Highlights from London Design Festival 2017
The London Design Festival celebrated its 15th birthday this September as the city came alive with exhibitions, installations and pop-up shows all over this vibrant metropolis. The festival has grown to include Design Frontiers at Somerset House, two Landmark projects around the city, as well as a number of ‘sub-brands’ – most notably Design Junction at King’s Cross and a whole host of pop-ups from Brixton to Clerkenwell and around the city. This is a bigger and bolder festival, and certainly more exclusive and international in voice, with some 350,000 visitors visiting London to experience the city’s incredible creative energy.
At the main V&A hub, where exhibitors choose a room and create work that responds to the space and collection, themes vary from sustainability and ageing to materiality. Leaf, for instance, is a bionic chandelier by Julian Melchiorri that explores how biological micro-organisms and materials can convert waste and pollution into valuable resources. Then Scooter for Life by transport designer Paul Priestman addresses ageing and mobility. While Czech glassmaker Petr Stanicky works with the possibilities of materials with two installations – a mesmerising site-specific work offering pixelated views of the surrounding buildings, and a geometric thick glass structure that plays with our sense of perspective.
Attracting a great deal of attention for its visual drama is Flynn Talbot’s Reflection Room which looks incredible in the Prince Consort Gallery, a vaulted space rarely visited. It is dramatically illuminated on either end by the Australian artist’s trademark blue and orange lighting. He says the blue is symbolic of the ocean and the orange of the vast sunsets and sunrises of his childhood. Another visual treat is Transmission by London designer Ross Lovegrove in the Tapestries room. This is a 21-meter-long flowing installation and free-standing three-dimensional tapestry made of tactile Alcantara – the colours, the exact pigments of the stunning renaissance textiles that surround it.
As part of the Landmarks projects, architect Sam Jacob Studios presents Urban Cabin for the Mini Living research initiative to see how intelligent design can help city life. Sitting on the Southbank between buildings, it explores the concept of private home, how we can challenge the existing model to be relevant for future urban inhabitants living in crowded cities where property is limited and expensive. He proposes a mixed private and shared space with an open kitchen to evoke the feeling of street food and markets, and a micro-library that is a cross between the grand library and the pile of books by our bedside.
Elsewhere, at the Design Museum Asian brand Stellar Works presents Indigo: A Cultural Iconography, an installation by the directors Neri&Hu exploring materiality in manufacturing, the craft of making and the associations between old and new, east and west in attitude, and form and application.
Finally, at Design Junction Spinach worked with Campari to envisage Campari Creates – a fun and stylish floating bar on the canal at Granary Square, King’s Cross with classic Campari cocktails on tap, and the latest book La Vita Campari on show. This lifestyle publication is a hybrid of arts and ideas, design history, liquid history and cocktail book, and it was created by us at Spinach for Campari.
The creative industries are worth close to £90bn a year to the economy, offering some three million jobs here. It is a ‘serious, big, wealth-earning and reputation-enhancing’ sector, Sir John Sorrell, founder of LDF, told the Financial Times during the festival. London does have an edge over its European competitors for it is home to leading art and design schools, and a great number of creative companies like Spinach are based here. Crucially, London’s multicultural makeup and the freedom it allows for self-expression, encourages a constant flow of influences from other worlds and cultures, bringing their collective and individual experiences from far beyond the city walls.