Clerkenwell Design Week returns for a third year and another three days of talks, events, launches, installations, exhibitions and parties. In addition to the existing venues of the Farmiloe Building and the House of Detention, this year the festival is expanding into a third historic venue. The Order of St John’s Priory, with its 12th-century crypt and a cloistered garden, will have a strong emphasis on limited-edition pieces.
The Farmiloe Building, the Victorian former glass and merchants warehouse, will be hosting a temporary gin bar. Its name, Gen Lane, refers to Hogarth’s depiction of the social collapse the spirit caused in his day, though Clerkenwell’s modern-day homage will hopefully be a rather happier take on his vision. Conceived by Merilyn Kesküla, who originally had plans for a restaurant (“Far too ambitious!” she says) and designed by London-based architect-design pair Alexander Hills and Matthew Freeman, the Gen Lane bar will be made of sustainable cardboard sourced from Scandinavia, and stocked by Sipsmith Gin.
Taking a cue from Ross Lovegrove’s Solar Tree in St John’s Square (see overleaf), the Farmiloe Building will have a strong emphasis on lighting. Anglepoise will be launching Original Range, a new line of chrome-plated floor and desk lamp, Anthony Dickens will be showing Tekio, his modular lighting system based on the forms of Japanese paper lanterns and Beau McLellan will be suspending its Fluid lighting installation so that it hangs down the entire height of the Farmiloe Building. And CDW sponsor Jaguar will be displaying a clay model of the new C-X16, and a modeller will be explaining how this part of the design process works.
Even more showrooms in the area will be opening their doors and hosting a wide range of talks and debates. One of the highlights of showroom activity will be a talk by Barber Osgerby, the designers of the Olympic torch. They will be bringing to the Vitra showroom sketches and models of what they call “the most complicated project we’ve ever worked on”. The real Olympic torch will have reached London by then, and the designers have joked that they’ll have to re-enact running through the streets with models. Also at Vitra, there’ll be a screening, co-hosted by Icon, of Eames: The Architect and Painter, the recent documentary about the legendary design duo (and favourite of rapper Ice Cube) by Jason Cohn and Bill Jersey.
Clerkenwell Green: Aberrant Architecture / The Small-Coal-Man’s Travelling Theatre
London-based duo Aberrant Architecture will be responding to Clerkenwell’s history as a site for mystery plays and street theatre with the Small-Coal-Man’s Tiny Travelling Theatre. In 1678 Thomas Britton turned his rooms above a coal shed in Clerkenwell into a concert hall called the Small-Coal-Man’s Musick Club, a wildly popular venue that attracted performances from first-time amateurs to Handel. Aberrant’s mobile version will tour Clerkenwell and seat an audience of between two and six people, with a small bar area outside. “We’re working with metal and it’s going to be welded so it will have that rough feel,” says Aberrant’s David Chambers of Aberrant, adding that the theatre is being built by a metal fabricator in south Wales: “It’s going to be towed down the motorway scaring the motorists.” The acts will include comedy, theatre and music. Kevin Haley adds: “What we’re trying to push is this mix of amateurs and professionals which is very much in keeping with the original story.”
St James’ Church Gardens: Francesco Draisci / Forest
The London-based Italian architect will be making a pavilion made out of Fulton umbrellas for the festival. Draisci, who has created installations for Richard Rogers and Ron Arad, says he’s used to working with strange materials: “It’s a series of umbrellas in reds and pinks and orange, all the warm colours. They’ll be mounted on really long poles. At the moment I’m hoping for three and a half metres but I don’t want to promise that.” Draisci has multi-purpose hope for the 10×10 m structure: “The idea is that you have this framework which will be like filigree and in this framework you can have seating in hammocks and things like that in between the poles.” While visitors stand or lounge around, Draisci plans to have a programme of talks and storytelling. “Maybe designers or architects have stories to tell, and it will be a fantastic time to spend with children for families, and perhaps they can learn about design through design.”
St John’s Square: Ross Lovegrove
Ross Lovegrove’s Solar Tree will be installed in St John’s Square. The 6m light, manufactured by Artemide, features an LED at the tip of each of its ten “branches”. For Lovegrove, the solar tree is an attempt to improve on the dismal, haphazard, state of street furniture: “Most things which you put outside of value are just cars,” he says. The ten heads all collect energy, with four of them delivering light, and the concrete base is in segments, “like an orange” so that it can be shipped. “I was thinking,” Lovegrove says, “that eventually, locally, we will have suppliers making tubes and suppliers delivering concrete. So all we need to do effectively is ship the heads.” The light will stay in the square until September, as a contribution to London’s Olympic celebrations. Lovegrove hopes that eventually the solar could sell energy back to the grid: “I think cities can have a good heart; they can set up a model of greening.”
Frameless Gallery: Collective Works
Vienna-based duo Mischer’Traxler have made bowls out of vegetables, batteries out of Nespresso capsules, and an automated cake-decorating machine. In May they’ll be setting up in the Frameless Gallery with the basket-making project they showed at Design Miami/Basel. Collective Works is a collaborative process between the designers, their equipment and an audience: part-performance piece, part process at work. Each day Katharina Mischer and Thomas Traxler will make a new wooden veneer basket, but there will be no baskets without visitors. The process they have devised needs an audience before the machine will rotate, to make the spools of wood turn through the glue. With an audience of two, the basket gets marked with blue pen and the colours get darker the more people there are and, regardless of numbers, each basket will be unique
Clerkenwell Design Week runs from 22 – 24 May 2012.