London Design Festival Day 4: Hidden gems of Bankside 25.09.15

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The fourth day of LDF brought some much-anticipated buzz from old favourites, but a brand-new design district – the first south of the Thames – is holding its own

With a slew of furniture launches, designer talks, as well as Designjunction opening on Thursday, many eyes are looking to central London for the next big thing. They won’t leave disappointed, of course, and the choices are almost endless. Head over to Heal’s on Tottenham Court Road and sit in the newly-launched Flow Chair designed by Tomoko Azumi, for example, or wander into Mark Riese-curated collection of “young, fresh and British” designers over on Great Portland Street. Whereas the former is an elegant exercise in quiet restraint and steam-bent beechwood, the latter presents a riot of form and colour, from Charlotte Wilkinson’s glass installation fastened to the wall to Adam Collins’ industrial-inspired table and stools (think pastel colours, rivets and steel arches).

In Mayfair restaurant Sketch, a design marvel in itself, a series of monthly talks kicked off with a conversation between designer Nika Zupanc (whose collection for Sé is on show at the restaurant) and noted Milan gallerist Rossana Orlandi. The rambling, comfortable conversation offered interesting insights into the designer-curator relationship. Orlandi talked about being open to expanding into other countries, while Zupanc noted that “design is not just there to be liked – sometimes what you like is too safe. The creative person should be the one pushing the galleries and brands to push boundaries”.

Now spread across two venues – luckily just across the street from one another – Designjunction serves up a little bit of everything, including the latest food designs: Hibiscus flowers stuffed with goat’s cheese, edible gemstones, and gold-covered chocolate are just some of the latest creations by Ido Garini’s Studio Appetit. Another highlight is the Wrong for Hay room, with lighting designs by Lars Beller Fjetland, Berjan Pot and other, all presented under a domed skylight. Visitors can almost lose themselves in design – and not just because the signage at the new, labyrinthine venue can be inadequate at times.

If all of this seems a little overwhelming, the new Bankside Design District, the first south of the river, offers a welcome respite from the hubbub of the north. The area is manageable in scale and scope, and features enough design heavyweights, as well as hidden gems to keep visitors guessing.

Facing the river, Sea Containers House hosts a temporary Moooi residency. Sadly, there are no new designs on display, but visitors can admire the Dutch brand’s collection that was unveiled in Milan earlier this year. Upstairs, BDG Architecture + Design is showing one of its recent projects, a headquarters for the advertising superfirm Ogilvy, which will take over several floors of the same building soon. Tom Dixon’s Hotel Mondrian, already established there since 2014, offers tours of the premises.

Adjacent OXO Tower Wharf is a host to small, craft showrooms, but the highlight is probably [email protected], an exhibition of recent University of Creative Arts graduates, where the exhibits range from Ria Zi Chun Ma’s Ember Series of vases, which combine an inverted wooden cone topped by a dark glass vessels, mirror and mixed-metal jewellery by Yi Li and Tami Ishida’s reworking of traditional Japanese tea ceremony service using cold-worked, coloured glass.

On Southwark Street, architects Allies & Morrison has put on a small exhibition in their ground floor reception, which shows the evolution of their work, and the switch from hand-drawing to computer-generated images – and reveals an admirable dedication to their stripped, rationalist aesthetic despite the opportunities now afforded by the computer-aided design software (just because you can, doesn’t mean you should).

A few city blocks further, on Guildford Street, a tell-tale red sign will direct visitors up to Ilse Crawford’s home studio (it is not listed on the pink map of Bankside that can be found in all the participating venues). Inside, designers from Studioilse (whose Hong Kong airport lounge features in our current issue) await with biscuits, tea and small talk, poised on Sinnerlig stools and benches that the studio designed for Ikea (pictured).

On Union Street, a visit to the showroom of the world’s leading designer and manufacturer of monitor arms, Colebrook Bosson Saunders, will yield yet another surprise. Having earned an honourable mention at this year’s Red Dot Design award, Cubert is a personal desk light that integrates USB and power outlets in a surprisingly sleek and functional whole, including an integrated, touch-activated dimmer and rotating, titling head. Visitors are encouraged to test the product, charging their smartphones in the process.

Back on Southwark street, Buster + Punch just launched their latest range of “masculine” hardware. The various handles, bars and knobs pay homage to the founder Massimo Buster Minale’s beginnings as a motorcycle aficionado and builder. Brass, steel and copper are combined with robust, yet immaculately engineered details, harkening back to the precision engineering of the brand’s signature bikes, while black marble, leather and walnut reign supreme in the showroom, giving it all a slight S&M undertone.

Overall, the Bankside design district feels a bit sparser, less focused on novelty and therefore less self-conscious than its more established siblings. The offerings are surprisingly varied in terms of content, focus, and aesthetics. Whether you like it or not is not the point: Bankside has proven it’s different enough to hold its own and has a potential to grow in the future.

Pick up a copy of Icon for more LDF highlights



Peter Smisek, with additional reporting by the Icon team


Above: Sinnerlig collection by Studioilse, based in Bermondsey

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Bankside Design District offers a welcome respite from the hubbub of the north

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