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.