Preview: London Design Festival 2018

Blueprint rounds up the highlights of what to see at this year’s London Design Festival (15–23 September)

Words by Francesca Perry & Johnny Tucker

Blueprint Architecture Photography Awards & designjunction

Blueprint Magazine will be exhibiting the category winners of the 2018 Blueprint Architecture Photography Awards, sponsored by Atrium, at the Bargehouse as part of designjunction (20–23 September). We are taking over a space in the building right behind the Oxo Tower as designjunction moves to its new location on the South Bank. In a darkened room, the photography itself will be lit by an active lighting system from Atrium, which will work in tandem with a sound installation called Urbanity.

A soundscape of cities and architecture, Urbanity is a collaboration between music producer and DJ Noah Tucker and Blueprint editor Johnny Tucker. The piece brings together sounds from cities around the world as far apart as Chandigarh, India and Moscow, Russia. These are overlaid with the aural footprint of those travelling through, over and under cities, and the thoughts of architects, urbanists, activists et al, on what a city really is.

At designjunction you will be able to vote for the overall amateur and professional winners of the 2018 Blueprint Architecture Photography Awards. Now in its second year, the awards celebrate photography that uses architecture as its muse. The winners of these two overall awards will be revealed at the party at Atrium on 4 October. Visit us at designjunction to find out how you can get a ticket for the party and also have a chance of winning £500 to spend on great design-led lighting at Atrium.

The winning Architecture and Light professional image at the 2017 Blueprint Architecture Photography Awards, taken by Simon KennedyThe winning Architecture and Light professional image at the 2017 Blueprint Architecture Photography Awards, taken by Simon Kennedy

And there are a number of other exciting things happening at designjunction this year. In the room next to us in the Bargehouse will be a celebration of the power of good design by furniture manufacturer Vitra through insights into the company’s product development processes and the story behind some of its more famous pieces. Watch manufacturer Rado will also be showcasing products by the 10 Rado Star Prize UK finalists, from lighting to ceramics that explore the user’s awareness of where they spend their time.

As well as the 25 existing designer-maker shops in the Oxo Tower in front of the Bargehouse, the Riverside Walkway — packed with a series of outdoor installations — will link visitors through to the Doon Street site housing 200 international design brands and premium pop-up shops in a purpose-built superstructure.

The Walkway was still being finalised as we went to press, but will include Mud Shell (see main picture) — an innovative housing project marrying ancient earth-architecture techniques with the latest drone-spraying technology. The project is led by architect Stephanie Chaltiel, who has a track record of working with Bernard Tschumi, OMA and Zaha Hadid Architects and now runs her own practice using digital crafts for furniture manufacturing, as well as teaching in various international universities. Mud Shell is a simple and durable housing system that can be customised depending on the location. Chaltiel has developed a digital tool that can be piloted or programmed to ‘drone spray’ natural materials over a light prefabricated framework until it forms an inhabitable structure.

V&A Museum

The Arvo Pärt X Arup installation will be in the V&A’s Norfolk House Music Room, designed in the 18th century for the Duke of Norfolk

Arvo Pärt X Arup: Memory & Light (Presented by Harman Kardon)
Norfolk House Music Room, V&A Museum 15–23 September

Blueprint is the media partner for another music and architecture (and design) installation during LDF, this time at the V&A, inspired by modern composer Arvo Pärt, in the Norfolk House Music Room within the museum. Estonia-born Pärt is the most performed contemporary composer in the world, whose life and music represent a drive for freedom and invention, against the odds. This installation — a rare collaboration — is inspired by Pärt’s proclamation: ‘I could compare my music to white light, which contains all colours. Only a prism can divide the colours and make them appear; this prism could be the spirit of the listener.’

Curated by Clare Farrow, in collaboration with Arup specialists Stephen Philips (product design), Ned Crowe (acoustic design) and Ed Elbourne (venue design), this multisensory installation brings Pärt’s words to life. A transparent curved screen made from Perspex* acrylic from its Vario collection represents the prism, fabricated by Talbot Designs, alongside a viewing and listening bench upholstered in Poltrona Frau leather, where visitors can sit and experience the composer’s words and music — Spiegel im Spiegel, Für Alina, Silentium and Da pacem Domine — played through Harman Kardon speakers. The installation is also supported by Estonia 100 and Hiscox.

Waugh Thistleton Architects’ MultiPly installation in the Sackler Courtyard at the V&A. Image Credit:Forbes MassieWaugh Thistleton Architects’ MultiPly installation in the Sackler Courtyard at the V&A. Image Credit: Forbes Massie

Elsewhere at the V&A is one of the festival’s Landmark projects: Waugh Thistleton Architects’ MultiPly, again in collaboration with Arup, and also American Hardwood (always one of the festival’s big sponsors, previously helping to create The Smile by Alison Brooks Architects, Endless Stair by dRMM and Timber Wave by Amanda Levete). It will be ‘an interactive, modular, maze-like installation’ in AL_A’s new Sackler Courtyard. Look out also for Henrik Vibskov’s The Onion Farm in the Tapestry Gallery.

Other highlights

Mind-Pilot by Loop.pH, Design Museum, West Kensington Design District, 15–23 September

Mind-Pilot by Loop.pH Design Museum, West Kensington Design District, 15–23 September

In the Design Museum atrium, spatial laboratory Loop.pH will create a ‘mind-powered airship’. The immersive, interactive installation — which aims to explore a sense of belonging in new technological realities — allows participants to pilot a helium-filled, textile airship with only the power of their mind. Connected via headset to a series of personal monitoring devices with whole brain EEG sensing and heart rate, the (static) pilot uses their mental and physical state to control the movement of the lightweight airship, which will be able to fly in multiple directions within a tethered framework. Mind Pilot imagines an inclusive future where people with varying physical abilities can use technology such as mind power to experience and operate flight. Based in London and founded by Mathias Gmachl and Rachel Wingfield, Loop.pH harnesses the architecture of air and light to create experiential environments aimed at radically rethinking the future.

Totomoxtle by Fernando Laposse, 199 Brompton Road, Brompton Design District, 15–23 September

Totomoxtle by Fernando Laposse, 199 Brompton Road, Brompton Design District, 15–23 September

London-based Mexican designer Fernando Laposse uses waste or perishable materials to create craft-led designs. Central to his Totomoxtle project, on show is a new veneer material for interior surfaces and furniture made from the husks of native Mexican corn. The husks, in a range of naturally occurring hues, are flattened and glued, then laser cut to make marquetry. The results are surprisingly sumptuous. What’s more, the project raises awareness about the rapid loss of the original species of corn due to modern practices in food production. Totomoxtle is created in partnership with indigenous Mexican farmers who have suffered from the introduction of genetically modified corn and the standardisation of vegetables for supermarket consumption. Laposse’s project creates local employment based on this new craft, but also regenerates traditional farming practices in Mexico. Elsewhere at LDF, the designer is using a raw material made from Mexican agave plants to create a playful installation called Sisal Sanctum outside citizenM Hotel in Shoreditch Design Triangle, where he will also lead craft workshops.

Mexico Design Time, 192 Piccadilly, Regent Street and St James’s Design District, 15–23 September

Mexico Design Time 192 Piccadilly, Regent Street and St James’s Design District, 15–23 September

Mexico City is currently an official World Design Capital, so it’s an apposite time to bring some of the city’s — and the wider country’s — best and brightest talent to London for even greater exposure. Curated by Marion Friedmann, a host of great work from 20 designers and craftspeople is being promised, in particular the Obsidian Project, which looks incredible. It’s an artisan community development project in collaboration with Anahuac University and the State of Hidalgo, using rough, black volcanic glass as its raw material to create finely honed, functional products.

ANYΠAKOH (Disobedience) by Studio INI, London Design Biennale, Somerset House, 4–23 September

ANY?AKOH (Disobedience) by Studio INI London Design Biennale, Somerset House, 3–23 September

This year’s central courtyard exhibit at the London Design Biennale comes from London- and Athens-based experimental design practice Studio INI. Representing the biennale’s Greek Pavilion and responding to the event’s theme of Emotional States, the kinetic installation — entitled ANYΠAKOH (Disobedience) — comprises a 17m-long immersive tunnel, envisaged as an inhabited wall, made of a steel spring skeleton built up with recycled plastic. The structure moves and responds to the human body as visitors enter and walk through on an undulating walkway. The installation encourages visitors to imagine a world in which buildings and walkways morph and adapt in response to human desire. Nassia Inglessis, director of Studio INI, calls this technique ‘augmented materiality’ or ‘AM’, using digital tools and computation to apply technologies and ideas derived from digital design to the physical, material world.

Space Gap by Unknown Works and Hildrey Studio, West Kensington Design District, 19–22 September

Space Gap by Unknown Works and Hildrey Studio West Kensington Design District, 19–22 September

Located in front of Olympia, the Space Gap pavilion aims to explore the disparity of space allocation in London through a programme of events during LDF. Issues from homelessness to ghost mansions are tackled through immersive installations, film screenings, performances, talks, debates and in the pavilion design itself. The pavilion, designed by Unknown Works and Hildrey Studio, provides a forum to investigate the spatial manifestation of urban inequality — the gap between those with space and those without it. The design of the pavilion expresses these ideas: an open forum space is set beneath a three-dimensional ‘volume diagram’ that makes visible the disparity in size and scale between the largest and smallest of domestic spaces in London, from empty mansions to overcrowded bedsits. The hosted conversations also hope to examine the role of the designer, developer and local authority in the development and distribution of homes fit for occupation in London and further afield.

Biodesign Here Now by Open Cell, Shepherd’s Bush Market, 15–23 September

Biodesign Here Now by Open Cell Shepherd’s Bush Market, 15–23 September

Eco-friendly chipboard made from chips (potato ones), kits to see if your food has been genetically modified, bio-digital games using mould and bacteria, and a brain-controlled interface for sperm are a few of the intriguing products being showcased at Biodesign Here Now. A taste (perhaps not the right word to use in the circumstances) of biodesign, the future of materials, manufacturing, architecture and fashion is being offered by Open Cell, which features 70 experimental studios in shipping containers in Shepherd’s Bush, including the first open-access bio-lab and biomaterial-lab in the capital. ‘Projects that break the boundaries between biology, design and technology’ are being promised — and if the above short selection is anything to go by then it should be fascinating.

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