The courtyard of Somerset House in London has been transformed into a forest from 1-27 June as part of the London Design Biennale.
Visitors are invited by Forest for Change – The Global Goals Pavilion, to discover the 17 Sustainable Development Goals (the plan adopted by the UN member states back in 2015 to end poverty, fight inequality and tackle climate change by 2030).
400 juvenile trees have been individually selected for their differing canopy shapes, heights and forms. The majority have been sourced at one of the UK’s leading tree growers and these make up the Forest. A diverse range of 27 nursery grown species have been selected to highlight the condition of trees in the urban environments due to climate change with the aim of ensuring future resilience to the changing London environment. Many favourite common species such as Scots Pine, Hazel and Silver Birch are included.
After the trees have graced the Somerset House courtyard, they will be donated to London boroughs as part of The Queen’s Green Canopy. This is a unique tree planting initiative encouraging everyone to “Plant a Tree for the Jubilee”. Two of the London boroughs, Islington and Southwark, will receive the trees, creating a living durable legacy for the forest. The trees will be stored and replanted during the official planting season which begins in October.
The sound of birdsong, curated by Brian Eno, and which includes recordings from the British Library Sound Archive will enhance their journey as visitors walk through the Forest for Change.
A central clearing at the heart of the Forest will reveal a pavilion containing 17 mirrored pillars, representing the Global Goals. Through inspiring quotes and facts about the world we live in, they will bring to life the reason the Goals are the world’s To Do List for people and planet.
At the 17th pillar representing Partnerships for the Goals – visitors will be invited to choose the Goal they feel most passionate about and to record a short message expressing the change they wish to see in the world.
These messages will be instantly added to a generative music installation composed by Robert M Thomas that will be played back in the central clearing.
Visitors will receive an audio-visual digital file of their recording and a photo as a reminder of their visit. Their contribution will become part of ‘Voices for Change’, a collaboration with the Google Arts & Culture Lab that will bring together the voices and passions of people from across the world in support of the Global Goals.
For those unable to visit the Forest for Change, they can still be part of Voices for Change. Wherever in the world people live, everyone’s voice matters. To record your message visit
In line with the urban design principles of the time when Somerset House was built, greenery was specifically forbidden. Es Devlin wanted to counter the attitude of human dominance over nature when planning this year’s Biennale, thus creating a magnificent green landscape and centerpiece in Somerset House’s courtyard, and an opportunity to connect with nature.
The outdoor experience is presented in partnership with Project Everyone, which is a not-for profit agency founded to further awareness and engagement with the Global Goals. The project has received specialist support from various sources.
Significant resources and expertise have been committed to produce the Forest for Change sustainably. Materials have been sourced through sustainable supply chains. Almost all will be reused, recycled or regenerated as biofuel. The project will be carbon positive, planting sufficient trees to offset its actual carbon footprint three times over, after the Biennale.