Drawing in some of the country’s greatest creatives, the London Design Festival annually showcases the UK’s buzzing design community. Through the month of September, it has grown to become one of the largest festivals of its kind in Europe. As a designer, it is certainly not one to miss and is a must for your yearly calendar. There is always something for everyone it will never fail to surprise you. In this blog post, I’m going to list just a few of my personal favourite highlights from the 2018 London Design Festival.
One of my favourite highlights of this year’s Design Junction has to be Steuart Padwick’s ‘Head Above Water’. Standing an incredible nine metres high, the structure was placed on London’s south bank, overlooking the whole river. The giant head sculpture was created in order of mental health awareness. Purposefully created to be ethnic, age and gender neutral, it was designed to spark and engage a debate about society’s views on mental health. The structure was also an interactive exhibit, as visitors were asked to express their own emotions and feelings via Twitter, using the hashtag #HeadAboveWater. This engagement was fed to the installation, allowing it to change colour depending on the information visitors were feeding it. A huge talking point of the whole festival!
Another exciting interactive experience of the London Design Festival could be found outside the V&A, in the Sackler Courtyard. The striking ‘MultiPly’ installation was a collaborative affair between the American Harwood Export Council, Waugh Thistleton Architects and ARUP. Designed to challenge how we view sustainable building materials, as well as the idea of modular building systems. The installation confronted two of our society’s biggest problems – coping with the ever-growing need for housing and how to do this in an environmentally friendly fashion. Built from large panels of American Tulipwood, the multi-storey structure could be explored through a series of interconnected spaces, accessed via bridges and staircases.
Over at Trafalgar Square, ‘Please Feed the Lions’ by Es Devlin was entertaining Londoners, visitors to the London Design Festival and tourists to the capital. The installation was created to complement the current feline inhabitants of Trafalgar Square. Although Edwin Landseer wanted the lions of Trafalgar to be much more aggressive, Queen Victoria found this too shocking for public display, thus they were made to look much more passive. Devlin wanted to expand on this and explore Landseer’s original idea for the sculptures, but for a modern and poetic audience. Devlin’s bright red cat enabled members of the public to feed the lion lines of poetry. The fluorescent feline would then display this through its mouth during the day through, while at night it would illuminate the side of Nelson’s column. Landseer would’ve likely been highly amused to see this, given his own wish to also animate his original lions!
My final highlight of the festival was found at the newly opened Design Museum. Under the minimalist ceiling of John Pawson’s cathedral of design, there floated a giant, helium-filled balloon, created by Loop pH. This so-called Airship was centred in the atrium, this peculiar object was there to test out our mind controlling abilities. Or in more scientific words, our brainwaves. The installation included the use of an interactive VR headset, during which the wearer is sending electrical impulses from our brain waves, and this moves the object! The idea is to challenge our perception of what the future for humanity might look like. The use of our physical abilities could develop into more than we could ever imagine, even the movement of technology.
The London Design Festival 2018 was truly a spectacle and there were so many more displays I could tell you about. Hopefully, I’ve wet the appetite of those who couldn’t attend! Which installation was your favourite?
Written by Stephen Matthewman-Knowles, National Design Academy Tutor.