London Design Festival is an annual affair launched back in 2003 by Sir John Sorrell CBE and Ben Evans CBE. Its aim was to promote the city’s creativity and build on the capital’s thriving design scene. The festival boasts that it attracts “the country’s greatest thinkers, practitioners, retailers and educators to deliver an unmissable celebration of design,” and we’re inclined to agree.
Since its conception, the festival has gone from strength to strength. Last year a record-breaking 600,000 individual visitors from over 75 countries were welcomed, as well as an additional passer by audience of nearly 1 million people to see the four Landmark Projects. The mission to bring design and creativity to the streets of London was well and truly achieved.
As we draw nearer to when 2020’s festival should have taken place pre-COVID 19 - 12-20 September - we thought we’d take a look back at our top picks from last year’s event.
Landmark Project: Please Be Seated by Paul Cocksedge
Taking up most of the space available, the large-scale installation married innovation and technology to open a dialogue between the community and its relationship to the environment. Its design features curves for people to sit on and walk under, creating an interactive experience.
Made from scaffolding planks, Cocksege collaborated with Essex based high-end interiors company White & White to re-imagine and re-use the building material.
“Every single aspect of the installation is tailored to its environment as well as the function it serves,” said Cocksedge. “The curves raise up to create backrests and places to sit, as well as space for people to walk under, or pause and find some shade. It walks the line between a craft object and a design solution. It occupies the square without blocking it.”
V&A Projects: Affinity in Autonomy by Sony Design
The project portrayed the independence and free will of robotics by the pendulum’s random movements, which could also detect and recognise human presence. This exhibition of autonomous behaviour engaged visitors into an emotional and physical response with artificial intelligence at play.
Ultimately, the work aimed to showcase emotion and sensitivity to illustrate the possibilities of enriched relationships between humans and robots. A real forward-thinking concept that envisioned a world in which intelligence, technology and creative design are more than integrated.
Sony Design believes that the relationship between humans and technology will evolve through deeper understanding of AI and its ability to display feelings.
Commissions: Disco Carbonara by Martino Gamper
Martino Gamper’s festival commission, Disco Carbonara, was a playful temporary addition to the Kings Cross architecture at Coal Drops Yard. The installation had a false facade of a disco with a fresh take on traditional cladding from the Italian Alps.
Gamper’s concept was designed as a gateway within Coal Drops Yard and was inspired by the concept of a Potemkin village. The term comes from stories of a fake portable village built to impress Empress Catherine II by her lover Grigory Potemkin during her journey to Crimea in 1787.
The structure also had great eco credentials with a low environmental impact, since all materials were either waste products, recycled or later repurposed. A great example of how beautiful design needn’t compromise the planet.
Special Projects: Walala Lounge by Camille Walala
Camille Walala is a French-born designer with a love of bold and bright colour. Her return to LDF was characteristically colourful as she looked to reenergise South Molton Street for her project, Walala Lounge, commissioned by Grosvenor Britain & Ireland.
Walala combined daring colour and geometric shapes to create a beautiful collection of ten sculptural pieces of street furniture. Benches were accompanied by planters, and a series of oversized flags were strung overheard to create an immersive corridor of colour.
The vision was to create an open-air urban living room – a place for people to come together to chat and relax in central London – with a burst of colour and irrepressible joy.
Walala’s Lounge comprised of an unpredictable assortment of cylinders, arches and cuboids made from brushed steel and Tricoya® MDF in complementing block colours. Several of the bench designs also incorporated planters and rug-like bases to enhance the urban lounge appeal.
You can find out more on the plans for London Design Festival 2020 taking place between 12-20 September as well as look back at previous years via the LDF website: https://www.londondesignfestival.com