The highlight of my year is the London Design Festival and it’s nearly upon us. With 133 events on the first day alone, it can feel overwhelming, so here are my recommendations for things to do on each day of the festival. (Non-LDF events are below as usual.)
Saturday 17th September
There are five key design districts, Covent Garden, Clerkenwell, Brompton, Fitzrovia and Shoreditch – and with the V&A playing such a crucial role in the festival, Brompton seems like a good place to start (but don’t worry – they’re all covered off).
But first things first – find yourself a copy of the Icon Design Trail – the definitive guide to everything that’s happening – they’ll be dotted all over the festival, usually in big yellow plastic buckets.
Start the day at the V&A, going through the Grand Entrance to see Amanda Levete Architects’ installation and then check out V&A and Crafts Council exhibition, The Power of Making. There’s a lot happening, so explore whatever takes your fancy, but don’t miss the Textile Field, an expansive coloured foam and textile installation by the Bouroullec Brothers, tipped to be a real highlight.
Once you’re done at the V&A, pop across the road for a drink and a snack at the V&A Reading Rooms, and then head down Brompton Road to explore the rest of Brompton Design District. En route make sure you pop into Sandinavian design emporium Skandium, Priscilla Carluccio’s shop Few and Far and Mint, described by Max Fraser as “the most unique, dynamic and visionary design store in London”.
When you’re done, head to Bibendum for dinner in gorgeous art deco surroundings… and relax.
Sunday 18th September
Open House London coincides with the first weekend of London Design Festival. Over 700 architects’ homes, eco and retrofit buildings, major regeneration projects, landscape projects, government buildings, historic landmarks and towers, major infrastructure sites and more open their doors to the public for free. It’s a rare opportunity to see inside many of these buildings, so I’d recommend setting aside Sunday to explore whichever buildings take your fancy. But whatever you see, don’t miss the last opportunity to see inside the Commonwealth Institute before it becomes the new home of the Design Museum.
Monday 19th September
Monday is my recommended day to explore the Clerkenwell Design District. If you have to work, fear not, there’s plenty going on into the evening including the Craft Central One Day Sale which is open until 7pm. Nearby installation in St Paul’s Cathedral, Perspective by John Pawson is only open until 6pm, but as one of the festival’s highlights, it’s worth sneaking out in your lunch break for. If your day is your own, make sure you also include a trip to the Barbican and pop into Look Mum No Hands to refuel and check out Quarterre‘s launch of Furniture for Bikes.
Tuesday 20th September
Overlooking the Grand Canal in Ladbrook Grove, it’s a bit of a schlep, but worth it when you get there; Multiplex at The Dock is my recommendation for Tuesday. Of course, Tom Dixon is the star of the show, and with Print Club London, Fine Cell Work and Present and Correct all in residence, it’s unmissable. You’ll be spoilt for choice at The Dock Kitchen when it comes to food and drink too. (Late night opening is on Thursday 23rd until 8pm.)
Wednesday 21st September
Wednesday’s my day for exploring the Covent Garden Design District – wander round and see what catches your eye. But make sure you pop into the London Transport Museum – a treat for design geeks year round, but especially exciting during LDF due to their collaboration with Squint to create a collection of bespoke furniture featuring moquette designs.
And if you can get over to Berwick Street in nearby Soho, I highly recommend popping into Outline Editions for Noma Bar’s Cut It Out. A Heath Robinson-esque embossing device /sculpture in the shape of a giant dog will allow visitors to feed paper, rubber and other materials into its mouth to produce their own cut-out Noma Bar images. These will be signed and numbered by the artist as part of a limited edition series. (Live drawing and create-your-own-cut-out-art workshops with Noma Bar are on 17th and 24th September from 2pm – 5pm; to reserve a free place e-mail email@example.com.)
Thursday 22nd September
With a lot of events only running 22nd – 25th, Thursday’s the day it all really starts happening. I’d recommend splitting the day in two so you can check out the Design Museum and Designersblock. The list of exhibitors at the latter is extensive to say the least, and it’s on until 7pm if you need to get there after work. It does mean a trip back to Clerkenwell, but it’ll be worth it, I promise!
If you’re in London for the festival, the Design Museum is a must-visit. See Designers in Residence, Hye-Yeon Park, Jade Folawiyo, Simon Hasan and Will Shannon and the two current exhibitions, Kenneth Grange, Making Britain Modern and This is Design. (If you’re a Londoner, these are all on for a long time after the festival finishes, so you might want to catch them later.)
Friday 23rd September
If you’re going to take a day off work, I’d make it this one, so you’ve got a long weekend over the most busy part of the festival.
Friday’s the day I’ve allocated to explore the Fitzrovia Design District. designjunction is the main event, taking place in the basement of Victoria House; over 2000 square metres of space, designjunction have promised to fill with “a stellar line-up of leading UK and international lighting and furniture brands”.
Fritz Hansen is launching its new London flagship store in partnership with Skandium in the heart of Fitzrovia. It will showcase the entire furniture collection by Fritz Hansen alongside a specially curated collection of the best interior accessories by premium brands such as Iittala, Georg Jensen and Louis Poulsen.
The second edition of the London Design Guide is now available so grab a copy; it’s a really comprehensive guide to design in London year-round. In the meantime, this guided walk of Fitzrovia is a great introduction to the area.
Saturday 24th September
Saturday’s the day to head to Shoreditch. Get up early, wear comfy shoes and get stuck in! TENT London is an absolute must, and often where you can spot the stars of the future. It gets pretty crowded so get there early. You’ll also want to take a stroll down Rivington Street to see Tramshed, Dezeen Space, Lee Broom’s Salon. Then head over to Spitalfields for a spot of lunch – my recommendation would be Leon, but there’s lots to choose from. And then once you’ve refueled, Origin offers a rare opportunity to see and buy a diverse range of high quality, original craft from over 200 makers across disciplines from ceramics, furniture, metalwork and glass, to fashion accessories, jewellery and knitwear.
Sunday 25th September
And last but not least, Sunday is the public day of 100% Design. It’s not the coolest or the edgiest event of the festival, but it remains a firm favourite for me. You’ll be shattered if you’ve got around even half of the above, so I’d put aside Sunday to just do this one event, and treat yourself to sneaking home to put your feet up afterwards!
Non-LDF events below are listed soonest first (by start date), so newly added ones may appear further down in the list. Do scroll down to check.
“Kenneth Grange is Britain’s leading product designer, his prolific career spans over 50 years and he is responsible for designing some of the most iconic and familiar products and appliances that shape our daily lives. Kodak cameras, the silhouette for the Intercity 125 train, Kenwood food mixers, Parker pens, and the re-design of the London black cab are just some of his well-known designs.”
Designers in Residence
Design Museum, 24th August 2011 – 22nd January 2012
“As part of its role to stimulate new experimental work from an emerging generation of designers, the Design Museum organises an annual commission and exhibition which supports and celebrates new design talent.”
“The Design Museum collection includes objects that range from the early Modernism of the 1900s to the cutting edge of contemporary design. Drawing on the museum’s collection, this exhibition brings together design classics alongside more unusual objects to look at some key themes including archetypes, identity, innovations in manufacturing, miniaturisation and obsolescence.”
“More than just a trade show, MAISON&OBJET is a magnet for all professionals. Design, home-fashion, objects, tableware… 6 quarters each explore a decorative world and style: fodder for fresh ideas, or changing tacks, inspiration, or creating your own world. A true reference in the world of decoration, creation and design, a mosaic of trends, new talents and new concepts.”
Open: From Friday to Monday : 9.30am to 7pm. Tuesday: 9.30am to 06pm.
Tickets: €43 in advance €53 on the door. (Professional identification, business card for international visitors, must be presented in order to obtain an entrance badge for the show.)