It’s September, which in the U.K. means it’s time for the London Design Festival (LDF). Now in its 17th year, there is once again a feast of shows, talks, walks, exhibitions, and installations to gorge upon. The Architect’s Newspaper has surveyed what’s on view firsthand and rounded up what to catch this year.
Sea Things, Sam Jacob Studio
As always, the LDF is heavily connected to the Victoria & Albert Museum (V&A). At the museum’s entrance, visitors can find a 13-foot-on-each-side glass cube hanging from the ceiling. Stand underneath it and look up, and you will find pieces of plastic floating by as if being carried by a current through space. It’s only a film, but the mirrored edges of the cube create the impression of it being limitless through a simple, yet effective, trick. Titled Sea Things, the work from Sam Jacob Studio aims to raise awareness of plastic in our oceans. “The V&A is full of things and our relationship to things,” Jacob told AN, who cited a hand-drawn pattern of sea creatures by the Eames’s (in the V&A collection) as part of his inspiration. That pattern was drawn at a time when there was tangible hope of saving our oceans from pollution. Jacob’s installation omits such optimism: by 2050, if current pollution levels remain on track, the world’s oceans will be 50 percent plastic and 50 percent marine life, the end of his studio’s film predicts.
Black Masking Culture, Big Chief Demond Melancon with Assemble
A surprise hit at the V&A comes from the New Orleans-based artist and educator, Big Chief Demond Melancon of the Young Seminole Hunters. Working with London studio Assemble, two of Melancon’s giant, full-body Mardi Gras Indian suits (I can’t imagine how hot they must get) have been installed. The suits have been hand-sewn; fitting then, that they have been placed in the V&A’s Tapestries Gallery. They are truly a sight to behold: joyously flamboyant, bursting with life, ornate and infinitely intricate, they are works of art in their own right. A fascinating film tracing the making of the suits in the run-up to Mardi Gras accompanies the suits and it’s well worth a watch.
More LDF at the V&A
Many other installations part of LDF can be found at the V&A too. Studiomama has designed a wooden postbox, for example, and Korean artist Do Ho Suh has had his forensic video survey of Robin Hood Gardens displayed via a 100-foot-wide projection. For Smithson buffs, the model of the ill-fated housing estate made for the 1970 film, The Smithsons on Housing, is also on display.
Paddington Pyramid, Adam Nathaniel Furman
Beyond the V&A more color abounds, as LDF has always featured in recent years. Welcome returners to the fray Adam Nathaniel Furman and Camille Walala have once again done a marvelous job sprucing up the vicinities they’ve occupied. In Paddington, Furman has erected a fluttering pyramid next to where he was born, drawing on the towering, ephemeral structures that populate fairs and festivals.
Walala Lound, Camille Walala
Furman’s 2017 project, Gateways, was supposedly the most photographed LDF installation ever, however, this year, Camille Walala appears to be giving him a run for his money. Wander down South Molton Street just a stone’s throw away and you’ll find a host of street furniture: planters, benches, and bunting all emphatically stamped with Walala’s hallmark, vibrant geometric style, all being snapped and papped by hashtag-happy passersby.
Please Be Seated, Paul Cocksedge
There are more moments to sit at this year’s LDF, too. London designer Paul Cocksedge has designed an undulating trio of concentric timber circles in Broadgate, East London. Aptly named Please Be Seated, the work reuses scaffolding planks to create a sculpture that acts as both a pedestrian thoroughfare and place of rest. “There’s a motorway of people [around here],” Cocksedge told AN. “I looked at where people were going to and from, the arches are oriented in the general direction of that flow, so it works for everyone.” So far, Please Be Seated has been an instant success, with LDF-ers and bankers working nearby making the most of it. “It’s nice to see people using something in the way that it’s meant to,” added Cocksedge.
Life Labyrinth, PATTERNITY
Sticking to the same theme, Life Labyrinth, riffs on Daniel Buren’s Les Deux Plateaux (The Two Levels) in Paris. London studio PATTERNITY‘s black-and white seating arrangement, mini-maze, and garden is a welcome addition to the entrance of Westminster Cathedral where visitors can rest and children can play with the garden bells and labyrinth itself. Buren’s work has been a hit since 1986 and, while being somewhat paired down, Life Labyrinth looks to emulate that success, if only for a week.
Day of Design
22 September, 11 a.m. – 5 p.m.
To mark the end of LDF 2019 there will be a “Day of Design” along Exhibition Road. Closed off to cars for the day, the V&A, alongside the Natural History Museum, Science Museum, Imperial College, and the Royal College of Art will fill the street with installations and events centered around solutions to climate change. Don’t miss out on the Plastic Pavilion from London designer Seyi Adelekun. The parametric structure is comprised of string, steel mesh and 1,600 plastic bottles—some of which, according to Adelekun, were collected by “raiding neighbors bins.” Adelekun told AN she hopes to raise awareness about single-use plastics and how to use them in construction.