The London Design Festival returned to the Victoria & Albert Museum as its ‘hub’ for another year of events and programming that sees the museum receive more visitors than at any other time of year. Each year designers are invited to submit proposals for installations that respond to various spaces within the museum. This year one of the absolute highlights was Australian lighting artist and designer Flynn Talbot’s Reflection Room in the Prince Consort Gallery, which saw the 35-meter-long space filled with Talbot’s signature blue and orange lighting to magnificent effect.
While We Wait by Bethlehem-based architects Elias and Yousef Anastas in Room 64b of the the Medieval & Renaissance Galleries is a large, lattice-like, self-supporting structure made from stone that has been quarried in various regions of Palestine – each piece has been designed digitally, cut by robots, and finished by hand. The structure is inspired by the traditional landscape and rocky terraces of the Cremisan Valley, near Bethlehem, and also conceived as a space for quiet contemplation in response to plans for a new section of the Israeli West Bank barrier through this area.
Ross Lovegrove’s Transmission references the colors and folds in depicted fabrics in the 15th century Devonshire Hunting Tapestries that surround it. The 21.3-meter-long installation is made from Alcantara – a suede-like fabric comprising polyester and polyurethane more typically used in automotive interiors – color-matched exactly to the tapestries using digital technology.
Building on last year’s photosynthesising Silk Leaf, this year, Julian Melchiorri presented the ‘Exhale’ Bionic Chandelier. The innovation design engineer, entrepreneur and CEO of biochemical tech company Arborea, has drawn inspiration from the V&A’s extensive collection to develop the world’s first living and breathing chandelier utilizing novel bionic-leaf technologies.
Alongside the London Design Festival activities was the BBC Women’s Hour Craft Prize Exhibition – a showcase of the 12 finalists of the award launched in collaboration with the Crafts Council and the V&A to celebrate the radio program’s 70th anniversary. Laura Youngson Coll’s work (above) is borne out of her fascination with biology, but specifically in response to the loss of her partner to non-Hodgkin lymphoma. The intricate pieces are made from vellum and mix fact and fiction to create representations of the cellular and molecular structures involved in her partners illness and treatment.
Where Holes Happen by Celia Pym is another of the shortlisted collections. It’s easy to undervalue Celia’s work at first glance – it is after all just sweaters that have been mended through knitting, darning and embroidery – but actually her work is about talking to people while she mends their clothes and understanding the meaning and value behind each object – what makes them worth repairing. She documents every mending process and in doing so is building a story about what caring for our clothes, and each other, means in today’s throwaway culture.
Outside of the V&A in the surrounding Brompton Design District, there was plenty to see as well – not least Faye Toogood’s Trade Show, which we have already covered. Elsewhere two townhouses on Cromwell Place were filled with design to make you think. Being Human by StudioIlse embodied Ilse Crawford’s approach of putting human needs at the heart of the design process.
Created and run by sisters Niki and Zoe Moskofoglou, OnEntropy is a marble atelier established in 2009 in Athens and London. Using these birds to demonstrate each stage of the process, the sisters hoped to bring sculpture to life for a contemporary audience.
And finally, a simple brass addition in Alchimist by Pascal Hachem and Rana Haddad aka 200grs transforms these brown bottles into elegant vases, giving them a new life.