Jerusalem Design Week, initiated by the Hansen House – Center for Design, Media and Technology, and promoted by the Jerusalem Development Authority and the Ministry for Jerusalem and Heritage and supported by the Jerusalem Foundation, will operate this year under the theme of “RUNAWAY CIRCUS” between June 18-25 2020, at the Hansen House in Jerusalem.


In its 10th anniversary and it’s 5th international edition, JDW continues to be Israel’s leading public design event, with over 30,000 visitors, 200 participating Israeli and International designers in over 40 events, exhibitions and installations, and new collaborations with leading local and international partners. JDW encourages new works with a non-commercial, theme-based emphasis and a cross-disciplinary approach in targeting new formats for exhibitions, performances and events.


Jerusalem Design Week 2020 calls on designers of all disciplines to submit proposals for new or existing works under the yearly theme of “Runaway Circus” and its specific structure (see below). The scale of the works is flexible (single works, large scale projects, installations, exhibitions, performance works, outdoor installations etc.).

Selected works will be invited for further discussion. Works on show will receive financing. See schedule below.

Submissions are open to individual designers or teams.

About the Hansen House:

The Hansen house is a cultural center, reopened to the public after almost a century as a secluded leper asylum. The house and garden were renovated and preserved between 2011-2013 by the Jerusalem Development Authority with the management of Ran Wolf – Urban Planning and Project Management Ltd. Today, Hansen house is home to artists, creatives and academics from various fields including design, media and technology. It presents advanced artistic projects and research topics and allows access to both professional and curious audiences. The director (I would add: of Hansen house) aims to strengthen the city of Jerusalem and its creative and academic community, while respecting and interacting with the city’s existing bodies.

About the Jerusalem Design Week:

This year’s theme: RUNAWAY CIRCUS

Since consciousness first crept into our minds and we had come to terms with the reality of our daily life, as individuals, societies and as a species, we had sought to escape it. Escapism as a psychological coping mechanism had taken many forms. Through literature and music, theatre and travel, games or inner search – chemically, philosophically or psychologically induced. We escape into the virtual, into the wild, into indulgences and alternative identities and cultures. We escape ruling paradigms to alternate realities, or moments of pure pleasure. Through the span of our existence, We balance the burdens of daily life by turning our backs to it – for a day or for a lifetime, as a form of rebellion or by moving with the crowds to new and seductive diversions. 

Increasingly though, we are reminded that our existence carries with it a social responsibility, and that we cannot confine ourselves to a selfish and individualistic perspective of the world. What we do affects the societies we come in contact with, the survival of our planet, the safety and rights of those who inhabit it, human or not. As we become more aware of the price of our existence through endless new means of communications, this new knowledge of the world becomes inescapable, and our forms of escapism become tainted. Try as we might to ignore it, our little vacations constantly remind us of the toll they ask of us.

Every flight we take, for example, gets under our skin as it manipulates and mine our data when we buy the ticket online, or as it adds to the carbon emission counts, while our destination has probably been in recent news lately for its human rights policies or its relation to immigrants. The price tag of our indulgences creeps in the documentaries and realistic dramas that fill our screens; In the hashtag campaigns haunting our feeds and around-the-clock news; In comedy sketches and satires; In information on our food packaging. In Israel, where it is claimed that everything is political, escapism is crucial as much as the reality is unavoidable.  Questions of security and social debate has been interwoven for decades into shopping malls and marketplaces, entertainment and food, scenic routes and highways. And while we can’t live without our escapes, it is getting harder to see them as a pure, harmless retreats.

In its role as a festival, an escapist form in itself, Jerusalem Design Week 2020 aims to revive and explore what might seem at first glance an untainted form of escapism, at least in origins – the Festival of festivals, the hall of entertainment and wonder – the traveling Circus. A conflicted being, it is both wondrous and dangerous, inclusive and exploitative, magical and technological, wholesome and dark. It is an epitomisation of human potential, and as it disassembles, remind us of our inability to fulfil it. it shows us the wonders of the world and nature, while it resonates the costs of bringing it to us. The Circus is a place where the purest escapism and harshest realities meet. 

JDW 2020 proposes Design will become this Circus –  many times there for our escape into comfort, indulgence and aesthetics, for our ease through effectivity and creative solutions, for our wondrous potential through the innovation it promotes. Yet, while Design is there to take away the burdens of the everyday complexity, it is, much like the Circus, a place where technology, ecology, social tensions, eccentricity and cultural questions meet, where they are debated, and where they are put to the test of its audience.

Through its one week of existence, “Runaway Circus” will explore the Circus’s Bright facade and dark backstage, and might seem to offer us a moment of ease of mind, as design also often does. But it just might also remind us that reality is inescapable, and that whatever we do is always a reflection of what we are. 


Focus for the open call:

The circus of JDW 2020 is a metaphor to tackle the subject of Escapism through the prism of design. We invite you to submit any works you deem relevant to the issue of Escapism and design. The theme also puts an emphasis on the triangle of the discipline of design, the content of escapism and the form of a circus, where we see many opportunities arise. Proposals that take into account the relationship between the three facets of the festival will also receive special focus. 

JDW 2020 will follow the logic and structure of late 19th century-early 20th century american traveling circuses and will explore the theme under several main titles:

1/ The big top – where challenges of human capabilities tackle the dangers of stretching human potential. Focus on this chapter is performative although other formats are welcome.

2/ Animals and parade – Exploring the thrill and potential of exposing the unreachable or the distant, while contemplating the ecological and moral costs of such an endeavour.

3/ The freakshow – Reflecting on the exploitative or inclusive nature of social eccentricity, and the position of social outcasts.

4/ The fairground – exploring food and games in the context of a fair, and the clash they might present between escapism and reality.

5/ Mysticism – Exploring the tension between technology and spirituality, fact and faith.

6/ JDW main exhibition – Will explore the concept of escapism through the prisms of technology, nature, entertainment, narcotics, social structures, etc. Proposals for this section should not take into account the relation to the circus.

*/ This chapters structure the main content of JDW yet other takes on escapism and the circus through the prism of design are welcome. 


Please include:

1/ Letter of intent by the designer and a description of the proposed project – up to 400 words.

2/ Images and technical information:

– For an existing project: images, sizes, materials, specific presentation needs if applicable, when and where the project was presented.

– For a new project: sketches, renderings, technical info and budget estimation.

3/ Bio of the designer/designers, and relevant links.

4/ Portfolio (up to 5mb) with relevant previous work.


Time tables:

Submission will be open until 30th January 2020

Relevant submissions will be invited for further discussion with the curators during February 2020

Following further development, final selections for presentation will be made.

Please submit your proposals to in a single PDF file.