From Raphael to rave carpets: an energetic London Design Festival


The Mayor of London is running an advertising campaign with the slogan “Let’s do London”. Ben Evans, director and co-founder of the London Design Festival, thinks the slogan could be worded more elegantly but is entirely behind its message – that the capital is open to tourism and business after more than 18 months of Covid-induced slump.

Travel restrictions have only allowed Evans to ride “a fraction of a festival” in 2020, but this year’s event has drawn support from 200 partner organizations and is back to two-thirds the size. of LDF 2019. Just two weeks after the postponement of the Salone del Milan Mobile Design Show, the LDF, now in its 18th year, is also a statement that there is life after Brexit for the city as a design hub.

“London’s unique selling point is its breadth and depth,” he says. “We really want our European neighbors to come and see what we are doing again.”

Evans and the small core team of LDF co-founder and chairman Sir John Sorrell serve as the umbrella to coordinate retailers and museums, which host events in 10 design districts, from Peckham to Park Royal.

But they also do a handful of direct commissions. Among them this year, Coal Drops Yard, a commercial development of King’s Cross, will host the Unboxing Show by Peter Marigold, which brought together flat board constructions from designers such as Tom Dixon, Faye Toogood and the Campana brothers. Festival-goers will be able to assemble objects ranging from fruit bowls to side tables using packaging waste from Coal Drops Yard stores, either in workshops run by Marigold, or by taking pre-cut templates to assemble at home.

The Unboxing Show, Peter Marigold: Stem Support Shelf

Yinka Ilori, whose colorful designs reflecting her Nigerian-British heritage earned her the Emerging Design Medal at last year’s LDF, has multiple points of presence at this year’s festival. He is participating in a mentoring day for up to 150 future designers and has dressed the conference space in Design London, a reboot of the former 100% Design fair which takes place September 22-25 in the Greenwich Peninsula.

Ilori’s most notable intervention, even for those unfamiliar with LDF, is his painting in his trademark high contrast hues of all the crosswalks on one of the West End’s main thoroughfares, Tottenham Court Road . The installation is the first UK iteration of Bloomberg’s Asphalt Art project, which splashed color in urban spaces across the United States.

“One of the hallmarks of our design culture today is that people are stepping out of their own disciplines and working in partnership with others,” says Evans. The centerpiece of his centrally commissioned projects exemplifies this interdisciplinary trend, pairing Japanese architect Sou Fujimoto with “mixed reality” technology studio Tin Drum.

Visitors to the Raphael Court at the V&A Museum will don augmented reality glasses and experience a 20-minute virtual loop in which a phenomenon resembling the Northern Lights resolves into a series of arched structures around them. The projections respond to the movements of viewers, constantly revealing glimpses of Raphael’s monumental cartoons behind them.

Henry Holland and Floor Story collaboration

Henry Holland and Floor Story collaboration

Other collaborations around the festival neighborhoods include smiley rugs inspired by 1990s raves by fashion designer Henry Holland and rug dealer Shoreditch Floor Story. The Cube, meanwhile, acts as a fleeting sanctuary from the crowds on London’s South Bank by Danish architects Henning Larsen and window maker Velux.

In addition to hosting the Sou Fujimoto and Tin Drum screening, the V&A has commissioned its own LDF exhibitions. The first will welcome visitors before entering the museum. Facing the entrance to the Chemin des Expositions, the architects Aude-Line Dulière and Juliet Haysom installed a zigzag arrangement of public seats in Portland stone.

The stone pieces were originally part of an elaborate colonnaded screen wall, designed by Sir Aston Webb in 1909, and partially removed six years ago by Amanda Levete Architects to allow street access to the museum’s new Sackler courtyard.

Duliere and Haysom paved the mullions and carved freestone – which had languished in a Dorset quarry for more than five years – and brought them home to sit a stone’s throw away carved from the remaining sections of the ‘Webb screen.

“It’s an interesting circular economy story,” says Meneesha Kellay, curator of V&A festivals. The stones will remain beyond the festival, until at least January, “but we hope the council likes them so much that they want to keep them.”

Architects Aude-Line Dulière and Juliet Haysom created seats in Portland stone, originally part of an elaborate colonnaded screen wall

Architects Aude-Line Dulière and Juliet Haysom created seats in Portland stone, originally part of an elaborate colonnaded screen wall © Ele Mun

Inside the museum, The Decorators collective will present Sofa-Bread, an inflatable seat with an incorporated dough bowl. This is one of many pieces of furniture he has made to highlight what he sees as a paradox: the need to limit the spread of dangerous germs has kept many people indoors for long periods of time, which has sparked renewed interest in home cooking and fermentation. – the culture of microbes of another kind.

Sofa-Bread inflatable seat from The Decorators collective

Sofa-Bread inflatable seat from The Decorators collective © Sergio Márquez

The literal centerpiece of Kellay’s LDF projects sits above the shallow pool in the courtyard in the middle of the museum. Between Forests and Heavens is a pavilion made from polished aluminum sheet nearly an inch thick and measuring 39 ft x 23 ft; 27 giant fingers resulting from parabolic cuts through the sheet metal are bent at right angles to form the roof supports. It’s a beautifully simple structure, as physically present and solid as nearby Sou Fujimoto’s projections are ethereal.

“You get it immediately,” Kellay says. “What you see right away is the purity of the design, there is nothing hidden.” The aluminum has been melted down using hydroelectricity only, and as it is a single, untreated metal, it can be easily recycled at the end of the festival. The pavilion is the work of Madhav Kidao and Brando Posocco, who left Thomas Heatherwick’s office to create their Nebbia Works in 2018. “I made a conscious effort to commission emerging designers,” says Kellay.

Between Forests and Heavens by Nebbia Works

Between forests and skies, a pavilion made from polished aluminum foil, by Nebbia Works

New talent is also at the center of two projects supported by the American Hardwood Export Council. For one, titled Discovered, 20 young designers were invited to design furniture that reflected their experiences of the pandemic. The results, which will be on display at the Design Museum until October 10, include the leggy cherry wood case of Alessandra Fumagalli Romario, a graduate of the Royal College of Art. It is inspired by the Renaissance cabinet of curiosities and is intended to show objects expressing the owner’s personality as a backdrop to online dating. A collection of ‘designposts’, sculpted red oak shapes designed by 10 students from London’s schools of design and architecture, are spread across the city. These gazebos, totems and screens serve as beacons at the center of each design district.

Cherry wood box by Alessandra Fumagalli Romario

Cherry wood box by Alessandra Fumagalli Romario © Jason Yates for AHEC

Evans hopes design pilgrims visit the neighborhoods, embracing freedom after almost two years of limited horizons: “I think there’s a hunger out there. . . fatigue from sitting at home in front of screens. If he’s right, there will be a noticeable increase in the number of “do” London’s over the next eight days.

London Design Festival, September 18-26, across London

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