Highlights from Clerkenwell Design Week 2016

London is alive with creative energy and it is sometimes hard to keep up with the sheer volume of exhibitions and fairs celebrating visual culture. This week saw Clerkenwell Design Week celebrate its seventh year. The three-day event in May sees international brands, individual designers, and emerging young artists exhibit their latest creations in one of London’s oldest neighbourhoods – creating a striking contrast between the local architecture, old churches and historic buildings and the contemporary design and installations on show. The festival may be a relative newcomer to the scene, yet it has grown substantially in size, confidence and personality.

You enter CDW through St John’s Gate, where this year London studio Flea Folly Architects partnered with Hakwood to create an installation of stacked wood referencing the gate’s austere past. Along the route four glass-tile sculptures by Giles Miller Studio helped visitors navigate the fair.

CDW is as much about the products as the location, and one of the highlights was Icon’s House of Culture, an exhibition space dedicated to international brands and set up in the former Metropolitan Cold Stores in Smithfiled, now Fabric nightclub.

Here Stellar Works, the French/Japanese design brand with headquartered in Shanghai, showed its Valet Collection, first seen at Salone del Mobile in Milan. American designer David Rockwell collaborated with Stellar, interpreting the roots of the word valet for a series of fourteen beautifully crafted, unique furniture pieces that are relevant for contemporary living. We particularly like the clever shelving systems that offer combinations for book and vinyl storage, and a bar.

At EBB & Flow, Danish lighting designer Susanne Nielson with her passion for glass and textiles showed products based on a combination of British and Nordic designs. Elsewhere in Icon, the Scandinavian company NORR11 displayed its collection that aims to rethink classic designs for today with a strong focus on taking inspiration from the natural materials.

The British Collection offered an interesting line-up of local talent. Pluck, for instance, is a bespoke modern kitchen collection by 2MZ, a Brixton-based design studio. Here they have used traditional materials in a fresh way, the clutter-free environment allowing the clean lines and thoughtful application of colour to stand out.

Minale + Mann debuted The Workshop and the new Well Hung collection. An elegant, and a rather sexy, line of furniture that works with combining wood and metal including a cantilevered dining table in American walnut and copper, and the unfolding bureau that appears as if floating from the wall was inspired by the grand piano.

The dim lights and dark corridors The House of Detention, a former prison and very chilly on that day, offered an interesting space to exhibit Platform. Amongst the forty up-and-coming designers showing their work, we particularly liked the clever modular breadboard by Baker Street Boys who also showed their coffee table/stool designs that work with metal, wood and Perspex. And Rubertelli Design saw the London-based sculptor Stefano Rubertelli fuse the world of handmade and mass production to create striking, swirly lights that are almost pieces of art.

Over at Additions the display focused on interior products where Monica Bispo, a Brazilian born Italy based ceramic artist, offered her collection of ceramics. Inspired by artisanal craftsmanship, her pieces are both physically and visually handmade.

Tom Dixon has installed a large central chandelier in the main space of the beautiful seventeenth century church in Clerkenwell Green, as well as setting up a working environment and kitchen that will remain as permanent fixtures here.

Elsewhere, Sam Jacob Design created the 3D One Thing After Another for Sto Werkstatt. The concept aims to explore the dialogue between the digital and physical worlds. Much like a Russian Doll, the original garden shed structure is 3D scanned to create a larger digital copy for the outside with another tiny scaled copy housed inside.

Design Fields at Spa Field saw curated contemporary design on display including work by the main sponsor Renault. Here the carmaker’s focus was on the environment, displaying its futuristic EOLAB concept car that showcases over hundred sustainable innovations. Renault also collaborated with MA industrial design students at Central Saint Martins who were tasked to envisage the interior of a future autonomous car with some intriguing results.

The winning proposal Oura is a single wearable vehicle suit with a gesture-controlled, head-up display visor that uses virtual reality – the cabin is almost entirely stripped away so that the user can interact more closely with their environment as they travel.

Clerkenwell Design Week ran from 24-26 May 2016. To find out more about exhibiting or attending the 2017 fair visit here.

Read our reviews of previous Clerkenwell Design Week here

Nargess Banks

Design Talks | The Textile Building | 29a Chatham Place | London | E9 6FJ | UK
Design Talks is published by Spinach Design
All rights and labelled images are covered by ©

Highlights of London Design Festival 2015

There is an abundance of creative energy in London. The metropolis is home to a number of leading art and design schools, and its multicultural nature offers a constant flow of influences from other worlds and cultures, bringing their collective and individual experiences from far beyond the city walls.

Many cities around the world stage annual design events – most notably the Salone del Mobile in Milan. However, London also benefits from a vibrant commercial scene; businesses from around the world have headquarters in the capital city and there is a great deal of collaboration between commerce and creativity, which can add a sense of reality to more conceptual work.

This week saw the start of the London Design Festival, a nine-day event that, in its 12-year history, seems to be growing in size and reach this year offering some 400 events across the capital city.

The hub at the V&A saw a range of exhibitions largely addressing materials and processes. Having attended the press preview, I revisited the show with family, and as always it was hugely intriguing to see how others, especially children, interact with conceptual design.

One of the main highlights at the V&A, and throughout other locations in London, is a celebration of the life and work of pioneering British mid 20th century designer Robin Day. Here Work in Wood celebrates Day’s passion for the material. The Robin and Lucienne Day Foundation worked closely with curator Jane Withers and design collective Assemble to create a range of wood installations displaying intriguing work from the Day archives dating back to his childhood growing up among the beech woods and timber furniture factories of High Wycombe.

Another interesting display is the Mexican Pavilion You Know You Cannot See Yourself so Well as by Reflection. Influenced by the multicultural influences of modern Mexico, architect Frida Escobedo has transformed the V&A John Madejski Garden with a series of flexible spaces, and curved and rectangular platforms laid out in a grid-like format, the mirrored ones reflecting the surrounding building. On the sunny Sunday we attended, visitors lounged on these platforms that crawl into the pond sipping coffee and taking in the autumn sun for a brilliant interactive space.

The V&A is something of a church for me – a safe sanctuary where I’ve been losing myself in since childhood. It was amongst the Renaissance sculptures here that I formed a passion for art. And whilst exploring the many many rooms filled with textiles, jewellery, silverware, ceramics… that I began to fall in love with design.

Faye Toogood seems to have captured the spirit of this unique museum encouraging visitors to put on one of her 150 Toogood coats, and using the map inside, explore unseen and unexpected locations in the V&A. The kids, in particular, loved these weighty coats made of high-tech Kvadrat compressed foam, and seemed amused by the different naive faces sketched on the back of each. The garments have a 3D quality, says the designer, and celebrate British textile manufacturing.

Elsewhere, an installation by Grafton Architects and Irish Design 2015 in the Tapestries Gallery explores our relation with concrete by encouraging visitors to touch the columns like tree trunks. Inspired by the fourth century Irish Ogham alphabet, the three-meter high concrete ‘fins’, created with and Graphic Relief, have a tactile quality, and all 23 of them beg to be touched. These robust concrete and metal columns, each with their own individual personality, respond to the fragile tapestries that surround them.

Artist Barnaby Barford’s Tower of Babel explores our relationship with retail and the blurred boundaries of art and commerce. His 6m-high tower comprises 3,000 bone china shops, based on real shops photographed by the artist. The shops at the base are derelict, whilst the tower peak is home to posh boutiques and galleries prompting us to question our choices as consumers.

Mise-en-Abyme by industrial designers Laetitia de Allegri and Matteo Fogale is an immersive installation for the bridge over the Medieval and Renaissance galleries at the V&A. The duo’s fantasy landscape of overlapping transparent shapes play with our sense of perspective and reality, and are a reference to the one-point perspective taken during the Renaissance period.

Other interesting work includes a mesmerising installation by Austrian design duo mischer’traxler in collaboration with champagne house Perrier-Jouët. Here tiny hand made insects dance inside 250 mouth blown glass globes creating quite a meditative buzzing sound – possibly pushing the boundaries of design but still beautifully constructed and attracting enough attention for a queue to form outside the space.

Over at Somerset House, designer Barber & Osgerby worked with Knoll to create a range of furniture to occupy the intimate reading room, and Ronan and Erwan Bouroullec show their first electronic project for Samsung, the Serif TV, a one-colour, one shape seamless frame that challenges the shape of the television.

Somerset House is also staging the winning entries for a nationwide competition by Twitter. #PowerByTweets: The Challenge invited entrants to come up with either a problem solving idea or ‘something beautiful’ using the social network site.

One of the six winning designs The Social Mindscape enables cancer patients receiving chemotherapy to communicate non-verbally and create a visual #mindscape they can collectively enjoy in real time. Possibly a good example of how commerce and creativity can unite for a good cause.

As one colleague commented perceptively about LDF, design, even in its most conceptual form, needs to address the discipline, be it through material, construction, theory or ideology. If left to be completely conceptual then it can, like some of the exhibits this year, run the risk of being an art project and arguably not relevant in a design festival.

The international scene looks upon London for ideas and inspiration. Let’s just hope mounting living costs does not lock emerging creatives from contributing to this vibrancy, and that we don’t let big business completely overshadow raw creativity.


Watch mischer’traxler mesmerising installation at the V&A


London Design Festival runs from 19-27 September at venues throughout London.

Read our reviews of previous shows here, and last year’s Edward Barber and Jay Osgerby’s installation with BMW.


Design Talks | 5 – 25 Scrutton Street | Old Street | Shoreditch | London | EC2A 4HW | UK

Design Talks is published by Spinach Design

All rights and labelled images are covered by ©

Salone del Mobile 2012 highlights

The design world congregated on Milan last week for Salone Internazionale del Mobile, Europe’s leading design fair in Milan. To mark its 51st year, the fair set its focus on technology and its influence on design. This is a vast show, spanning most of Milan with its hub at the exhibition centre in Rho. Read the report published in Wallpaper*.


We reported on the Heineken sponsored concept club design earlier. Plus read our reports from the 2011 Salone del Mobile here.

Watch the making of the Heineken pop up club

Salone Internazionale del Mobile will run 17-22 April.

Design Talks | 5 – 25 Scrutton Street | Old Street | Shoreditch | London | EC2A 4HJ?W | www.d-talks.com | Bookshop | Published by Banksthomas

All rights and labelled images are covered by ©










Israeli designers exhibit at Holon

For a taste of design in Israel today, head to Holon for the Holon Design Week and supporting Designer Plus Ten exhibition at Design Museum Holon.

This is the first time the museum will curate an exhibition that focuses exclusively on local talent. Expect designers from textiles, fashion, jewellery, industrial design and digital and visual communication to exhibit their work.



Participants include Daniel Gassner and Ori Saidi (Ototo), Itamar Burstein, Alon Shoavi, Asaf Hanuka, Yaron shine, Shelly Satat and Elon Kombor (CoupleOf).

Designers Plus Ten is on from 8 April to  20 May 2012, Design Week Holon is on from 8 – 11 April 2012 at Design Museum Holon, Israel

Design Talks | 5 – 25 Scrutton Street | Old Street | Shoreditch | London | EC2A 4HJ?W | UK | www.d-talks.com | Bookshop www.d-talks.com/bookshop | Published by Banksthomas

 All rights and labelled images are covered by ©

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..

Design Talks | 5 – 25 Scrutton Street | Old Street | Shoreditch | London | EC2A 4HJ?W | UK | www.d-talks.com | Bookshop www.d-talks.com/bookshop | Published by Banksthomas

All rights and labelled images are covered by ©