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 ‘The Smile’ by Alison Brooks Architects, engineered by Arup | Image courtesy of the London Design Festival
‘The Smile’ by Alison Brooks Architects, engineered by Arup | Image courtesy of the London Design Festival
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London Design Festival 2016 In 5 Highlights

Picture of Harriet Clugston
Updated: 20 September 2016
One of the largest design events in the world, the London Design Festival is back to celebrate and promote London as the design capital of the world. With over 400 special projects and installations hosted by hundreds of exhibitors across the city, it is a truly vast event. The hub of the event will be at the V&A museum, while the remaining city is divided into eight official Design Districts — areas filled with exciting events, easily traversable on foot. With far too much going on to possibly squeeze in, here is our handy guide to the festival highlights.

The Green Room

A six-storey stairwell in the West Wing of the V&A is given over to this monumental kinetic installation by artistic duo Glithero, made up of British designer Tim Simpson and Dutch designer Sarah van Gameren. ‘The Green Room’ has been produced in collaboration with Italian watchmaker Panerai, and consists of a curtain of 160 colour-blocked silicone cords that stretch the entire height of the stairwell. Attached to a central, motorised, rotating CAM arm, the cords are constantly on the move, the colours perpetually blending and shifting to create a hypnotic, immersive visual experience. With the CAM turning at rate of one revolution per minute, the installation plays with our perspective on time-keeping. ‘We wanted to create a timepiece that people could be inside of,’ says Simpson. ‘ This clock is an interactive experience rather than something you glance at.’

The Green Room by Glithero, Supported by Panerai |Image courtesy of the London Design Festival
‘The Green Room’ by Glithero, Supported by Panerai | Image courtesy of the London Design Festival


Running down the centre of the V&A’s Room 94 – a long gallery housing some of the museum’s beautiful collection of medieval tapestries – this striking, large-scale installation produced in collaboration between Benjamin Hubert and electronics company Braun has more than a touch of the dramatic about it. A 20-metre-long ribbon of 50,000 mirror-finish stainless steel panels move in a constantly undulating rhythm, driven by a high-powered German motor, dappling the light of a tailored system of LEDs onto the gallery’s walls and ceiling. ‘Foil’ is designed to emulate the precision-engineered form of the Braun shaver foil on a large scale, bringing a new aesthetic awareness to an overlooked, yet beautifully-designed consumer item.

Foil by Benjamin Hubert Layer, Supported by Braun|©Ed Reeve/London Design Festival
‘Foil’ by Benjamin Hubert of Layer, Supported by Braun | ©Ed Reeve/London Design Festival

The Smile

A four-way collaboration between Alison Brooks Architects, Arup, The American Hardwood Export Council and the Design Festival, landmark project ‘The Smile’ is a colossal, curved structure which can be explored internally by members of the public. Located at the Chelsea College of Art and Design, the 34-metre-long, four-sided tube– made entirely of tulipwood – bends upwards to two open, light-filled viewing platforms at each end, weighted in the middle by 20 tonnes of steel counterweights to prevent the precarious-looking, smile-shaped structure from toppling. Perforated walls allow sunlight to stream in during the day, creating a beautiful, light-soaked urban pavilion, while at nighttime the structure transforms into a giant lantern. Described as ‘the most complex CLT (cross-laminated timber) structure ever built’, ‘The Smile’ is a reflection of a decade of engineering research into structural timber innovation, and is intended to demonstrate the rapidly evolving power of a material that is transforming the landscape of construction.

The Smile by Alison Brooks Architects, engineered by Arup|Image courtesy of the London Design Festival
‘The Smile’ by Alison Brooks Architects, engineered by Arup | Image courtesy of the London Design Festival


Taking over three underused public spaces in Shoreditch, this collaboration between MINI and designer Asif Khan uses the natural world to explore the relationship between private and public spaces, seeking to promote creative solutions to the stifling density of urban life. The three spaces have been transformed into enclosed, mini forest environments with the help of horticulturalist Jin Ahn of Hackney’s Conservatory Archives. The immersive environments will use their unique interiors to encourage visitors to relax, create or connect with one another — one promotes interaction and meetings by way of a long communal table, another simply provides steeped, terraced seating for quiet working, and another serves as an elevated green room, allowing visitors to experience a rare moment of seclusion in the heart of a bustling city. Khan has taken his inspiration from ‘shinrin yoku’, a Japanese phrase which translates as ‘forest bathing’ — a straightforward but poetic concept which describes how the entire body’s senses can be attuned to absorb a forest environment, taking in the smells, sounds and general aura of the forest. Each space will also host a series of specific events alongside their allotted activity, and visitors are encouraged to take plants home and grow them in their own homes, while sharing their progress on social media.

MINI LIVING 'Forests' Installation by Asif Khan|Image courtesy of the London Design Festival
MINI LIVING ‘Forests’ Installation by Asif Khan | Image courtesy of the London Design Festival


Continuing the theme of nature in the city, Perrier-Jouët have collaborated with Parisian designer Noé Duchafour-Lawrance, taking over Unit in Soho to create a beautiful urban oasis in central London. The first floor houses an impressive ‘living’ room, with chair and tables from Bernhardt Design placed beneath a canopy of 3D-printed elements, which hang on a network of brass tubes like vines from the ceiling. Glass champagne flutes hang from each branch, inviting visitors to pluck them ready for a splash of Perrier-Jouët. Meanwhile, the basement space houses the world’s first bio-responsive garden, designed by Bompas & Parr, in which plants follow visitors around the room, their bio-electrical output then used to generate a bespoke soundscape which mimics the movements.

L’Eden by Perrier-Jouët|Image courtesy of the London Design Festival
L’Eden by Perrier-Jouët | Image courtesy of the London Design Festival

London Design Festival runs from the September 17th-25th 2016. More information here.