Luxe may have “lost its luster,” as a recent book of pop sociology had it, but you could never tell from the London Design Festival, Sept. 17-25, 2011. Now in its ninth year, the fest brings 280 partners and almost 300 design events across 25 design disciplines to Britain’s capital. Featuring special exhibitions and lectures for the third year at the Victoria and Albert Museum, with ancillary events going on everywhere in the city -- including, for the first time, at Sir Christopher Wren’s world-renowned St. Paul’s Cathedral -- LDF also boasts 12 specially commissioned design projects installed throughout the museum and at venues all over London.
Those Landmark Projects are known as the “public face of the festival,” and this year’s highlights include award-winning architects AL_A’s Timber Wave, a 12-meter-wide sculpted tunnel made from a latticework of American red oak that seems to tumble down the steps of the V&A’s Grand Entrance. Inside the museum, French design team Ronan & Erwan Bouroullec have contributed a design intervention called Textile Field, lining the floor of the museum’s Raphael Court, a space built specifically to house seven large paintings by Raphael, with 240 square-meters of colored foam and fabric, transforming the gallery into a textile “lounge.”
Young’uns have a place in the festivities as well, as curator Giles Deacon’s “BRITISH-ISH” exhibition situates new works from recent University of the Arts London grads in juxtaposition with the V&A’s British Gallery holdings.
Other juxtapositions of past and present comprise “Industrial Revolution 2.0: How the Material World Will Newly Materialise,” an exhibition organized by New-York dealer Murray Moss and featuring items from the Belgian laser-technology leader Materialise. The show places eight commissioned “additive manufactured” -- or 3D printed -- lamps, tables, dresses and other objects in conversation with masterworks in the museum collection. Among the designers using laser and digital technologies are Patrick Jouin, Iris van Herpen and Mathias Bengtsson. Moss hopes to “initiate little ‘narratives’” between the historical works and these “futuristic” contemporary objects, demonstrating the application of these new technologies.
For those interested in beefing up on their design knowledge, the V&A’s “Breakfast Talks” feature design-world stars like Marcel Wanders, the British designer Paul Priestman, and the Dutch design team Kiki van Eijk and Joost van Bleiswijk in conference with Surface Magazine. Not a fan of discussion? A series of lectures hosted by Google Design are also on the schedule, with speakers ranging from Simon Waterfall, Daljit Singh and DIY designer Chris Anderson, to J. Paul Neeley and Charlotte Jarvis. All tickets are £12.
Meanwhile, Landmark Projects are popping up across the city. London’s Southbank Centre is to feature a new installation by David Chipperfield Architects for the festival’s Size + Matter element, which pairs a leading designer with a material or manufacturing process. Prior Size + Matter artists have included Zaha Hadid, Shigeru Ban and Marc Newson, but Chipperfield’s Two Lines installation features SEFA Architecture Vision fabric, a metal-fabric mesh that is black on one side and metallic on the other. The work is on view at the centre through Oct. 16, 2011.
For the first time ever, LDF includes St. Paul’s Cathedral, where minimalist architect John Pawson has contributed Perspectives, a metal and Swarovski-crystal hemisphere installed at the base of the Geometric Staircase in the Cathedral’s South West Tower. St. Paul’s is also slated to host the fifth presentation of the London Design Medal at a dinner sponsored by Swarovski on Sept. 19, overseen by a panel of design heavy-hitters including Wallpaper Magazine’s Tony Chambers and V&A director Sir Mark Jones.
And that’s not all: LDF also features a number of Design Destinations ranged throughout the city. Things kick off with 100% Design, Sept. 22-Sept. 25, the UK’s first and biggest contemporary design show, which includes three exhibitions housed under one roof in Earl’s Court: 100% Design focuses on interiors; 100% Materials -- “innovative surfaces” -- and 100% Futures is billed as an “emerging talent showcase.” Over 400 exhibitors are slated to present, including Trussardi, Knoll, Barber Osgerby and Grohe.
Over in Central London’s Victoria House, designjunction keeps the ball rolling with 30 international furniture and lighting brands, from Modus to Beau McClellan to Bocci, overseen by designer Michael Sodeau and featuring a series of talks and seminars. Keep an eye peeled for the Wright Brothers popup oyster bar designed by Benchmark, and the Matilda Café.
Meanwhile, hip, young East London meets Tramshed 2011, hosted this year in the Royal Horticultural Halls, Victoria, and now in its second iteration. Featuring some 40 young designers such as Matthew Hilton, Mitab, Vonsung and Plant & Moss and a series of seminars conducted by Dwell Magazine editor-in-chief Sam Grawe, Tramshed presents the world’s design up-and-comers.
Tent London again dominates the Old Truman Bowery, emphasizing handcrafted furniture and textiles and featuring big brands like Moroso, Allermuir and 3form.
Last but not least comes the venerable Decorex, Sept. 25-28, now in its 34th year, which takes over the Royal Hospital Chelsea with 250 international home-grown UK designers, all championing a new design district for 2011, Creative Chelsea. Look out for designer Broosk Saib's new café/restaurant and a specially designed entrance by Nicky Haslam.