London Design Festival: Special Report

October 4, 2012

London Design Festival took place in venues across the city last month, offering a mix of events, installations and exhibitions. The low-tech, experimental spirit of the festival was captured in gritty spaces and behind-the-scenes showcases.

Above: The Back Room live installation, curated by Studio Toogood. Image courtesy Studio Toogood.

London Design Festival took place in venues across the city from 14 until 23 September 2012, and like past offerings it included a mix of events, installations and exhibitions. The low-tech, experimental spirit of the festival was captured in gritty spaces and behind-the-scenes showcases, lending the overall event an intimate scale.

Benjamin Hubert’s Tenda light at Design Junction.


In 2012 the London Design Festival celebrated its first decade. With thousands of exhibitors, five key venues and the fourth year of a strong collaboration with the V&A, it is now a decidedly different event than its 2002 debut. From east to west, south and central, the 2012 event continued the eclectic design aesthetic that has come to characterise the English point of difference, peppered equally by international designers drawn to London for its rule- breaking reputation. Of special note this year, perhaps as a consequence of a larger global awareness of where and how things are made, was an increasing display of design as it occurs ‘behind-the-scenes’. In contrast to sleek, edited exhibits that used to typify designs on show, in 2012 designers were turning their work inside- out, back-to-front and getting their hands dirty in an effort to educate visitors about their products. Similarly, many of the spaces containing works were rough-and- ready and previously unseen.

From Hot Tools, ECAL/FelixKlingmuller, Stein; ECAL/ Philipp Grundhofer, Mould in Motion. Images courtesy ECAL/Nicolas Genta.


Hot Tools

Hot Tools at gallery Libby Sellers saw a curated display of experimental glasswork by recent graduates from the Product Design Masters at ECAL University of Art & Design Lausanne, following a workshop with Ronan Bourollec and glassblower Matteo Gonet. Rather than simply working with extant techniques for glassblowing, students designed self-made tools to challenge the usual processes of making – allowing them to shape and transform glass into elegant, novel pieces. Philipp Grundhöfer’s unique editions of Mould in Motion, made from a six-part wooden form clamped together around molten glass, were especially successful; while Rita Botelho’s DIY Mould caught attention for the amoebic shapes she produced.

The Spade chair featured in Batch, Studio Toogood’s small scale production of furniture. Image courtesy Studio Toogood.


Batch & the Back Room

In the vein of previous ‘live’ installations curated by Studio Toogood, The Back Room ushered in a week of workshops from the back of the Studio’s canal side space. With the premise of celebrating traditional craft and production in an urban context, The Back Room hosted training in various skills, including leather tooling and bread-making, as well as proffering The M25 Luncheon – a revision of the Ploughman’s with ingredients locally sourced. Alongside the eating and edification was Batch – Toogood’s small-scale production of classic pieces, such as the Spade chair – a eulogy for British-made industrial craftsmanship.

Vintage furniture stand at Design Junction. Image by Felix Forest.


Design Junction

Across three floors of a 1960s sorting office on New Oxford Street, Design Junction provided a suitably industrial showcase for over 100 new and established brands. Alongside countless retail and furniture concessions, the public’s fascination for understanding how things are made, was satisfied on the ground floor with Thonet’s live displays. Each hour, craftsmen donned gloves to wrap lengths of steamed wood around steel moulds, forming parts of the classic 214 Thonet cafe chair, here tweaked to include a playful knotted leg.

Left: Ceramics by Myung Nam An and Ceramics Camberwell; Right: Canevas collection by Charlotte Lancelot, at Design Junction. Images by Felix Forest.


On the top floor, The Tramshed continued its display of innovative work, with an encompassing collective of curated makers. Benjamin Hubert’s installation of work Construction Site drew attention for his inherent pursuit of material qualities. Made respectively of cork, woven polyester and marble, his pendant lights – Float, Loom and Quarry – hung simply alongside carcasses of the Juliet and Coracle chairs, again illustrating the process of assembly.

For more on the London Design Festival, purchase the forthcoming issue of Inside magazine #74: The Winners Issue.

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