We started our explorations of the London Design Festival in the West of London, taking in the Victoria and Albert Museum, the Brompton Design District and 100% Design. Highlights from the latter included an installation (above) by Israeli designer and architect Ron Arad for LG Display made of OLED light panels.
Another highlight was the Boxy Armchair chair, by Italian brand Fikissimo, designed for outdoor use, made of welded iron mesh and aged concrete armrests.
Haidée Drew’s Geo collection of multi-colored acrylic mirrors have multiple hanging points to enable them to be arranged by the end-user in multiple overlapping patterns, thus involving the user in the design process. Haidée graduated from London’s Royal College of Art in silversmithing and metalwork in 2009 and has been running her eponymous brand ever since, working with clients such as Liberty, The Conran Shop and The British Museum.
Meanwhile, the Brompton Design District celebrated its 10th anniversary. To mark the occasion, district curator Jane Withers briefed Brompton’s designer alumni to create their own cocktails, based on the infamous ‘Brompton Cocktail’, lethal mix of morphine, heroin, cocaine and alcohol that was administered at the Royal Brompton Hospital in the early twentieth century until the 1970s, not only to relieve pain but also to promote sociability before death. The brief was to design a cocktail, either real, realizable, or conceptual, that offered transformation “from diverse ingredients into potent formula, from base materials into thoughtful ideas and objects, from one state of mind to another or from one world to the next” says Jane.
On a slightly more upbeat note, a common theme across much of this year’s festivities was Utopia, to mark the 100 year anniversary of Thomas More’s work of fiction and political philosophy by the same name. Ecotopia: A Sustainable Vision for a Better Future put the question of environmental utopia to a series of experts in the field and then illustrated their responses.
Elsewhere the Shit Museum took a pragmatic approach to the future. A working dairy farm an hour south of Milan has more cow excrement than can be used up in fertilizer alone (their 2500 cows produce 100 tons a day) so has started to make home and garden accessories, including tableware, from it. First the methane is removed (and used as a source of electricity for the farm), then what remains is fired at high temperatures much as clay would be. The result is a rustic, odorless, collection of objects made entirely from cow dung.
Czech designers Dechem and Okolo curated Breathless, an exhibition offering insights into the making process and history behind glass objects – even installing a mobile glass furnace from the Czech Republic at the Garage, 1 North Terrace.
Plinth’s pop-up gallery at 10a Thurloe Place included work by contemporary designers and artists such as Raw Edges (above), Foldability, and Jacques Nimki, who created the indoor garden. “Florilegium SW7 is the fourth in a series of interior meadows; each one occupies a space in a way that is both understated and arresting at the same time,” he says of the work. “The works are visually compelling – people are struck by the bringing of the ‘outside’ in – but their power lies just as much in the way the grass effects the quality of the air, the temperature of the room and the mood of the viewer. The smell of the earth beneath the grass and the flowers, the texture and topography of the meadow, are things inherent in the material.”
Finally, the V&A installations were as striking and thought-provoking as always. Green Room by London design studio Glithero in collaboration with watch-maker Panerai, was a kinetic piece that changes perceptions of what a clock can be. “We wanted to create a time piece that people could be inside of,” says Studio Glithero co-founder Tim Simpson. “This clock is an interactive experience rather than something you glance at.” Unfortunately, it wasn’t moving when we visited, but at 17.5 meters in height and rendered in a striking selection of colors, it was still pretty impressive.
Silk Leaf by Julian Malchiorri is the first prototype which explores the potential for photosynthetic devices in everyday life. Made of a biological material (mostly silk protein and chloroplasts), it absorbs CO2 and produces oxygen and organic compounds just like a real leaf, thanks to the photosynthetic ability of the stabilized chloroplasts inside silk protein. All it needs is visible light and water.
And not forgetting Benjamin Hubert’s Foil, which provided one of the breathtaking moments of the festival. Made of 50,000 mirror-finished stainless steel triangles, the 20 meter lit sculpture gently moved in time to a score from Schubert, reflecting light onto the V&A’s medieval tapestries in a way that made you experience the space in a completely new way.