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A Preview of London Design Festival 2013

Autumn ushers in the annual London Design Festival. Lynda Relph-Knight looks forward to a cornucopia of shows and events

Why settle for a trade show when an international festival has more panache? This has long been the thinking in Milan,which buzzes with events extending way beyond furniture for the duration of the fair. For many visitors, this ‘fringe’ is now the main attraction, pushing creative boundaries in a way a trade show rarely can.

So, we are told, it will be in London in September when the London Design Festival celebrates its 10th year. Though established trade show 100% Design falls under the LDF umbrella, along with its grungier East London rival Tent London, there will be much more to titillate design fans.

Its continuing partnership with the LDF makes the Victoria & Albert Museum the main hub. But the Southbank Centre is also worth a look, with Designersblock introducing emerging talents there and Swedish, Mexican and Indian design on display. Meanwhile, showrooms and galleries from Aram Store to Gallery Libby Sellers will showcase design ‘names’ and empty properties across the capital will host pop-ups. Even mainstream retailer Heal’s is taking part.

Taking its cue from the London Festival of Architecture, the LDF is again organised across districts: Chelsea Design Quarter; Clerkenwell Design Quarter; Shoreditch Design Triangle; Fitzrovia Now; and Brompton Design District.

But while we are promised more graphics and digital design this year, the LDF’s focus remains mainly 3D design. It crosses design disciplines, though arguably still offers more to architects, product and interior designers.

Alex de Rijke of dRMM Architects designed this Esher-like Endless Stair, which will be outside the Tate Modern until 10th October

Alex de Rijke of dRMM Architects designed this Esher-like Endless Stair, which will be outside the Tate Modern until 10th October

Inevitably, there will be showstoppers. The Endless Stair, for example, designed by Alex de Rijke of dRMM Architects and Arup for the American Hardwood Export Council, will feature outside Tate Modern in Bankside. And Canadian manufacturer Bocci will stage a light installation designed by Omer Arbel in the V&A atrium.

Names popping up across town include industrial designer Benjamin Hubert, who looks set to be this year’s man, appearing at Aram and 100% Design where he designed the auditorium. Meanwhile, architect Nigel Coates has glassware at Handblown and architectural drawings at Exploded in the White Post Gallery at his South Kensington studio. Newer talents could be unearthed through the Conran Shop’s quest with online retailer Fab to select prototypes from external designers.

There will be making, too, from handcrafting to rapid prototyping. And there will be debate. The Global Design Forum, brainchild of LDF founder John Sorrell, is scheduled for the Royal Festival Hall on 17 September with Thomas Heatherwick, Daniel Charny et al. Shows like 100% Design and Tent will meanwhile also host seminars.

Spiral Light by Sharon Marston

Spiral Light by Sharon Marston

But if you’re pressed for time and want a full sample visit Designjunction. Based centrally, this new-style event promises some 150 top-flight brands from Allermuir to Zanotta. It is setting up a lighting section with Cameron Peters, and will stage talks and debates throughout its four-day run.

A final tip? Save the de Rijke Escher-esque stair till after the festival. It will be there until 10 October, making it one less thing to cram into an over-packed week.


Venue: Various locations across London
Dates: 14th-22nd September


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