Now in its 15th year, the annual London Design Festival—a citywide program of events, exhibitions and installations—successfully played its role as the glue that binds the city’s multiple, simultaneously held design trade shows each fall. Decorex International, 100% Design, designjunction, Focus/17, and the London Design Fair all occur around the fall LDF dates.
But the thing that sets this festival apart from these other shows is that most of its events are free to the public (LDF organizers were anticipating around 375,000 attendees this year.)
A focus of the citywide event is the Victoria & Albert Museum, which hosts installations by both seasoned and up-and-coming designers. Standouts this year were British designer Ross Lovegrove’s Transmission, a site-specific, nearly 70-foot-long, “three-dimensional tapestry” made with Alcantara, a tactile and sound-absorbent synthetic fabric. Transmission was designed to respond, with color and details such as gold and silver threads, to the 15th century Devonshire Hunting Tapestries that line the gallery in which it was installed. (And visitors could also take in the museum’s current exhibition Plywood: Material of the Modern World, which features objects from airplanes to skateboards and furniture by Aalto, Breuer, and the Eameses—as well as a series of iceskating shelters, designed for the run of the LDF by the Canadian firm Patkau Architects, in V&A’s John Madjeski Garden.)
The Landmark Project was the outdoor installation Villa Walala, a colorful “building-block castle” of inflated forms clad in vinyl and covered with digitally printed patterns by textiles designer Camille Walala. The designer built it in London’s East End on the grounds of Broadgate, a massive office and retail complex owned by British Land, the festival’s sponsor. Temporarily, the structure offered local workers and visitors a playful, interactive space for socializing.
New to the LDF was Design Frontiers, a group exhibition at Somerset House that included collaborative projects among 30 designers and manufacturers, including Amanda Levete’s dematerialized Glass Cloud chandelier for WonderGlass; Tord Boontje’s light fixtures that use Swarovski’s new, un-faceted crystals; Arik Levy’s “floating” kitchen island, made from a single block of mineral quartz for the luxury surfaces company COMPAC; and My Canvas, in which the forwardlooking Danish textile company Kvadrat invited 20 emerging designers to create projects using its Canvas fabric, designed by Giulio Ridolfo.
LDF also hosted Design Districts, like in years past. Brompton Design District, with its cutting-edge temporary exhibitions and furniture showrooms for Italian manufacturers B&B Italia and Molteni, is the best known, but Shoreditch Design Triangle and the Clerkenwell Design Quarter also attracted crowds, as did new additions The Pimlico Road Design District and the Mayfair Design District, which is home to design galleries Galerie Kreo, Gallery FUMI, Achille Salvagni, and Galerie Patrick Seguin. As Ben Evans, director of the LDF, notes, each district “allows you to immerse yourself in the design personality” of the area, and reflects “how varied London’s design story is.”
At the Design Museum, relocated to its new home in the city’s Kensington area last year, Set in Stone showcased eight experiments in marble and limestone, including seating by the Portuguese architect Eduardo Souto de Moura, a slide by ELEMENTAL, the socially-conscious Chilean architecture firm, and objects by Michael Anastassiades and Jasper Morrison.