Established in 2003, the London Design Festival is growing year after year and in 2015 offers over 400 events and installations to the design-conscious public. “This year’s festival programme really reflects the diversity of design across the whole of our capital,” said Festival Chairman Sir John Sorrell. “Locations this year range from some of London’s most historic buildings to areas of the capital where regeneration is transforming the landscape in a truly exciting way.” Sitting firmly in the ‘historic buildings’ camp, Somerset House, traditionally home to London Fashion Week, came on board this year as a key design destination, providing tangible evidence of the growing significance of design in London. The space was filled with an array of installations and product launches, such as Serif by Ronan and Erwan Bouroullec for Samsung (above).
Spine was a series of motion-sensitive clusters of Plumen lightbulbs suspended in a stairwell, whose brightness followed visitors up and down the stairs. “It highlights the idea that electricity carries our intention and thought into action both around us and within us.” said designer Nassia Inglessis. “We all know that externally we have man-made lighting that fuels our activity all hours of the day, but we forget that electrical signals also exist in our body and create our thoughts and turn our thoughts into actions through synapses across our spine.”
One of my favourite projects was by the winner of the 2015 Swarovski Emerging Talent medal winner Marjan Van Aubel – as part of the British Land Celebration of Design Awards. Her stained glass windows capture solar energy and convert it into enough electricity to charge a phone. A brilliant combination of form and function and a worthy winner of the award.
Powered by Tweets was an installation by Twitter and designed by Bureau de Change showcasing responses to a call for ideas that solved a problem or created something beautiful using Twitter. My favorite was #PutRedBack by WERSM. The windows of the Terrace Rooms had been filled with all the colors of the rainbow apart from red. Each tweet in protest to a UK law that requires gay men to abstain from sex for twelve months before being allowed to give blood, added a drop of red to the final window, slowly completing the rainbow. A visually impactful way to raise awareness of a discriminatory law.
Max Lamb’s My Grandfather’s Tree was one of the highlights of the festival. The Cornish designer helped to remove a 187-year old damaged ash tree from his 89-year-old grandfather’s Yorkshire farm. Saving it from its likely fate as firewood, Lamb sliced it into 131 numbered functional objects, each with the same finish as a piece of high-end furniture, despite their primitive form. “I wanted to preserve the tree so it could live for future generations. I’m a furniture maker and for furniture makers ash is a wonderful resource. But I didn’t want to lose the identity of the material, I wanted each piece to have a connection with its tree form. All the information is maintained in every cross-section. You can count the rings and see how old it is, you can see how good each season was.”
BarberOsgerby were one of “Ten Designers in the West Wing” and used the opportunity to show their latest book One by One, a collection of photographs and drawings from their sketchbooks of their products, furniture they’ve designed for Knoll and their new collection of Hotaru Lanterns also on display to stunning effect at the twentytwentyone gallery in Clerkenwell.
Design brand Hem has recently collaborated with Italian designer Luca Nichetto on the modular Alphabeta Lamp – a pendant lamp which can be customized by combining different shapes and colors. To showcase this collaboration, 44 Alphabeta lamps were connected to the 88 keys of a grand piano, enabling the pianist to ‘play’ the lighting surrounding her.
Faye Toogood’s Drawing Room was another highlight – the artist turned furniture designer turned fashion designer had personally hand-drawn the interior of a grand English drawing room onto translucent plastic sheets lining the space, which she had filled with her Roly Poly furniture collection, remodeled in charcoal-hued fibreglass for the occasion, her latest fashion collection created in collaboration with her sister Erica Toogood and a set of cardboard sculptures and bird sounds reminiscent of car journeys with their ornithologist father to complete the set. “It’s a room of memories,” said Erica Toogood. “It’s a room of objects and personal things and places, and walks and things that mean something to us – so it’s about inviting people into that personal space. We design objects and clothes and furniture, but all of that comes from somewhere personal.”
Patternity collaborated with Paperless Post to create an immersive experience to celebrate their limited edition of graphic, monochromatic greetings cards – they filled a room with the patterns used in the collection enabling people to dive in and experience them in three dimensions, inviting them to “explore, play and connect with each other in the real world.”
And finally, Arik Levy collaborated with Istanbul-based architects Tabanlioglu to create an installation which explored the transition between warm and cold, wet and dry and light and solid. Moving platforms in one room distributed water dropped onto them, while a warm, light, dry installation (above) hung above the other.