During September and October, London is a hub of creativity. Whether it’s the high-style crowd that flocks to the city to be catwalk side for British fashion week, or the artists who descend for Frieze, the Big Smoke is alive with inspiration. Perhaps the most exciting event on the creative calendar (for us at House and Leisure, anyway) is the London Design Festival (which took place this year from 17 – 25 September) in which we’re treated to the best products and latest trends by the city’s top achievers. Design Indaba editor Katie de Klee was in London for all the action of this year’s fair, and took us on a journey of her top sights and visual delights…
The Brompton Cocktail
Death by liquor and drugs. The Brompton Cocktail exhibition asked a series of designers to reimagine this dark drink with a recipe that tastes like a moment of transformation. The original Brompton Cocktail was a lethal elixir of morphine, heroine, codeine and alcohol and was administered up until the 1970s to patients near death in the Royal Brompton hospital. Among the designers involved were Tom Dixon, Max Lamb, Peter Marigold, Loris & Livia, and Faye Toogood – whose handwritten recipe recommends a call to your local dealer Naz, gin from your father’s cupboard and eye drops from your mother.
Smallest Sauna on Earth
Marcis Ziemins’ tiny sauna was part of the immersive Soak, Steam, Dream exhibition at the Roca London Gallery (a building designed by Zaha Hadid) that explored communal bathing culture. The tabletop sauna isn’t big enough to make you break a sweat, but it introduces the basic principles of the Latvian sauna ritual with the smell and sound of water hitting hot rocks.
Isabelle Moor’s oak swing
This oak swing by Edinburgh-based furniture maker Isabelle Moore was part of a group of Scottish designers showing together as the Northern Lights. Mixing craft skills and body-centred design, Moore creates seating that explores dynamic movement. Clean and contemporary in form, the swing captures your imagination with the inevitable memory of childlike freedom and play.
Lebanon pavilion at the London Design Biennale
Lebanon brings heaven to London. The inaugural London Design Biennale hosted 37 different countries at Somerset House. Answering to the theme Utopia, many of the exhibitions were abstract, academic and somewhat privileged. However, out on the banks of the Thames (and therefore accessible to non-ticket holders too), the Lebanese contribution was a recreation of a Bierut Street, complete with a cafe, informal cinema and a hairdresser, showing in a simple and poetic way that heaven can only ever be where you already are.
London-based studio Foldability displayed a whole range of their tactile, origami-inspired materials at the Lightjunction in King’s Cross. These unique, geometric shapes are primarily made by hand and create fun and extraordinary lighting options.
Assemble ‘BBQ’ tiles
Source: dezeen.com (image credit: Jorn Tomter)
Turner Prize-winning architecture practice Assemble contributed a collection of Granby tiles to the Ready Made Go 2 installation at the Ace Hotel in Shoreditch. Roasted in a barbecue, the individual smokey patterns on the tiles celebrate beauty in destruction, randomness and improvisation.
The husband and wife team behind Tom Pigeon believe that design should be affordable to everyone and enjoyed by all. Their bold, uncomplicated patterns are contemporary and colourful. They debuted their Totem jewellery collection at Designjunction, bringing together natural textures, simple shapes and primary colours.
British architect Asif Khan (whose beautiful Summer House is also part of the Serpentine Pavilions for 2016) created three inner-city forest spaces called MINI Living. These peaceful, self-contained box-like pavilions offered members of the public space to climb into to relax and take a break from the busy city. Each filled with plants and greenery, the MINI Living spaces encourage analogue connectivity between strangers and quiet contemplation. Khan was inspired by the Japanese idea of forest bathing.
Dyslexic Design, part of this year’s Designjunction, celebrates the connection between dyslexia and creativity. With more than 10 dyslexic designers’ work on show, the exhibition aimed to show off the positive sides of dyslexia in an attempt to help remove the stigma. ‘Nowadays we usually associate perfection with geometry,’ says Sebastian Bergne, who designed an Egg decanter. ‘The egg goes against this idea. In fact, if you’ve ever tried to draw an egg using geometry, it is surprisingly hard.’ Artist Tina Crawford creates embroidered illustrations freehand. Her response to being included in the exhibition was to draw a brain with her sewing machine, showing that her thoughts – like the threads – aren’t always connected.
The delicate Dandelight by Amsterdam-based Studio Drift shows a fascination with both hand crafted objects and technology. The electronics scene is often full of mass-made products, that don’t consider aesthetic or art. The Dandelight is made of a real dandelion, with each seed individually glued onto an LED. This labour-intensive process and the transitory nature of the dandelion itself highlights the prevalent throw-away attitude to technology and stuff.
Benjamin Hubert’s Foil installation in the V&A’s Tapestry gallery was a 20-metre long undulating ribbon of 50 000 individual mirrored triangles. Moving slowly to a rather other-worldly soundtrack, the mirrors threw scattered light from LEDs onto the walls of room, creating an underwater-like feeling (which left some visitors feeling sea sick). This year’s festival was punctuated with these highly immersive, large-scale installations that were more about emotional connection with the visitors than selling products. Scale isn’t always important, but the sheer size of the FOIL installation made standing next to it an almost spiritual experience. As the biggest installation at LDF, the huge and unemotional wooden folly of the SMILE showed that size doesn’t matter, except when it does.
Katie de Klee is Design Indaba’s editor. Design Indaba is a powerful platform for the creative industry. Visit designindaba.com to check out game-changing projects and world-altering design.