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London Design Festival – the capital’s biggest design event of the year – returns to the city from 15-23 September. But with so many exhibits and events to explore, it can be hard to know where to start.
The Victoria and Albert Museum in South Kensington is the main hub of the London Design Festival and features some of the event’s major installations. Architect Waugh Thistleton’s maze-like timber structure, made from recyclable tulipwood, will be at the heart of the Sackler Courtyard, while Danish fashion designer Henrik Vibskov’s 25m-long (82ft) spinning sculptural installation The Onion Farm will take over the V&A’s Tapestry Galleries. Estonian contemporary composer Arvo Pärt and engineering firm Arup combine music and design to create a multisensory installation in the Norfolk House Music Room. Plus, there’s the chance to make use of the V&A’s exclusive Members’ Room in the Grade I-listed 1909 wing. It’s open to the public on 20 September as Pentagram celebrates London Design Festival’s 10th anniversary of collaboration with the V&A.
Some of London’s key public landmarks will be transformed during the event, including Trafalgar Square and Regent Street. Set designer Es Devlin, famed for her work with with Beyoncé and Lady Gaga, has teamed up with Google for her Landmark Project Please Feed the Lions in Trafalgar Square; the bright-red interactive sculpture will ‘roar’ poetry fed to it by the crowds. Over in Regent Street, a huge rippling wave designed by the Architecture Social Club will float above John Nash’s famous street, encouraging people to gaze up at its impressive Georgian architecture and the natural world beyond. Close by in Green Park, 18th-century institution Fortnum & Mason will host an immersive tea party designed by Dutch studio Scholten & Baijings, while over in Broadgate you can engage in some serious wordplay with Kellenberger-White’s series of colourful alphabet chairs.
This year, Design Junction moves to its new home on the South Bank, and it’s set to be bigger and better than ever. Highlights include two pier-based installations – Head Above Water, a nine-metre-high (30 foot) sustainable sculpture on Queen’s Stone jetty designed to support mental health, and the Gateway to Inclusion – a dynamic rainbow-coloured ribbon structure that caterpillars its way along a pier. The third key installation to look out for is Mud Shell on the Riverside Walkway – a showcase of prototype emergency shelters created by mud-spraying drones. It’s also the perfect place to hunt for affordable contemporary design pieces with more than 200 brands showcasing their wares at the Doon Street’s two-storey pop-up venue, plus the Oxo Tower Wharf and Bargehouse.
There are 11 official Design Districts this year with newcomers including West Kensington, Marylebone, Fitzrovia, Victoria, and Regent Street and St James’s in West and Central London. In addition, it’s worth checking out the three official Design Routes: Paddington, Brixton and London King’s Cross. At the latter you’ll find Tom Dixon’s new HQ, which will be hosting Electroanalogue during the festival – the last arch of the Coal Office will be transformed into a 1970s discotheque, while Japanese sound artist Yuri Suzuki will cut records in The Factory.
After its inauguration in 2016, London Design Biennale returns to Somerset House to showcase pavilions from more than 40 countries, all responding to the theme of Emotional States. At the heart of this exhibition is Greece’s offering by Nassia Inglessis, set in the central courtyard – a 17m-long (56ft) moveable ‘skeleton’ that flexes and moves around the human body using augmented reality. Don’t miss Hong Kong’s scratch-and-sniff wallpaper-covered pavilion, Lebanon’s cocoon-like Silent Room and the Netherlands’ futuristic greenhouse.
Once you’ve been to Somerset House, head over to East London’s Old Truman Brewery for London Design Fair, where 13 country pavilions will showcase contemporary craftsmanship inspired by their unique cultural heritage. In addition, designers will display their ingenious use of plastic, the Material of the Year for 2018. Designers are invited to find new and better ways of using this contentious material and will exhibit their innovative products that address the issue.
From Marina and the Diamonds singer Marina Diamandis to author of The Miniaturist Jessie Burton, five leading female creatives will curate their own unique spaces in the windows of Heal’s flagship department store on Tottenham Court Road. Cook and author Melissa Hemsley, colour expert Annie Sloan and iconic jewellery designer Jacqueline Rabun will join them for Heal’s and mcgarrybowen’s collaboration. For advice on apartment living and planning a project, head over to the Heal’s Interior Design Drop-In at Merchant Land’s new flagship project at 63 Charlotte Street on 19-20 September where the store has also created a pop-up Brunel apartment.
Interiors addicts should head to Focus/18 at Chelsea Harbour (open to the public 19-21 September) for a wealth of decorating inspiration and talks from A-list designers, including Allegra Hicks, Veere Grenney and Nina Campbell. Head to House of Hackney’s pop-up showroom and attend a range of workshops, including making an eco-garden terrarium with the Botanical Boys at Création Baumann and the Designers Guild’s masterclass to creating the ultimate colour scheme. It’s also worth the trek over to Syon Park in Brentford on 18 September for those considering a career in the design world – usually a go-to source for high-end interior designers, Decorex is the destination for insider tips from the likes of Sebastian Cox and Tricia Guild.
For more information on what’s happening at London Design Festival, which runs from 15-23 September, check out the website here.