What to see at the London Design Festival
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The show must go on. These were the words of Sir John Sorrell, chairman of the London Design Festival, as he announced a line-up of both physical and virtual events for the 18th iteration of the city’s celebration of design, which this year takes place from 12 to 20 September. “We want to spotlight the brilliance of the London design scene and the design community’s commitment to the recovery of the city,” he said. This year, the complexities of social distancing and restrictions on international travel have led to a scaled-down programme of events, with the organisers focusing on creating a “festival for Londoners” with a mix of installations and design happenings. Here are the highlights:
Lee Broom launches the Maestro chair, Shoreditch
British designer Lee Broom is known for creating theatrical environments to showcase his work – he constructed an entire department store to present his designs at Milan Design Week in 2015, built a carousel-like time machine for the Italian event in 2017, and mesmerised visitors with his Kaleidoscopia light show at the London festival last year. This year, he will unveil his new Maestro chair, both virtually (in the form of a film, which will be shown on his website) and physically in a creative window installation at his Shoreditch store – they will be unveiled simultaneously on 14 September. The designer’s love of classical music inspired Maestro’s curvilinear design, which recalls “the coils of a French horn and the curvature of a violin”.
Lee Broom, 93 Rivington Street, London EC2; leebroom.com
Focus/20 exhibition, Design Centre, Chelsea Harbour
Only trade visitors will gain entrance to the Focus/20 show at the Design Centre this year, but there are plenty of virtual events to compensate, from talks to new product launches and design masterclasses. Top billing goes to American architect Peter Marino – the designer who was hired by Andy Warhol to renovate his East Side Manhattan home in 1978, and went on to create stores for Barneys, Armani, Chanel, Dior and Louis Vuitton. He will be joined by Nicolò Favaretto, CEO of the textiles house Rubelli, in a discussion titled Venice: Light, Water & Beauty, which is hosted by How To Spend It on 14 September at 4pm. The pair will explore how the ancient city has inspired many artists, including the architect himself. Marino is the chairman of the Venetian Heritage Foundation and has created a collection for Rubelli called “Peter Marino for Venetian Heritage”, inspired by the city’s history.
The Hothouse by Studio Weave, IQL, Stratford
A standout at this year’s festival, The Hothouse by architectural practice Studio Weave is a large-scale installation reminiscent of a Victorian glasshouse. Inside the structure – which stands on Redman Place in Stratford’s International Quarter London district (a part of the city that was once dominated by a 20-mile stretch of greenhouses along the Lee Valley corridor) – the controlled environment allows plants that would not typically grow in the UK to flourish. Gardener Tom Massey has collaborated with the project to create an “edible jungle of unusual species”, from guava and chia seed to pineapple and sugar cane. The message? Scientists predict that, if climate change continues to accelerate at its current rate, all of these crops could be grown outside in the UK by 2050. The Hothouse will remain in situ for a year, showing how the plants grow and change across the seasons.
Tom Dixon’s Octagon Exhibition, King’s Cross
The ever-inventive Dixon has created an open exhibition at his Coal Office headquarters, which hosts eight creative spaces, spread over two levels of the building. Visitors can enjoy a cocktail served in Dixon’s barware at the pop-up bar; shake their stuff at his disco under the glow of his Globe, Burst and Melt lights; and find inspiration at his pattern masterclass and “S-chair Museum” – a homage to the chair that was born, so the story goes, from a simple doodle of a chicken in the 1980s. There are a series of live and virtual events throughout the week. Among them, Dixon’s virtual tour of the Coal Office can be booked here and tickets for the live panel discussion, “Join our club: Why spaces for music and community are vital” can be purchased here.
Tom Dixon, 4-10 Bagley Walk, London N1; tomdixon.net
Unity by Marlène Huissoud, King’s Cross
Also at King’s Cross, Coal Drops Yard forms the backdrop to a newly commissioned installation named Unity by French designer Marlène Huissoud. Visitors are invited to stand around the piece – which symbolises how we share environments following the experience of the pandemic – forming a circle two metres apart. They can then work a series of foot pumps to “breathe life” into the work, which begins flat and limp on the floor – watching it grow and change as they operate the pumps. “This installation is more than an interactive piece, it asks society to wake up and realise how vital it is for us to be united and act as a whole,” says Huissoud of her design.
The William Morris Route
Inspired by Morris’ statement “art made by the people and for the people”, this new design route highlights the creative activities of local communities and is connected by street art from the Wood Street Walls to Blackhorse Road. Blackhorse Workshop, the Extinction Rebellion design group and the industrial designer Liang-Jung Chen will host a series of workshops and talks, which explore design as a form of activism.
For the full listing of events, visit londondesignfestival.com/william-morris-design-line
Poltrona Frau unveils its new collection, Brompton Quarter
The Brompton Quarter is home to several gallery-like design showrooms, many of which will showcase temporary exhibitions and new products during the festival. The Italian furniture brand Poltrona Frau plans to make a splash with the launch of its new Future of Heritage collection, with pieces by Tristan Auer, AB Concept and Roberto Lazzeroni, as well as reimaginings of the brand’s well-known Kyoto table, Vanity Fair armchair and Chester sofa.
Poltrona Frau, 147-153 Fulham Road, London SW3; poltronafrau.com
Planted, Granary Square, King’s Cross
The design show aimed at reconnecting cities with nature, Planted, will present #PlantedUnplugged at this year’s event – a three-part series of talks, which will be live-streamed from Granary Square on 18 September. Staged in an outdoor studio (created by living-wall specialist Biotecture Ltd), the public can watch as hosts Oliver Heath (a biophilic design expert) and journalist Sam Peters consider how sustainability, food production, architecture, nature and design can combine to create greener, healthier urban spaces.
Unity Arts Festival, Leamouth Peninsula, east London
Now in its third year, Unity Arts Festival celebrates creativity in Leamouth Peninsula, one of east London’s “new cultural and artistic hubs”, extending from London City Island to Goodluck Hope. Its programme of exhibitions, installations, performances, workshops and walking tours on Saturday 19 and Sunday 20 September are free to join (social distancing is considered). Highlights include a film studio where visitors can take part in an animation film hosted by renowned animator Tim Allen (the man behind Fantastic Mr Fox and Isle of Dogs), which will be screened on the final day of the event; music and architectural photography classes; and Powerplay, an exhibition of artists working in digital media, moving image and technology at the Arebyte Gallery.
A new Virtual Design District
This new virtual destination by Adorno offers a platform for collectable design from countries around the world. On each day of the festival, the portal will focus on collections from two countries, and there will be virtual tours through each collection given each day by the country curator.
To register, visit virtualdesigndestination.com
A talk with House of MinaLima
As part of the festival’s Global Design Forum, which garners the thoughts of those shaping the design landscape, Miraphora Mina and Eduardo Lima, co-founders of MinaLima, will share their design story online at 4pm on 12 September (the event is free to watch). The graphic designers, whose work ranges from films such as Harry Potter to children’s fairytale books, will look back over a 20-year career, recalling the highlights and milestones. Anyone able to travel to London’s Soho, meanwhile, can peruse the duo’s new gallery on Wardour Street.
For more information, visit globaldesignforum.com
Paul Cocksedge: Slump, Carpenters Workshop Gallery, Mayfair
The London designer will present eight new tables at the Mayfair gallery as part of this year’s London Design Festival. In each of his pieces, the glass is stretched under high temperatures and “slumped” over a base constructed from concrete, steel, wood or rock. The glass reacts in different ways each time, creating one-off designs. The exhibition opens on 10 September and runs until 18 December.