London Design Festival is back for its 16th edition between 15 and 23 September. Launched in 2003 by the visionary Sir John Sorrell and Ben Evans, the biggest event in the city’s design calendar will bring nine days of more than 400 events, interactive installations, meetings, product and collab launches, workshops, debates and demos.
The festival is expecting to be break its own record for visitor numbers, with more than the 450,000 from over 75 countries that attended last year set to visit the event. “London and design go hand in hand – design culture is part of our history,” explains festival director Ben Evans. “London Design Festival provides a platform for hundreds of stories to be told, with each one appealing to a rapidly expanding public. It all confirms London’s place as a global design hub.”
This year’s event promises to be a must-not-miss edition. There are more Design Districts, the areas with the highest concentration of goings-on, while the five Design Destinations return: 100% Design, Decorex International, designjunction, Focus/18 and London Design Fair. These trade shows provide visitors with sneak previews of products and trends, showcase emerging talents and help promote networking between companies and designers.
As we were saying, one of the big new features this year is the introduction of a further five Design Districts: Fitzrovia Design District, Marylebone Design District, Regent Street and St James’s Design District, Victoria Connections Design District and West Kensington Design District. These new additions join the existing Bankside Design District, Brompton Design District, Clerkenwell Design Quarter, Mayfair Design District, Pimlico Road Design District and Shoreditch Design Triangle, making a total of 11 Design Districts. Also launching is Paddington Central Design Route, in addition to Brixton Design Trail, Kings Cross Design Route and Mare Street Maker Mile.
If you’re planning a tour of the city’s streets, one installation you can’t afford to miss is “Please feed the lions”. Located in Trafalgar Square, this sculpture of a fluorescent lion roaring at passers-by joins the four other famous lions in the square. The installation has been created by the artist and designer Es Devlin, in collaboration with Google Arts&Culture and The Space.
Another destination to mark on your map is Brompton Design District, where stores of the calibre of B&B Italia, Boffi, Cassina, Kartell, Meridiani, Mint, Molteni, The Conran Shop, Poltrana Frau, Skandium, Smallbone of Devizes, Society Limonata, Sub-Zero and Wolf will throw open their doors to engage with the public with stunning installations, limited-edition products and unique exhibitions.
Another legendary architecture and design area is without doubt Clerkenwell Design Quarter, where Moroso is presenting Mono Mania Mexico by Bethan Laura Wood. This vibrant, colourful installation experiments with the influences and textures of Mexico (South America is one of the British artist’s main creative inspirations).
In the buzzing quarter of Mayfair, Matter of Stuff and Sketch are set to experiment with blown glass and movement, while King’s Cross will be home to 67 hectares of exhibition space featuring innovative companies, architecture, on-trend restaurants and on-the-road events, all taking place among the parks and gardens of the district – with Granary Square as the central hub.
Last but not least, London Design Biennale at Somerset House has a packed schedule running from 4 September. The event brings together installations from all over the world, with over 40 countries – from Italy to Canada via Guatemala – providing entries around the theme of Emotive States.
The Victoria & Albert Museum – which this year celebrates ten years of involvement in London Design Festival as one of its official hubs – is also getting in on the act. “Museums are often seen as guardians of the past, but the schedule of events at the V&A shows our commitment to the future,” explains the V&A’s Senior Curator of Theatre and Performance Victoria Broackes. “This year, we’re experimenting with new technology: sound, digital design and games. We’re linking it to two exhibitions currently running at the V&A – Videogames: Design/Play/Disrupt and The Future Starts Here.”