From colourful public art trails to the latest designs by new emerging talent, we round up the highlights of what to check out at this year’s London Design Festival
Photography courtesy of LDF featuring London Design Fair, Swedish Pavilion Stamuli’s Tagadá sofa
The London Design Festival returns from 16–24 September to celebrate and promote London as one of the design capitals of the world.
Its 21st edition will take place across the city in 13 districts each with its own unique personality that reflects the local community and enables visitors to explore events a short walking distance from each other.
There’s a dizzying array of exhibitions, projects, installations, events and discussions lined up, so we’ve selected our highlights of what to see and do.
1. Material Matters
Photography featuring Planted by Tanja Kirst from Material Matters 2023
Following last year’s successful debut, the Material Matters fair will return to Bargehouse, Oxo Tower Wharf as part of the Bankside Design District. The fair, which runs Wednesday 20 – Saturday 23 September will bring together worldleading brands, designers, makers, and innovators to investigate and celebrate the importance of materials and their ability to shape our lives. The refreshed line-up includes Headline Sponsor, UK lighting specialist Bert Frank and the Milan-based platform Isola and much more.
2. Swedish Pavilion at the London Design Fair
Photography courtesy of LDF featuring London Design Fair, Swedish Pavilion Stamuli’s Tagadá armchair
London Design Fair makes its much-anticipated return to the international design calendar this year. Featuring a leading showcase of cutting-edge design, brands, international pavilions, and makers, such as Amechi Mandi, Norwegian designer Anna Maria Øfstedal Eng and Stamuli. The fair returns to Truman Brewery in Shoreditch and visitors can enjoy talks and interactive workshops, as well as discover exciting new designs, installations and trends.
3. King’s Cross Design District
Photography courtesy of LDF featuring King’s Cross Design District, Canal Dream | Flora & Fauna
King’s Cross is home to a wealth of incredible design brands, from Tom Dixon to Earl of East, the neighbourhood is situated on an estate filled with architectural delights and generous, egalitarian public spaces. The Design District, now in its sixth year, allows resident brands and institutions, including Tom Dixon’s HQ and Central Saint Martins, to come together and open their doors to the public.
This year, Tom Dixon will present HYPERMOBILE, focusing on new Portable lights, a series of small, battery-powered lamps. Other highlights at the brand’s hub in Coal Drops Yard include: a home-cinema room and broadcasting studio powered by Sony and residencies from Tom Dixon Alumni, Resident and Cozmo and surprise giveaways.
Marking the 10th anniversary of Central Saint Martins Queen’s Anniversary Prize for Further and Higher Education, Design Transforms ’23 will be a discursive platform to examine our futures. Design Transforms will celebrate student and staff product, industrial and ceramic design work and the social, cultural and commercial collaborations that give purpose to their ideas.
Elsewhere, Canal Dream CIC and Slash Arts will present Understanding Canals, a series of multi-disciplinary art and design events that explore waterway innovation. Encompassing art and design exhibitions, talks and panel discussions, live performances, and creative activities, the programme will facilitate the transformation of canals into future creative spaces.
4. Peckham Festival
Photography courtesy of LDF featuring Southwark Design District, Peckham Festival
At Southwark Design District, Peckham Festival will host a free weekend-long arts festival for all ages celebrating the creative and cultural diversity of Peckham. The programme will include art, music, performances, workshops and food.
Also happening here, Camberwell College of Arts will introduce Microclimates, a global exhibition and festival of events showcasing forms of design that drive social change.
Plus, London College of Communication in partnership with Elephant Park, aims to make design and creativity available to all through a programme of talks and workshops at The Tree House, and installations in the surrounding area, to connect community, culture and education.
5. The Shape of Things by Simone Brewster
Photography courtesy of LDF, Greenwich Peninsula, NOW Gallery, featuring Simone Brewster
Home to iconic London landmark The O2, Greenwich Peninsula returns as one of the festival’s newest districts. Hosting a week-long programme to celebrate the achievements in its first year, Design District will scale up substantially, and showcase the diversity and dynamism of its rapidly evolving creative community.
At NOW Gallery, visitors can view The Shape of Things by one of the leading voices in contemporary design, Simone Brewster. Open to the public until 24 September, The Shape of Things is an exploration of the power of objects to communicate societal expectations of beauty, representation, and the talismanic qualities of objects that we use to empower ourselves.
The exhibition explores the concept of “intimate architecture” – the affect that texture and three dimensional form have on memory and emotion. The Shape of Things is an emotive display of objects that gain significant personal meaning from the tension and interaction between itself and its audience.
6. Hackability of the Stool by Artek
Photography courtesy of Artek
Developed by Japanese architect Daisuke Motogi / DDAA Lab, Hackability of the Stool showcases 100 ideas for altering Alvar Aalto’s Stool 60 inside the Vitra and Artek Tramshed showroom in Shoreditch, London until 6th October.
The renowned Stool 60 has remained in continuous production since its creation and 2023 marks its 90th anniversary. Motogi and his creative lab DDAA initiated the project Hackability of the Stool back in 2019, when commissioned to create a space for Mistletoe, a community for collective impact initiatives. The space was envisioned as a hub for various activities undertaken by startups and related communities.
When asked to provide around 150 stools for visitors attending a large-scale event, Motogi and DDAA Lab decided to invite members of the community to discuss what a stool is, identifying which functions it should have. During a workshop, the participants brought up numerous suggestions, which were consolidated into the idea of a multifunctional stool.
7. Drop02 Collection by Atelier100
Photography courtesy of Atelier100
Creative incubator programme Atelier100 is unveiling its latest collection, Drop02, at an East London pop-up venue designed and manufactured by 2022 collaborator, design studio Mitre & Mondays, during LDF. Bringing Atelier100’s mission to life of supporting community-driven, local design, Mitre & Mondays looked to London’s rich history of making and selling.
The main objective was to enhance the pieces from Drop02 in a democratic display that would bring the designs together as a cohesive collection. Housed in a pop-up shop venue, the brief was to create a light, adaptable and intriguing structure, while standing true to the conscious approach that Atelier100 instils in all of its collaborators.
For the space, Mitre & Mondays leaned largely on aluminium due to its lightweight, reusable properties, ensuring that all of the structure’s elements come together through impermanent material connections (like tensioning, bolting and cradling) to allow for maximum recyclability.
Following its successful debut last year, Atelier100 has launched Drop02, a distinctive new collection of limited edition pieces designed by its 2023 Cohort of 22 hand-picked creatives and studios, all designed in London. The drop will be showcased throughout the week and available for pre-order at a pop-up showroom as part of the London Design Festival.
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