Show review: London Design Festival

Chiara Onida, senior 3D designer at Seen Displays, pounded the streets of London to soak up the delights of London Design Festival.

The first thing we noticed about this year’s London Design Festival is that it felt different, more conscious and more human. The main improvement from previous editions is that this time design was presented and approached as a holistic discipline. Along with more traditional displays of objects, textile and materials, there was more space for platforms to present ideas and share insights.

The epicentre of this debate was with no doubt the pop-up event organised by Space10 within the spaces of Protein gallery in Shoreditch. The energetic team of the Copenhagen-based IKEA’s innovation agency facilitated a whole week of talks on future scenarios called Exploring Future Spaces. Guests like Franklin Till, Wikihouse, Propela (that included talks by Rachel Winfield and Liam Young) and Ma-tt-er presented the latest insights on materials, architecture, artifical intelligence (AI) and augmented reality (AR), manufacturing and farming. They also installed a    pop-up salad lab that offered hydroponically grown greens with crunchy toppings developed with their chefs-in-residence.

The Art of Attention by Seen Displays

Not too far from Protein, The Art of Attention by Seen Displays was also providing a moment to reflect on very relevant topics: how can design enhance attention and connection and avoid a state of cognitive overload? In this installation — powered by convivial studio and DOV — Seen Displays invited people to experience differently designed retail environments using a VR set. While visitors were navigating the virtual space, sensors were reading their body response, providing a realistic indication of their cognitive state. The data from the sensors, filtered by an algorithm and projected live onto the wall, was basically a live body and mind response to the experience.

When it comes to the traditional venues, here are our highlights. At the London Design Fair, we loved the material exploration by Envisions, a collective of creative professionals that collaborated with Frama to explore and emphasise the properties of their materials. Standard MDF boards had been milled, decorated, de-structured and assembled in the most creative ways. The top floor of the fair had a strong focus on materials and their narrative; from the powerful assemblage studies by Raw Materials to the rugs at Floor Stories. Even the press area — beautifully furnished and styled by Opendesk — revealed office furniture designed following principles of functional simplicity by this brave start-up pioneering the topics of distributed manufacturing and local economies.

Benjamin Hubert and Asad Hamir debuted their brand Nolii, presenting a range of thoughtfully designed accessories that revolve around smart phones.

At Somerset House, Design Frontiers was hosting innovative work across different design disciplines. We loved Pentagram’s designer Domenic Lippa presenting Facts & Figures, a book that in a time of ‘alternative facts’ challenges the idea of providing facts stripped from biased tones. Benjamin Hubert and Asad Hamir debuted with their brand Nolii, presenting a range of thoughtfully designed accessories that revolve around the accessory we can’t live without — our smart phone.

Studioilse and Zanat Bench at Cromwell Place, Brompton Design District.

In Brompton, at 4 Cromwell Place, an exquisite new collection of furniture by Martino Gamper and sensitive accessories by Studio Ilse lived together with The London Salons, an installation to summarise a year of conversations between Ineke Hans and prominent designers in London. The exhibitions outlined the changing scenario of contemporary design presenting approaches by designers like Nina Tolstrup, Industrial Facility, Frank Kolkman, Max Lamb, Opendesk, Pearsonlloyd, Piet Hein Eek, Martino Gamper, Marjan van Aubel, Benjamin Hubert, Michael Marriott, Anne van der Zwaag, John Thackara, Ineke Hans, Richard Vijgen, James Shaw, Isokon and Micaella Pedros.

Undoubtedly beautiful was Peter Pilotto & Friends, where vibrant objects, paintings, sculpture and furniture provide the set for Peter Pilotto’s AW 2017 collection. Work by Francis Upritchard, Martino Gamper, Max Lamb, Bethan Laura Wood, Peter McDonald, Jochen Holz and Schmid McDonagh filled every corner of one of the historic townhouses at Cromwell Place.

Round and Square Chair by Martino Gamper at Cromwell Place, Brompton Design District.

It was great to have the chance to restore and recharge at the Brompton Cafè, a stylish yet friendly pop-up curated by Today Bread and M-L-XL where everything you see is design and is for sale; from the sweet and savoury snacks designed by Arabeschi di Latte and Jacopo Sarzi to the table accessories and the surrounding furniture. Our favourite was Studio Toogood Trade Show, where study objects by established designers, architects and artists (Tom Dixon, 6A Architects, Goshka Macuga…) were presented along with material experiments by younger designers like Fernando Laposse and Andere Monjo. Other great young included the UMPRUM show (Prague Academy of Arts, Architecture & Design), where students of the Ceramic & Porcelain Studio displayed their work where they experimented with materials, shape and form, while in keeping with the traditional Czech design style.

Fernando Laposse was also present in a group show in Peckham at Copeland Gallery, 13 Ways with Water. In this show — organised by Unit Lab, Dean Brown and Kirsi Enkovaara — 13 designers addressed water’s material properties focussing on movement, optical effects and auditory properties.

Overall, this year LDF felt more relaxed about its own nature, confident in presenting beautiful and stylish design along with materials and processes, exploration and in providing a platform for brave thinkers and doers to inspire an international audience.



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