London Design Festival guide

Top 12 things to see at London Design Festival 2016

It’s that time of the year again – London Design Festival. From 17 to 25 September the capital transforms into a hive of creative activity, from large-scale urban installation and inventions, through pop-up exhibitions and design destinations, to open studios, design tours and trails.

There’s A LOT to see and get your head around, so here I’ve done the hard work for you and picked my must-see highlights for London Design Festival 2016.

designjunction, King’s Cross, 22 – 25 September

Now in its sixth year, designjunction returns to vast new home in my old haunt, King’s Cross. The theme this time is Immersed in Design. Across four main sites, there will be 200 international brands exhibiting, hundreds of new products launches, plus pop-up shops and street food vans to fuel up on as part of the inaugural King’s Cross Creative Quarter (KXCQ). Monopoly-style houses will be descending on Granary Square, while Satellite Architects has designed a spectacular scaffold-like facade structure to conceal designjunction’s temporary two-storey pavilion. Made of 4,000 lightweight modular components, the structure will create a pixelated effect and be threaded with foliage. Inside it will house contemporary lighting brands as well as furniture from the likes of String, Modus and Lindholt. There’ll also be a space dedicated to premium retail brands, including fashion accessories, technology, textiles and stationery, and free design clinics with online platform Houzz.

1 Granary Square, King’s Cross, N1C 4AA

Design House Stockholm greenhouse
Design House Stockholm greenhouse
Brokis at designjunction London
Brokis at designjunction London
TON at designjunction London
TON at designjunction London
Monocle shop and cafe at Aram Store, Drury Lane, 14 – 24 September

If all the events get too much and you need a caffeine fix to recharge the batteries, then head to Aram Store on Drury Lane to sample Monocle cafe’s famed coffee and cinnamon and cardamom buns. Amongst Aram’s vast curated furniture display, there will also be Monocle accessories, stationery, books, homeware and magazines to browse too.

Open 10am until 6pm. Aram Store, 110 Drury Lane, Covent Garden, London WC2B 5SG

Monocle Cafe image via Stylejuicer
Monocle Cafe image via Stylejuicer
LDF at the Victoria and Albert Museum, 17 – 25 September

The V&A is once again the hub of the London Design Festival, with a host of extraordinary design installations. It’s a great place to start if you want your design fix all in one place. London-based design duo Glithero, founded by British designer Tim Simpson and Dutch designer Sarah van Gameren, is creating an interactive intervention in a stairwell of the museum. The space will be veiled with colourful strings to create a mesmerising optical effect. Meanwhile, Benjamin Hubert of Layer is collaborating with Braun to create a 20m-long undulating ribbon of metallic elements that will move and reflect light around a gallery space. Elsewhere, Mathieu Lehanneur has been exploring the possibilities of marble to create a sculptural piece using digital and man-made methods of construction.

V&A, Cromwell Road, London SW7 2RL

Liquid Marble by Mathieu Lehanneur
Liquid Marble by Mathieu Lehanneur
Ready Made Go 2, Ace Hotel, Shoreditch, 17 – 25 September

For the second year in a row, Ace Hotel in Shoreditch is teaming up with magazine Modern Design Review to present commissions from five London-based designers as part of Shoreditch Design Triangle. Turner Prize winners Assemble Studio are creating a series of ceramic tiles for the hotel’s 7th floor bar, Jochen Holz has developed a series of tactile drinking glasses made from borosilicate glass, PATTERNITY have created a climbing wall with a monochrome design, Silo Studio will be showcasing their Beam soap dishes made of sections of extruded aluminium and Toogood has designed handmade quilts. If anything take your fancy, most of the items will be available to buy from the hotel.

100 Shoreditch High Street, E1 6JQ

Ace Hotel Shoreditch

No Ordinary Love – Martino Gamper with friends, SEE••DS, 17 – 25 September

Italian designers Martino Gamper has grouped together his friends – designers and makers Bethan Wood, Fabien Cappello, Gemma Holt, Harry Thaler, Jochen Holz, Lars Frideen, Max Frommeld, Max Lamb, Studio Silo, Tiago Almeida and Will Shannon – to create the exhibition No Ordinary Love. For LDF the group will inhabit SEE••DS gallery as both a shop and a gallery, presenting a collection of new domestic objects, developed by experimenting with materials and making by hand, in conversation with one another.

3 Launceston Place, W8 5RL

Seeds Kensington

Bare Minimalism, Viaduct furniture, 15 – 24 September

As part of the Clerkenwell Design Quarter, Viaduct furniture has put on an exhibition that aims to present a fresh perspective on minimalism in furniture and lighting design. New launches and contemporary classics have been carefully chosen for their simple shapes and beautiful materials, by the likes of Maarten Van Severen, Jasper Morrison and Michael Anastassiades. I took a sneak peek on Wednesday and it’s a beaut of a show.

One of the points of the show is to ask people what they can’t live without, bringing everything down to bare essentials. An installation by Nina Tolstrup and Jack Mama of Studiomama perfectly compliments this concept. They’ve created a 13 sq m house in the gallery, based on a real scheme they’re designing for their own home in north London. The super compact space has everything you need to live comfortably, from integrated furniture and a dining area to a fold down bed and concealed workspace.

1-10 Summers Street, EC1R 5BD

Bare Minimalism at viaduct furniture, image: Cate St Hill
Tafel 88 by Maarten Van Severen, manufactured by Lensvelt, wooden TriAngle stool by Aldo Bakker for Karakter Copenhagen. Image: cate st hill
Bare Minimalism at viaduct furniture, image: Cate St Hill
LL04 chair by Maarten van Severen and Superloon floor lamp by Jasper Morrison for Flos. Image: cate st hill
Bjørn Wiinblad – the Danish maximalist at Skandium, 17 – 25 September

Leading retailer of Scandinavian design Skandium is championing the eclectic work and legacy of Danish designer Bjørn Wiinblad. While many designers of his time were focused on clean Scandi lines and function following form, Wiinblad went against the grain with his whimsical designs. He is particularly renowned for his charming female figures with their expressive, almond-shaped eyes and decorative curly hair. Alongside the exhibition of his work, the collection, revived in the autumn of 2014, will be available exclusively at Skandium, online and in store.

Skandium, 245-249 Brompton Road, SW3 2EP

Bjorn Wiinblad exhibition at Skandium for LDF
Image credit Beth Davies
Landmark Projects – The Smile by Alison Brooks and MINI Living ‘Forests’ by Asif Khan, 17 – 25 September

Architect Alison Brooks has been experimenting with American tulipwood to create The Smile, an urban installation that showcases the structural potential of cross-laminated hardwood. The vast ‘mega-tube’ is a cantilevered arc, seemingly on the brink of tipping over. At either end, hovering 3m above the ground, are viewing platforms from which visitors can gain a new perspective of their surroundings.

Meanwhile, designer Asif Khan is collaborating with MINI to explore the way we’re living in cities as part of the brand’s MINI LIVING project. Three installations have been designed for three underused spaces within Shoreditch’s busy city streets, offering locals and visitors urban green oases to connect and relax. Conceived to explore the relationship between public and private space in the city, the installations or ‘Forests’ are home to a number of plants that visitors can adopt at the end of the nine days and take home. Perfect for all the urban jungle bloggers out there!

Mini Living Forests, Red Gallery, 1 – 3 Rivington Street EC2A 3DT

The Smile, Rootstein Hopkins Parade Ground, Chelsea College of Art and Design, 16 John Islip Street, SW1P 4JU

Asif Khan and Mini Living Forests. Image: cate st hill
Asif Khan and Mini Living Forests. Image: cate st hill
alison brooks the smile
Inside Alison Brooks’ The Smile
100%Norway, 22 – 25 September

Spanning furniture, homewares, lighting and ceramics, Max Fraser has curated an exhibition of 17 Norwegian designers and studios – the perfect place to get your Scandi fix. Returning for its 13th edition, the show explores modern Norwegian design in the context of the tradition and heritage that have helped shape it. Designers showcasing products and prototypes include Anderssen & Voll, who will present their Aklé blankets for Røros Tweed and Glo, a cast-iron tea light holder for Nedre Foss. Then there’s Trondheim-based Dare to Design with their modular wooden storage system inspired by Norwegian wood craft and new design brand Høgh, which launched only in August this year, who have been creating a series of lamps designed by architects.

100%Norway, London Design Fair, Old Truman Brewery, 91 Brick Lane, London, E1 6QL

IDA by Andreas Engesvik
IDA by Andreas Engesvik
100%Norway 2016: Stilleben by Ann Kristin Einarsen, Stokkit by Osloform and Bow stool by KnudsenBergHindenes
Stilleben by Ann Kristin Einarsen, Stokkit by Osloform and Bow stool by KnudsenBergHindenes
Vitra pop-up, Shoreditch, 19 – 23 September

Vitra is transforming a two-storey space in Shoreditch into a dedicated co-working office and lounge. Clusters of Konstantin Grcic’s Hack table system and Allstar chairs will populate the ground floor, while two playful phone booths will offer visitors the chance to unwind on the Antonio Citterio’s Grand Repos chairs and ottomans, with free wifi and complimentary tea and coffee (yep, bet that got your attention!). The basement, meanwhile, will offer a cosy, homely setting decked with Vitra furniture, including Jasper Morrison’s Soft Modular Sofa, below. There will also be a calm corner dedicated to Artek, showcasing the natural birch wood of Alvar Aalto’s classic designs.

Open daily 10 am – 6pm, 4 Holywell Lane, London, EC2A 3ET

Vitra pop-up at London Design Festival 2016

electrocraft, 16 September – 15 October

Initiated by London-based designer Tord Boontje, electro craft is an exhibition of electronic products created by a group of designers who share a fascination with technology and beautifully made objects. There’ll be conceptual designs, prototypes and commercial products from recent graduates as well as more established designers such as Industrial Facility, Paul Cocksedge, Silo Studio, Raw Edges and Studio Drift. Sure to be an engaging show, with everything from speaker and clocks to wearable tails and musical instruments.

23 Charlotte Road, Shoreditch, EC2A 3PB

Lacuna Lamp by Studio Furthermore

Bert + May x Darkroom

Bert + May has collaborated with London-based independent design label Darkroom. Celebrating the simplicity of geometric shapes, the ‘Split Shift’ collection includes fabrics, encaustic tiles and a new paint colour, Darkroom Black. Their Bert Barge, moored on the Regent’s Canal in east London, will be decked in the new collection for the festival and will continue to be open for business as Darkroom’s new pop-up until Christmas.

Bert & May, 67 Vyner Street, E2 9DQ

The Bert & May barge
The Bert & May barge
Darkroom accessories on the Bert & May barge at Clerkenwell Design Week 2015
Darkroom accessories on the Bert & May barge at Clerkenwell Design Week 2015

I hope that’s helped whittle down the numerous events down for you and given you some inspiration on what to get out and about to. It looks set to be a brilliant festival and I for one can’t wait to get my design fix, maybe see you there?

All images from respective exhibitors and courtesy London Design Festival

  1. Boy, you’re going to be busy Cate! A great round up. Hopefully we’ll bump into one another at some point x

  2. What an amazing round-up and so many beautiful and inspiring photographs! I hope you have a great weekend.

  3. Such a great round-up! I have one day in London next week and aim to see as much as possible, so this is really useful. Looks set to be a great festival!

    • Thanks Abi, there’s lots to see, but if you break it down into bite-size chunks its doable in a day, there’s clusters in the city where there’s lots happening, such as Shoreditch or around the V&A. Enjoy! xx

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