Lokko, who will present a new educational platform in Ghana called the African Futures Initiative, author Amitav Ghosh, who will discuss his new book the Nutmeg's Curse, and film director Matthew Heineman, who will focus on his documentary about the pandemic in New York called First Wave.

A portrait photograph of curator Beatrice Galilee
Above: Beatrice Galilee founded The World Around in 2020. Top: a photograph of Josh Begley's short film Best of Luck with the Wall, which was screened at the 2020 summit

The 2022 edition of The World Around is the third annual summit organised by the non-profit organisation, which was founded by Galilee in 2020 with the aim of deepening architectural discourse.

Dezeen previously live streamed the inaugural symposium in 2020 and the 2021 summit, in addition to the In Focus: Land series of talks The World Around hosted last year and a collaboration as part of Virtual Design Festival to mark Earth Day in 2020.

The World Around 2022 summit will be live-streamed on Dezeen on 5 February.

Read on for an interview with Galilee about The World Around and her plans for the summit below.


Dezeen: What is The World Around and why did you start it?

Beatrice Galilee: Someone once said The World Around was like a first draft of architectural history, which I really like. We create public programmes that bring together the most recent, important, influential, and emerging global architects, designers, and artists and ask them to share their work in a very short and accessible way.

I was the first architecture and design curator at The Metropolitan Museum of Art, and during the five years I was there, I tried to develop an effective way of regularly and impactfully communicating contemporary architecture and design. I organised a series of public programmes, 'In Our Time', and an annual all-day conference, 'A Year of Architecture in a Day' that we live-streamed on Dezeen.

Before The Met, I had been travelling all over the world working as a curator for biennales in China, Korea, and Portugal, had worked on really fun events for Milan Design Week, and had also started The Gopher Hole, my own space in London with aberrant architecture. The World Around is kind of a hybrid of all those curatorial experiences!

It brings what I learned from working with large, slow organisations and the fast-paced experimental spirit of biennales. We started just before the pandemic in January 2020, so things have changed quite a bit since our first event.

A photograph of a talk taking place as part of The World Around in New York 2020
The inaugural edition of The World Around took place in New York in 2020

Dezeen: How did things change since your first event in January 2020?

Beatrice Galilee: It was a huge financial challenge to survive. As a brand new public charity, we don't have our own physical space, certainly not an auditorium, and so I decided to create collaborations with institutions that can host and broadcast those events. During the first few weeks of the pandemic, we worked with the team at Dezeen who hosted the Virtual Design Festival and organised our first 'Earth Day' public programme.

We then developed a residency model with the Guggenheim Museum in New York who hosted our annual summit last year and will be hosting our annual summit on 5 February this year, and we are now also in partnership with Het Nieuwe Instituut in Rotterdam. They are our first European partner, and we are working with them on a big event for 11 June, and we are talking to a few other international institutions about how we can collaborate with them too.

After the live event, we can then make the presentations into short films on our website so they're free and accessible to everyone. As an itinerant model, we're keen to partner with institutions all over the world to ensure we're raising awareness of the role architecture and design can play in critical conversations, as well as sharing inspiring stories of international designers, thinkers, and makers.

A photograph of a boy walking through a woodland as part of Julia Watson's research into indigenous architectural technologies
Previous editions of The World Around featured research by Julia Watson into indigenous architectural technologies

Dezeen: What do you think are the big shifts we'll see in the architecture and design sector this year? Where can the sector help global issues?

Beatrice Galilee: We try to use The World Around as a way to speak about design as current affairs, not just describing objects or buildings. This year we are seeing more and more people working to unpack and understand the intensely complicated world we are living in.

We have author Amitav Ghosh speaking about his new book the Nutmeg's Curse, film director Matthew Heineman will be speaking about his new documentary First Wave about the pandemic in New York, and Lesley Lokko will be presenting the African Futures Initiative, a new educational platform in Ghana.

In the past we have had Caroline Criado Perez speaking about design, data, and gender and BlackSpace urban collective sharing their work for Black architects and urbanists in the US, we have had programs discussing land and indigenous rights in the US.

A photograph of architect Junya Ishigami speaking at The World Around
Speakers at previous editions of The World Around include architect Junya Ishigami

Dezeen: What can you tell us about this year's summit? What is the focus?

Beatrice Galilee: The summit is always a round-up of all that happened over the past year. So we don't have a specific thematic focus, it just emerges after examining all the interesting projects and activities of the year.

One thing that really stands out is a sense of responsibility amongst designers and practitioners to disentangle contemporary architecture from the narrative of a primarily western canon. What architecture becomes history and why? What is preserved and for whom? Should a refugee camp achieve world heritage status? What are the rights of trees and forests? How can we use technology - games, apps, digital projects - to have a meaningful impact on lives and spaces?

Dezeen: Where would you like The World Around to be in five years?

Beatrice Galilee: We have lots of plans for the future! I would love to see The World Around organising events in many new cities and spaces, developing long-term collaborations with major global institutions.

The World Around takes place online on 5 February. See Dezeen Events Guide for an up-to-date list of architecture and design events taking place around the world.

Partnership content

This article was written as part of a partnership with The World Around. Find out more about our partnership content here.