in conversation with Zehra Uçar

You are on the committee for Turkey’s participation for the first London Design Biennale, could you tell us a bit about this project?

As we all know, the refugee crisis is a big issue for Western countries at the moment. There is this pressure to create a new societal infrastructure, in order to find ways to reintegrate the refugees into a society. This is a big issue for every European country and for the EU as a whole.

The idea of the wish tree, which we developed with the Istanbul-based design office Autoban for the first London Design Biennale, emerged after some discussions around the hope for a better world, a concept which was at the heart of the biennale’s theme, Utopia by Design. The notion of the impossible – even if it means knowing that utopia cannot be achieved, but hoping for its achievement nonetheless – is in itself a sort of utopian idea.

There is also something of this utopianism in the journeys undertaken by refugees – leaving your home and starting to wander without knowing where you are going or where it will end. And this movement from hopelessness to hope is at the heart of the idea of the wish tree. By hanging something on it, you are hoping for its realisation. Maybe you don’t think it will come true, but you hope nonetheless, and this hope will find a way to transform into an idea, a design, a new life – in short, something new. For me the idea of design always starts with a new hope of this kind – the hope of making something new, better, fresh. If you are a pessimist you cannot design. You have to be optimistic and hope for better things to come. To be a refugee means to design your own life for a new and better future day. You always hope that the next day will be better, and this is how you start to walk. This was the idea of our pavilion.