London Design Festival 2011 higlights

At the Grand Entrance to the Victoria & Albert Museum sits a giant installation cascading down the steps – the dramatic and soaring Timber Wave responding to the museum’s vast, ornamental and multilayered façade.

This is the work of London firm Amanda Levete Architects who, with the help of structural engineer Arup, has created this complex three-dimensional latticework spiral from American red oak, using lamination techniques normally practiced in furniture making, here applied to create a three-story structure.

‘The brief was to respond in some way to the entrance of the V&A,’ says Amanda Levete of AL_A. ‘For us it was about making very explicit the London Design Festival residency there. We wanted to take the V&A out onto the streets.’ The installation will remain on the Cromwell Road entrance until 15 October.

Timber Wave is the perfect doorway to the London Design Festival 2011. Now in its ninth year, the nine-day festival is spread all over the capital city with its nucleus very much at the V&A.

The initial drama may be concentrated on the outside, but inside the museum are plenty of fascinating creations dotted around and hidden away in various corners of the vast building. Here designers and artists have created work that speaks to the collection, creating a dialogue of past and present. The V&A is a curious space – its eclectic collection as well as the building itself almost encouraging a response from these avant-garde designers.

Working with Danish firm Kvadrat, textile designers Ronan and Erwan Bouroullec showed an ambitious project called Textile Fields that sets out to alter how we experience art.

The giant carpet takes over 240 square meters of the V&A Raphael Court floor – its gentle undulations of soft fabric creating an expansive coloured foam of textile designed by the French brothers to lounge on whilst enjoying the seven enormous cartoons by Raphael that hang in this vast gallery space built in 1865 to house the Italian painter’s work.

‘The Raphael Cartoons are masterpieces that are difficult to look at because they are from such a different time so our installation is about redefining the way people interact with the today,’ says Erwan Bouroullec. He says the space has ‘this quality of a church, a really wonderful volume, but then in a way it makes you feel too small – a sense of sacré – holiness.’

Elsewhere Beyond the Valley explores what happens when the two worlds of fashion and technology meet. Using iPads, visitors are encouraged to remix a series of graphical components including three-dimensional elements to create their own prints to then share on social media sites.

Other V&A highlights include British-Ish curated by fashion designer Giles Deacon that celebrates the best new work from recent graduates from the University of the Arts London.

Industrial Revolution 2.0: How the Material World Will Newly Materialise sees eight designs respond directly to masterworks in the V&A’s collection using modern methods such as additive manufacturing by Belgium firm Materialise.

‘My aim was to initiate little narratives – some of which I hope will amuse,’ says curator Murray Moss. And some are very amusing. Melonia shoes by Swedish designer Naim Josefi, for instance, imagines a seventeenth-century traveller’s bawdy night away from home by placing fourteen pairs of shoes lined neatly alongside the Elizabethan Great Bed of Ware.

Escapism by Iris van Herpen and Daniel Widrig responds to the flamboyant Rococo style. The additive manufacturing process has allowed the printed nylon dress to be produced without any seams – with no sewing machine or handwork employed.

Away from the main hub B&B Italia used the festival occasion to celebrate ten years in the capital at its John Pawson-designed store on Brompton Road with an exhibition showing its collaborative work with the architect Pawson and Zaha Hadid. The Italian firm also introduced its 2011 collection that includes work by Patricia Urquiola, Antonio Citterio, and Vincent Van Duysen.

Over by the River Thames at London’s Southbank is David Chipperfield Architects‘ Two Lines, a sculptural dialogue between two identical forms which will remain standing until mid October.

The architect has teamed up with Arup and using Sefar Architect’s Vision fabric it has created a metal-coated fabric mesh, black on one side and metallic on the other, layered between two sheets of glass to give the installation panels both translucent and reflective qualities.

The temporary structure is part of this year’s Size + Matter that sets out to challenge a leading designer to team up with a unique material or process and explore the dynamic between their own creativity and the material process.

Another highlight is Pawson’s own installation Geometric Staircase. Working with collaboration with Swarovski the concave crystal structure at St Paul’s Cathedral offers visitors a complex view of Sir Christopher Wren’s tower, and the chance, in the words of the minimalist architect, ‘to see beyond the naked eye’.

Students at the Royal College of Art’s design products department collaborated with Italian fashion house Fendi to celebrate the opening of its new Sloane Street store by creating a temporary window and in-store displays incorporating innovative uses of Fendi’s craftsmanship along with discarded materials (read the DT preview).

Designer Tom Dixon‘s stylish waterside converted wharf building The Dock in west London has been used for a number of events this week including a pop-up gallery by Print Club London, to to showcase Aston Martin’s small city Cygnet luxury cars (see our interview with its designer Marek Riechman) and Timothy Hatton Architects unveiled a temporary pavilion there.

Finally, the Royal Institute of British Architects has partnered with the Restaurant & Bar Design Awards for Design Bites – a series of ongoing talks and tours that link food, drink and design. The first of the monthly events was held at The Dock under the direction of Dixon.

Nargess Shahmanesh Banks

Read more on the LDF11 here. Watch John Pawson speak at the London Design Festival..

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