And so it was time for another edition of the design festival in London town. New products and ideas bounced and echoed from postcode to postcode, as the official fairs and the added-extras all vied for attention. Quite rightly so, as there was much of interest to be noticed.
Somerset House proved to be the centre point of the London Design Festival in September. In one of the galleries, Ronan and Erwan Bouroullec were launching Samsung Serif, a ground-breaking concept for flat-screen TVs. The French brothers conceived the elegant screens as ‘furniture elements’ that are so visually striking that you would be happy to marvel at their beauty even when the television is switched off. The pieces are aesthetically reminiscent of the pair’s TV Vases from 2001, when they imagined a TV-like object with a hole in it for a single flower. With the launch of Samsung Serif, that original idea has come full circle. How to beautify technology is a deepening trend, as exemplified by the way Ross Lovegrove has jazzed up the wireless speaker through a colourful collection of 100 unique, anodised MUO wireless speakers for KEF, realised at Neal Feay Company. The big news, though, is that Jasper Morrison has stepped into the mobile phone arena through having designed the MP 01 for Punkt. The simply designed, sleek model has a keyboard reminiscent of first-generation phones, shunning the shiny, touchscreen displays. Combining old-school values and the latest technology, it is a phone for adults and not their kids.
Elsewhere at Somerset House, was Faye Toogood’s room-sized installation called The Drawing Room, the walls covered with charcoal sketches of framed paintings on translucent plastic sheets, evoking the idea of a dilapidated house. This black-and-white environment was filled with the British designer’s monochromatic objects. “I have two wardrobes, one in black, and one in white”, says Toogood, explaining her aesthetic. A different black-and-white concept was offered by Patternity, which teamed up with Paperless Post to create an immersive installation of playful, geometric patterns recalling online party invitations, like Wine + Dine and Cocktails + Conversation. Luca Nichetto brought the sound of music to his installation of modular Alphabeta lamps, created with online design brand Hem. The suspended lamps, each with two shapes in contrasting colours, were programmed to light up in synchronicity with the notes played on a piano. Over at the Victoria and Albert Museum, Barnaby Barford amazed the crowds with The Tower of Babel, a six-metre-high sculptural installation that is a homage to London’s vernacular shop fronts. Exhibited in the Medieval and Renaissance Galleries, the tower is composed of 3,000 tiny, bone china buildings, each based on the photograph of a shop front in London. Barford snapped over 6,000 of these façades during a cycling trip through every London district. Afterwards, the images were meticulously transferred onto ceramic in Stoke-on-Trent, a city renowned for the production of English ceramics.
While Barford’s piece offered a visual trip around London, Toogood took visitors on a tour of the V&A itself, with her project titled The Cloakroom. Borrowing one of her black-and-white, voluminous coats, made from a compressed foam textile called Highfield (by Kvadrat), visitors could pick up one of the specially created maps highlighting points of interest within the V&A’s extensive collection. A moment of magic emanated from mischer'traxler’s Curiosity Cloud, made in collaboration with champagne brand Perrier-Jouët. This was an installation of 250 mouth-blown glass pendants in which glowing insects seemed to be buzzing about. Inside each of these pendants, produced by Viennese glass company Lobmeyr, was an insect made of laser-cut foil and hand embroidery. Beyond the pretty allure was environmental consciousness: it transpires that 25 insect species were represented, including those that are extinct, common, and newly discovered. Experience was the essence of Mise-en-abyme by Laetitia de Allegri and Matteo Fogale. In this walk-through installation, coloured acrylic arches were layered along a bridge hovering above the Medieval and Renaissance galleries. The acrylic tiles were provided courtesy of Altuglas, while the custom-made ones of graduating colour were supplied by Johnson Tiles.
Beyond these two central venues, the festival extended into seven districts: Brompton, Chelsea, Clerkenwell, Islington, Queen’s Park, Shoreditch, and Bankside, the latter joining for the first time. This translated into a plethora of presentations and product launches in various stores and hotels. Leading the pack was Mint in Brompton, which was exhibiting Nendo’s Tokyo Tribal collection for Industry Plus. Solid oak frames and top-board finishes in volcanic sand plaster are combined with bamboo rattan hand-woven by artisans in the Philippines, marrying local craftsmanship with Nendo’s high-end design. In the same spirit, Italian designer Matteo Cibic teamed up with Scarlet Splendour, a furniture and lighting company founded last year in India by Suman Kanodia and Ashish Bajoria. The result is the Vanilla Noir collection, each piece of which is handcrafted in India using traditional methods of inlay work, yet retaining the form and line of Italian classicism. An example is the cute and whimsical Woman in Paris dressing table, which plays with black and white in a lyrical way that loosely recalls a piano keyboard. Under the festival’s large umbrella was the usual roster of cutting-edge design fairs: Tent London and Super Brands in the East End, and designjunction and 100% Design in the West End. As always with the London Design Festival, with so much to see, we are already eagerly anticipating 2016.