‘being water’ shapes dialogue at porto design biennale 2023

‘being water’ shapes dialogue at porto design biennale 2023

‘being water’ at Porto Design Biennale 2023


Porto, framed by the Atlantic Ocean and the Duoro River, is a site where land embraces the sea. It’s this poetic confluence that inspires the theme of the 2023 edition of the Porto Design Biennale: ‘Being Water: How we flow together and shape each other’ (in Portuguese: ‘Ser Água: Como fluímos e nos moldamos coletivamente’). This collaborative event, co-hosted by the Portuguese cities Porto and Matosinhos, serves as a dynamic platform for conversations spanning civil society, academia, industry, institutions, as well as national and international cultural influencers. In anticipation of the biennale, designboom previews a diverse spectrum of activities such as installations, workshops, and conferences, designers and practitioners can immerse themselves in the ever-changing currents of contemporary design.

‘being water’ shapes dialogue at porto design biennale 2023
the theme of the 2023 edition of the Porto Design Biennale, ‘Being Water,’ uses the phenomenology of water as a frame in which to view current design practices

Tito Mouraz – Sem título | Untitled (Fluvial série | series), 2017

all images courtesy of Porto Design Biennale unless stated otherwise



The Portugal-based event examines the multifaceted nature of water – embracing its sensory, historical, and physical intricacies – as a way to start a dialogue on design. From principal curator Fernando Brízio, whose exhibition ‘Petrichor’ is a main event of the program:we propose a transdisciplinary laboratory […] which will act simultaneously in the visible and invisible, organic and inorganic, and ephemeral spectra of water’. From October to December 2023, the Porto Design Biennale produces and shares knowledge that highlights, repairs, restores and encourages a new dialogue around design and its relationship to the natural world.

‘being water’ shapes dialogue at porto design biennale 2023
from october to december 2023, the Porto Design Biennale will serve as ‘transdisciplinary laboratory’ for design

image © Tara Books Pvt Ltd, Chennai, India



events to see at Porto Design biennale 2023


The event, with its diverse array of activities and participants, offers visitors compelling opportunities to engage with the many dimensions of the theme. For those keen on venturing into the field of design research, the biennale hosts numerous events that exhibit the inquiries of their peers. The exhibition ‘CATHARSIS’,  by event curator Margarida Mendes, features transdisciplinary projects  connected by their engagement in ongoing struggles related to hydrographic basins around the world. Taking a more participatory approach, the performative tour ‘Testing the Waters’ offers a social design project that uses guided tours through Porto as a means to discuss water scarcity. Through these different events and displays, the Biennale becomes a platform not just for engaging with, but also generating, research.

‘being water’ shapes dialogue at porto design biennale 2023
several exhibitions, including ‘Petrichor,’ ‘CATHARSIS’, and ‘Ligações,’ are the main focal point of the program

Rain Vases, 2019 – Martín Azúa



For a more hands-on perspective, those attending the Porto Design Biennale 2023 can explore how sustainability-oriented building approaches have been recently integrated into the design field. The ‘Mud Matters’ workshop and exhibition show reusable waste materialized in a series of recycled ceramic objects. Various ceramic paste recipes incorporating wastewater treatment plant sludge are also tested at the event, demonstrating the potential for utilizing waste and innovating water usage methods. Sustainability doesn’t just take the form of alternative materials – the students at the design school ESAD showcase the results of their ‘Reusing Furniture’ workshop, where objects at the end of their life cycle were repurposed to create new pieces that meditate on aesthetics and sustainability.

‘being water’ shapes dialogue at porto design biennale 2023
the 1968 film ‘The Swimmer’ inspired the exhibition ‘Ligações’ by curator Miguel Vieira Baptista



Amongst the programme’s many events, designboom highlights  a few or their interesting, interactive approaches to the theme. Chef Rui Mota’s workshop, ‘Alchemy of the water molecule in molecular gastronomy,’ invites participants to delve into the world of molecular gastronomy, exploring the concept of water sustainability through recipes, techniques, and tastings, relevant to both commercial and home kitchens. Meanwhile, Studio Makkink & Bey’s exhibition, ‘The WaterSchool Classroom,’ transforms gallery rooms into ‘Cabinets of Curiosities,’ offering a captivating journey through various aspects of water. These rooms, reminiscent of historic collectors’ displays, blend art, science, and intellectual endeavors. Additionally, the film cycle ‘Dive-in’ goes beyond traditional screenings, incorporating talks, video installations, and a book to explore the intricate connections between design, water, and society. This multifaceted approach ensures that visitors can actively participate in understanding the profound impact of water in different realms.

‘being water’ shapes dialogue at porto design biennale 2023
objects in Studio Makkink & Bey’s exhibition, ‘The WaterSchool Classroom,’ a cabinet of curiosities for visitors to explore



Following its tradition from previous years, the 2023 biennale once again stretches its boundaries beyond Portugal, highlighting a territory and its history within the event. Galicia, Spain, a region situated on the Atlantic coast, holds a rich cultural connection to ‘Being Water.’ Thus, ‘Processes and Forms,’ traces the journey of Galician design across past, present, and future, intertwining water with the world of design. Just as the oceans and seas link our planet, the ideas and creators at the Porto Design Biennale 2023 weave water through their work, bridging design to the wider world.


the ever changing nature of water inspires thought, reflection, dialogue and design within the event’s program

‘being water’ shapes dialogue at porto design biennale 2023
EdenX 3.0 aims to build a digital community to discuss and rehearse the possibility of collective management of a river

image by João Octávio Peixoto



event info: 


event name: Porto Design Biennale | @portodesignbiennale

edition : 2023

dates: October 19 – December 3, 2023

principal curator: Fernando Brízio

location: Porto & Matosinhos, Portugal 

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