by Almas SadiqueSep 14, 2023
"Remember, in London…there is so much stuff happening, so having a moment in the year when we can celebrate design is critically important."
- Ben Evans (Festival Director)
London Design Festival's 2023 edition is autumn's much anticipated annual celebration of design from September 16-24. The festival, supported by the Mayor of London and Bloomberg Philanthropies, will bring together notable designers, artists and makers such as Simone Brewster, Pablo Valbuena, Studio Waldemeyer, Dima Srouji and Morag Myerscough. It will also feature ethereal installations, 13 Design Districts (including four new ones), Design Fairs, the Global Design Forum, and new initiatives like Launch Pad, connecting emerging talent, charities, and small businesses with new audiences.
"Talent pipeline is essential in our industry," mentioned Ben Evans, Festival Director. With London's creative economy leading the way and the UK's creative industry flourishing 1.5 times faster than the broader economy, contributing £108 billion in GVA annually, the Festival provides a pivotal platform for designers and creative businesses to showcase their work across the capital, attracting millions of visitors and inspiring the next generation. Here’s what to look out for.
Honouring Sir Christopher Wren's Legacy - Wren 300
In honour of the 300th anniversary of Sir Christopher Wren's passing, the festival will explore the legacy of this remarkable architect and polymath through a contemporary lens. Supported by Bloomberg Philanthropies for the Wren 300 celebrations, two Landmark Projects will work with designers to offer fresh perspectives on Wren's architectural masterpieces.
Spanish artist Pablo Valbuena will bring his contextual installation Aura to St Paul's Cathedral as part of London Design Festival’s collaboration with Artichoke. Exploring a modern interpretation of a temple, the installation delves into the transformative power of time, sound, and light, creating contemporary rituals. Aura, a live installation, will translate the cathedral's sounds into a mesmerising line of pulsating light, integrated into the architectural magnificence of Sir Christopher Wren's masterpiece.
Studio Waldemeyer's enchanting light installation, Halo, will await St. Stephen Walbrook Church visitors. With a conical pendulum gracefully tracing a celestial path around Henry Moore's renowned altar, the installation evokes the majestic movements of planets, creating an ethereal Halo. Inspired by the aurora borealis, slow colour transitions on the grand dome enhance the meditative ambience. Halo transcends religious boundaries; Waldemeyer “invites people to sit and meditate,” escaping the bustling streets of London to a “space of calm”.
Simone Brewster and Amorim unite for the festival commission to present Spirit of Place on The Strand, featuring a monumental installation of five large-scale sculptural vessels. Brewster says the name was inspired by the architectural term “Genius loci”, “the essence or uniqueness of a place." Representing Amorim's cork forest at Herdade de Rio Frio, Portugal, these objects, measuring up to 2.5m, symbolise the forest's secured future based on four key traits. Brewster will translate each characteristic into a visual equivalent for an experiential centrepiece in London. “I want people to be able to touch them, walk around them, (indulge in) a sensory activity and joyful experience,” says Brewster.
Exploring emotions and urban environments
Inspired by Buddhist principles, the Rubin Museum's Mandala Lab in Canary Wharf will be an interactive space exploring challenging emotions and wisdom's transformative power. Through five thought-provoking and playful experiences, a freestanding structure will guide visitors on an inner journey focused on greater awareness of self and welcome interaction with others. The installation will stay open until December 2023.
Renowned artist Morag Myerscough collaborates with LDF's automotive partner, MINI, to reveal an immersive installation at Shoreditch Electric Light Station. This dynamic expedition into the future that Myerscough refers to as her dream project offers a glimpse of MINI's visionary approach, blending tradition and technology to foster greener and more vibrant urban spaces. We can expect Myerscough's innovative use of colour, layering, spatial utilisation and captivating designs to harmonise with MINI's dedication to enriching urban city life.
Transformative installations at the V&A Museum
This year's V&A Museum projects delve into the global power of design to bind communities, revealing untold stories and reshaping our relationship with materials. Part Exchange by Andu Masebo, the V&A Emerging Designer Commission brings new life to a forensic study of a scrapped car and making new objects from it, a daybed, chairs and domestic furnishings inspired by the lives it touched over 25 years.
Collaborating with The Gifu Prefecture and Hayatsu Architects, the V&A presents Hana Mikoshi, or 'flower shrine,' a sculptural seating installation adorned with 50,000 sakura-inspired washi paper flowers.
But She Still Wears Kohl and Smells like Roses by Dima Srouji reframes the history of glass in Greater Syria and Palestine, showcasing replicas of glassware with 'tomb cards' narrating their often-violent histories.
Unstruck Melody, a collaboration between Nirbhai Singh Sidhu and Without Shape Without Form, explores the impact of contemporary Sikh teachings on design through tapestry, sculpture, and film.
Maya: The Birth of a Superhero by Poulomi Basu & CJ Clarke is an immersive virtual reality experience following Maya's transformation into a superhero powered by menstruation, inspired by Basu's impactful art project Blood Speaks addressing menstrual exile and violence in South Asia.
Global Design Forum
Global Design Forum will return to the V&A, hosting five days of engaging programming. This year's esteemed partners include SAP, Pearlfisher, Istituto Europeo di Design, and UAL will be tackling some of the most pressing and exhilarating challenges designers face today.
Covering all corners, the Design Districts are a vital aspect of the Festival's fabric. According to Evans, "The best experience is discovery. If we can get visitors to find new stuff, that's why the districts are so important.” This year's 13 Design Districts include Dalston to Stokey, Battersea, Chelsea, Fitzrovia, Bankside, Brompton, Greenwich Peninsula, Islington, Kings Cross, Mayfair, Park Royal, Shoreditch, and Southwark. Each district boasts a unique personality, reflecting the local community and offering visitors the chance to explore nearby events within walking distance.
London Design Fair
London Design Fair makes its highly-awaited comeback from September 21 to 24. As the festival's largest commercial exhibition, this showcase at Truman Brewery, Shoreditch, presents cutting-edge designs, brands, international pavilions, and makers. Visitors can explore talks, workshops, new designs, installations, and trends.
Material Matters returns to Bargehouse, Oxo Tower Wharf, in the Bankside Design District, from September 20 to 23, following its successful debut. This fair highlights the importance of materials in shaping our lives, featuring leading brands, designers, and makers. Headline Sponsor Bert Frank and Milan-based platform Isola lead the exciting lineup.
Graphic Identity 2023, by Pentagram
Pentagram has crafted London Design Festival's graphic identity since 2007. Domenic Lippa, a Partner at Pentagram, spearheads the branding and design, this year drawing inspiration from cinema's captivating world to create a dramatic and immersive experience.
The London Design Festival's 21st edition promises to dazzle the city with groundbreaking ideas and creative concepts, emphasising the vital role of design and creative exploration in the heart of London. With so much to see, major installations, museum exhibits, Design Districts showcasing creative clusters across London, Design Fairs, and the Global Design Forum to look forward to, thankfully, we will have nine days to explore in September.
London Design Festival is back! In its 21st edition, the faceted fair adorns London with installations, exhibitions, and talks from major design districts including Shoreditch Design Triangle, Greenwich Peninsula, Brompton, Design London, Clerkenwell Design Trail, Mayfair, Bankside, King's Cross, and more. Click here to explore STIR’s highlights from the London Design Festival 2023.