Materiality and craftsmanship are the classic focuses of London Design Festival. Showing a touch of sustainability, there are various green-focused installations, such as Bamboo Ring, explored by Kengo Kuma, and A Second Life, consisting of wooden dowels repurposed as screens and sculptures, curated by Matter of Stuff. Consumer-oriented products are also available to keep up with the siren of global warming, such as LSA’s 100% recycled glass collection Canopy, and Granby Workshop’s launching of the world’s first 100% recycled ceramic tableware. Sure, conscious shopping can be therapeutic. Yet the following exhibitions can also be ameliorative.


Adorno at London Design Festival

Make Sense

When multi-media is not as multi as we expected, the latest London Design Medal awardee Tom Dixon brings the five basic senses back to people. Dubbed TouchySmellyFeelyNoisyTasty, Dixon transformed his Coal Office into a multi-sensory lab—with a full programme of showcases and talks—dissecting the various issues about sensations. One of the highlights is the collaboration between olfactory artist Sissel Tolaas and Danish timber company Dinesen, showcasing her findings from the forest in Jels, Denmark. It pairs well with the launch of Dixon’s two new fragrances, Underground and Alchemy, along with his slightly smoky Cork Table. On top of all that, Harry’s razor self-ensemble experience invites an unexpected tactile playfulness.

Tom Dixon at London Design Festival

Meditative means

You can find a whimsical yet meditative quality from the oeuvre of Tangent, a London-based design studio founded by Japanese designer Hideki Yoshimoto. By marrying technology and design with reminiscences of nature, its works bring out one’s hidden wabi-sabi-ness, which is best illustrated by the Lexus Award-winning light installation Inaho. Another centrepiece named Here, located separately in the open space of Sheldon Square, is a sculpture of planet Earth commissioned by Hermès for SIHH. As Mr Yoshimoto expressed it, “The piece is inspired by the brand’s latest watch, which features with double moon phase complication with one from the south and one from the north hemisphere. Essentially, the two moon phases are representing the same moon but from different perspectives. I would love to extend this idea by sharing the story that the same moon has been shared by people on the Earth, from several viewpoints—here and there, me and you, now and then. By using 20,480 triangular tiles of recycled solar cells, we think it is the best way to represent the blue of the Earth in terms of materiality.”

Sculpture of planet Earth commissioned by Hermès for SIHH


There are various colourful projects that provide a bright contrast to the greyish limestone cityscape. Like Walala Lounge, a set of ten items of sculptural street furniture that brighten up South Molton Street, designed by Camille Walala with a rich profusion of memphis elements. Jorge Penadés’s Nomadic pavillions and Diego Faivre’s Minute Manufacture combine bright colours with a pop up mentality. The duplex penthouse orchestrated by fashion designer Roksanda Ilinčić at Gashholders, featuring artwork by Caroline Denervaud accompanied by vintage pieces, shows the cosiness of vibrant colours. If you are looking for all-in-one home collectibles, Abstract Assembly collection, designed by Donna Wilson, could be a good option, with its hand-painted natural wood chairs, mirrors, and sculptures, in non-linear shapes, taking watercolours as inspiration.

Roksanda Penthouse living room, Gasholders, London. Photography by Michael Sinclair, Styling by Olivia Gregory

Young Blood

Graduates’ works always provide an exceptional breath of fresh air. One of the 100% Design highlights, Design Fresh, curated by Barbara Chandler, showcases 30 innovative projects. Eco-aware concepts like Milo Tonry-Brown’s Reinventing Plastic, featuring recycled plastic joints, or 3D woodcraft-oriented design, like Huw Evans’s Concertina collection, accented with a pleated wooden lattice structure, are some of the good eye-catchers. The Designing in Turbulent Times exhibition, by Central Saint Martins, also showcases some projects in response to environmental pressure, such as Jing Jiang’s Weighting Feathers Jewellery collection, which combines alternative use of feathers combined with traditional inlay technique.

Chair from Huw Evans’s Concertina collection

Comfort Throne

Not sure if it reflects a sense of an identity crisis, but there are various installations focused on seating. The most eye-mazing one would have to be Please Be Seated by Paul Cocksedge. This layered wavy structure allows people to walk through wooden tunnels and rest at the same time. Life Labyrinth, designed by Patternity, has a similar theme, presenting itself as a monochromatic maze structure that encourages people to get lost or sit down, or both at the same time. Although it is not designed to be sat on, Talk To Me, by Steuart Padwick, is the best place to sit down. The two sensor-equipped giant sculptures voicing uplifting words, written and recorded by poets, writers, actors, and mental health ambassadors, can surely be regarded as creating a perfect comfort zone.

Funny Faces

Masters of Disguise, presented by SEEDS and curated by M–L–XL, reflects on the current Instagram egocentric culture, by commissioning 20 designers/artists to present their individuality in the form of a mask. Viewers can simply enjoy them as designers’ emojis, or try to bingo their faces with their avatars over a performative dinner. Co-Founder of M-L-XL and the curator of the show, Marco Campardo, shared: “Instead of focusing on an object, we were trying to interrogate ourselves about human nature. 99% of humans would identify people with a face. It might be the mask for people who want to disguise or change, so to think about their identity. A mask is simply the best medium to feel and recognise yourself in this world.”

Masters of Disguise, presented by SEEDS

Multi-cultural enrichment

Adorno is the most condensed spot to have a global view of design in London Design Fair, zoned with locality. Starting in 2018 with its Now Nordic premiere, the digital gallery has expanded its scope from 5 Nordic countries to 11 countries across the globe, and has upgraded its name to Crossovers. Simon Skinner's Afropicks combs, addressing Afro-Swedes cultural conflicts, pinpoint the spirit of the show’s renewed title. As Co-Founder & Creative Director Martin Clausen expressed, “A physical showcase allows audiences to experience the pieces first-hand, and particularly for Crossovers this is important because we want to show similarities and differences between these geographically distant cultural scenes. Showing these 11 distinct design cultures in one setting allows viewers to spot crossovers existing between pieces and designers and in doing so we hope to build a picture of where design is headed globally.”

Adorno at London Design Festival