The UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change warned us in the fall of 2018 that to avoid catastrophe, human societies have 12 years to completely transform the way we use energy and land.
Change is urgently needed and on a scale for which ‘there is no documented historical precedent’. That is why IABR–2020 starts from the premise that we are facing the deepest crisis in human memory. And that we have no time to waste. Can we transform our urban landscapes and living environments, comprehensively and democratically, with time for serious reflection on how we do it and for whom we do it – while we're doing it?

Water and Energy Transition
IABR–2020–DOWN TO EARTH is the sequel to IABR–2018–THE MISSING LINK, with which it forms a diptych. DOWN TO EARTH explores whether we can tackle the missing link which we identified and investigated in 2018, and do so very concretely, by employing urgent challenges as a lever for the comprehensive transformation of our urban landscapes and societies. The two that we have chosen are water and energy transition-related challenges. How can designers tackle water issues - too much, too little, too polluted - in such a way that they become also the starting point for working on resilient cities? (How) can designers help realize the energy transition so that we can simultaneously use it as a lever for socially inclusive urban planning? How can design driven responses to water and energy transition-related challenges help us to develop new approaches to inhabit the earth, in a much more balanced way, one that helps us realize the Sustainable Developments Goals?

Curator Team
To address this issue, how to take action now, from the global level to that of the urban district, a new Curator Team has been appointed.
Sarah Ichioka was appointed Curator for Water as Leverage, and Thijs van Spaandonk Curator for Energy Transition as Leverage.
They will work closely together with co-curators who will operate in and from the perspective of the two sites where IABR–2020 will take place: the adjacent districts M4H and BoTu. Robbert de Vrieze is co-curator in and on behalf of the Bospolder-Tussendijken, while Rianne Makkink and Jurgen Bey will operate in the M4H-area.
As in 2012 (5th IABR - Making City) George Brugmans will chair the curator team.

M4H + BoTu
The most important locations of IABR–2020 are the Merwe-Vierhavens area (M4H), a city harbor that is a breeding ground for the new circular economy, and Bospolder-Tussendijken (BoTu), a socioeconomically vulnerable and culturally very diverse Rotterdam district. M4H + BoTu: two adjacent areas we jointly named Test Site M4H+ during the previous biennale. Together, they are representative of the many challenges facing not only the city of Rotterdam but also many other cities. The water challenge and energy transition play a part here, but here we can also explore the new circular economy, the housing challenge, accessibility, and social inequality. Here, the poor and unemployed live alongside start-ups and enterprising artists. Old and new meet, city and port, rich and poor, local and global.
M4H+BoTu is an exemplary Test Site for the transition: challenges and approaches come together in the now and how, and in a very provoking manner as well. It is an ideal location for the IABR, in and also after 2020.

The New Normal?
Family in flood water, Semarang, Indonesia

IABR–2020 will take place in the autumn of 2020, from the first week of September until well in December. This we can connect to the Global Climate Adaptation Action Summit in October 2020, that will be hosted by The Netherlands, with much of the program happening in Rotterdam - all explorations of how to take action, in Rotterdam, in The Netherlands, and in the World.
In our own research, the focus in 2018 was on the Delta of the Low Countries, where we initiated new IABR–Ateliers, partnerships between the IABR and various provinces and municipalities in the Netherlands and this time also in Belgium. In 2020, the focus will no longer be solely on our own delta, but again on the entire world - building on, for example, on the Water as Leverage/Asia practice, spearheaded by Henk Ovink, and that IABR co-initiated.

The IABR has fully committed itself to contribute to the realization of the Sustainable Development Goals of the United Nations and of the objectives stated in the Paris Climate Agreement.
The IABR is a research and development institute as well as an international cultural platform. Therefore, contribute we can with the tools that we have: research by design, the power of the imagination and the potency of design.