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Scale Rule installation
Scale Rule installation | © Clerkenwell Design Week
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Here's What to See at Clerkenwell Design Week 2018

Picture of Charlotte Luxford
Home & Design Editor
Updated: 15 May 2018
Bigger and better than ever, this year’s Clerkenwell Design Week promises to be a corker for design buffs and Londoners alike. The three-day festival, running from May 22–24, 2018, will see the capital’s design quarter open its doors to the public with talks, workshops, interactive installations and fringe events.

Clerkenwell might seem like a sleepy part of town, but its former industrial buildings house more than 200 of the world’s leading design and architecture practices, which all come alive for the city’s annual mid-week design event. The ninth edition of Clerkenwell Design Week promises to be more accessible to the public than ever before, with engaging installations, inspiring street art, and insightful talks on how design affects our everyday lives. Even if you only get to spend a lunch hour browsing this creative quarter where artisan craftsmanship still flourishes like it did back in the 19th century, it’s worth the visit, especially as it’s mostly free. Here’s what not to miss while you’re there.

Bircan Tulga Photography 2016
Clerkenwell’s showrooms open up during the three-day festival to the public | © Bircan Tulga Photography

Visit must-see installations

Behind Closed Doors

Indulge your inner child and step into a town of Dutch dollhouses, located at the entrance to Spa Fields. Shape London has collaborated with Hakwood Wall Tiles to create a 3.2 metre-high pop-up street scene of traditional townhouses, each with hidden rooms revealing a whole series of miniature interiors created by the architecture firm.

Where: Spa Fields, Northampton Road EC1R 0DF

When: 10am – 9pm every day during CDW

Behind Closed Doors installation | © Clerkenwell Design Week

Royal approval

You might not know that Clerkenwell is steeped in Elizabethan history, especially around the St John’s Gate area where the first performances of Shakespeare’s most famous plays were performed in front of Queen Elizabeth I. Inspired by this heritage, Kinetech Design, which specialises in foldable structures, has created an origami-style structure that resembles an Elizabethan ruff collar for the famous Arch of St John.

Where: St John’s Gate, EC1M 4DA

When: All day during CDW

Elizabethan ruff concept by Kinetech Design | © Kinetech Design

Scale Rule

Sustainability is a big deal for the 2018 festival and the overarching theme of the ‘Next Generation Design’ pavilion, conceived by London-based GCSE students. This is the third year in a row that a Scale Rule sculpture will become the focal point of St. James’ Churchyard, described as a ‘kaleidoscopic oculus’ made from colourful layers representing the past, present and future. The structure draws the wandering eye up towards the sky to encourage people to become more aware of the natural elements around them.

Where: Garden of St James, St James Walk, EC1R 0EA

When: 10am – 9pm every day during CDW

Scale Rule
Scale Rule installation | © Clerkenwell Design Week

Ditch the plastic

As the debate continues to rage about plastic packaging, one of the biggest questions raised this year is ‘what are the alternatives to plastic bottles?’ If it’s a topic close to your heart, then head to the ‘Plastic Fantastic’ talk on Tuesday May 22 from 3.15-4pm, where Franklin Till co-founder Caroline Till will chat Frederrike Magnussen, co-founder of A Plastic Planet, and Jordan Watson, co-founder of Happenstance Workshop. The talk will cover how the design industry could, and should, tackle the consumption and perception of plastics. Book your slot and find out more information here.

Oohos – a biodegradable alternative to plastic bottles | © Clerkenwell Design Week

In addition, there will be various brands around the festival that are focusing on combating plastic waste, including London-based sustainable packaging start up Skipping Rocks Lab, which is part of the fringe. You may have already seen its product in the news – an edible ball of H20 called Ooho, which is 100% naturally packaged and biodegradable, making it a great alternative to plastic bottles. In the spirit of the festival, and paying homage to Clerkenwell’s heritage as a hub for gin distilling, the team will be serving up gin-cocktail Oohos between 4pm – 6pm daily, as well as its signature ‘edible water’ Oohos between 12pm – 1pm for free, in the Garden of St James.

Your Tote Counts - CDW18
One of the designs for the #YourToteCounts campaign | © Clerkenwell Design Week

Another brand that’s raising awareness is Print Club London in collaboration with students from the Chelsea College of Art. However, they are actually out there to prove that it’s not just plastic that’s a problem – they claim that the ecological footprint of a cotton tote bag is 327 times worse than a plastic bag. They’ve set up the #YourToteCounts installation also in the Garden of St James where you can give any unloved totes you have at home a second lease of life by customising your bag, with proceeds from any donation you make going towards Maggie’s, so a win-win all round.

See Fabric nightclub’s bright makeover

A new venue for this year is the former cold-store turned nightclub, Fabric, which will play host to a huge display of the world’s top lighting brands, complete with eye-catching installations. At Light, you’ll be able to see the latest collections, ranging from Bert Frank’s mid-century inspired designs to hand-blown Bohemian glass lighting from Czech brand Brokis, which has been crafting products using an age-old glass-blowing technique for over 200 years.

Where: 77A Charterhouse Street, EC1M 6HJ

When: 10am – 9pm every day during CDW

Lighting by Czech brand Brokis | © Clerkenwell Design Week

Discover discounted designer goodies

Also set within Fabric is the Design Best sample sale, where you’ll find top British brands touting their wares, with at least 30–60% off retail prices. So if you’ve always lusted after a classic Anglepoise lamp for your desk, or a Tom Dixon tealight holder, this is probably the opportunity to one pick up. There will also be other small homewares and accessories to take home from the likes of Ally Capellino and Folk. The venue is conveniently close to Farringdon Station, making it easier to take your purchases home.

Where: 77A Charterhouse Street, EC1M 6HJ

When: 10am – 9pm every day during CDW

Anglepoise lamp
Anglepoise lamp | © Anglepoise

Before you go, it’s important to make sure you register for your free pass, which you can do here. To see the full programme of events, talks and workshops, click here.