Array ( )
Exhibitions

London Design Festival 2019

From sculpted insect shelters to exuberant street furniture, The Design Edit brings you the highlights.

14th – 22nd September 2019

By Emma Crichton-Miller / 25th September 2019

Always an amorphous but thrilling affair, the London Design Festival (LDF)opened with customary pizzazz on 14th September. It would be insane to assume anyone could attend even a fraction of the 400+ events, exhibitions and installations organised throughout the city’s 11 design districts – from Kensington in the west, to the Shoreditch Design Triangle in the east. We have saved you a little trouble by capturing five unmissable highlights, for you to savour at your leisure.

Marlène Huissoud, ‘Please Stand By’, 2019 at the Brompton Biotopia, London Design Festival COURTESY: Brompton Design District / PHOTOGRAPH: Amandine Alessandra

Marlène Huissoud, ‘Please Stand By’, 2019 at the Brompton Biotopia, London Design Festival
COURTESY: Brompton Design District / PHOTOGRAPH: Amandine Alessandra

Along the railings of Thurloe Square Gardens, opposite the V&A, Orange LDF circles alerted visitors to the installation of French experimental designer, Marlène Huissoud. Renowned for her impressive dark furniture (cabinets and tables) made for humans from biodegradable insect materials such as the propolis of bees, here, amongst the bushes, she installed five pieces of white sculpture made not for humans, but for insects.

Marlène Huissoud, ‘Please Stand By’, 2019 at the Brompton Biotopia, London Design Festival COURTESY: Brompton Design District / PHOTOGRAPH: Studio Stagg

Marlène Huissoud, ‘Please Stand By’, 2019 at the Brompton Biotopia, London Design Festival
COURTESY: Brompton Design District / PHOTOGRAPH: Studio Stagg

The sculptures are built from wooden matrices on which balls of clay have been moulded into vigorous sculptures, then pierced with holes to create habitats for spiders, pollinating insects and other creepy crawlies. They have been left unglazed, as “primitive” as possible, to attract the insects, the holes lined with black, and the whole covered in a natural binder to protect them from the weather.

Marlène Huissoud, ‘Please Stand By’, 2019, work in progress COURTESY: Brompton Design District

Marlène Huissoud, ‘Please Stand By’, 2019, work in progress
COURTESY: Brompton Design District

‘Please Stand By’ also includes a chair – Huissoud’s first – here strictly out of bounds for humans. There was something spooky about these alien forms with their dark black eyes, peeking out from between the leaves and shadows. One Huissoud has even titled, ‘The Grave’.

Marlène Huissoud introduces her ‘Please Stand By’ sculptures at the Brompton Biotopia
VIDEOGRAPHY: Joseph and Michael Doran

This installation was part of the Brompton Biotopia, conceived by curator Jane Withers as a challenge to designers to think about city living from the point of view of its most vulnerable inhabitants. Also under the broad theme of Nature/Nurture, another Brompton Design District highlight was ‘Masters of Disguise’, a pop up show in SEE..DS gallery curated by M-L-XL Studio.

Installation view, ‘Masters of Disguise’ COURTESY: SEE..DS

Installation view, ‘Masters of Disguise’
COURTESY: SEE..DS

A crowd of artists and designers – Martino Gamper, James Shaw, Jochen Holz, Nathalie du Pasquier, Rio Kobayashi, Soft Baroque and Studio Furthermore among many others – were invited to create masks reflecting their own human nature.

Soft Baroque, ‘Pillow Master’, 2019 COURTESY: SEE..DS

Soft Baroque, ‘Pillow Master’, 2019
COURTESY: SEE..DS

These fierce, poignant, witty and ingenious masks were displayed alongside their owners’ objects and furniture, equally public expressions of private identities.

Rio Kobayashi, ‘Kaijyu Mask’, 2019 COURTESY: SEE..DS

Rio Kobayashi, ‘Kaijyu Mask’, 2019
COURTESY: SEE..DS

Mayfair too was en fête. FUMI Gallery opened its show, ‘Urushi Wajima’ (until 26th October), of works by Max Lamb created in collaboration with the highly skilled lacquer craftsmen and women of Wajima, Japan. The contrast behind Lamb’s rough-hewn pieces and the exquisite refinement of their multilayered gleaming surfaces is exhilarating.

Max Lamb, ‘Wajima-nuri Table’, 2019; ‘Urushi Cabinet’, 2019; ‘Urushi Wall Shelf’, 2019 COURTESY: Gallery FUMI / PHOTOGRAPH: Kate Anglestein

Max Lamb, ‘Wajima-nuri Table’, 2019; ‘Urushi Cabinet’, 2019; ‘Urushi Wall Shelf’, 2019
COURTESY: Gallery FUMI / PHOTOGRAPH: Kate Anglestein

Lamb has also created a parallel exhibition downstairs of more traditional works designed by his Japanese collaborators. ‘Urushi Is Not Alone’ emphasises that Urushi is a communal affair, involving more than 23 artisans in the creation of every piece.

Valerio Capo introducing Max Lamb’s new exhibition, ‘Urushi Wajima’ / VIDEOGRAPHY: Joseph and Michael Doran
Holding image: COURTESY: Gallery FUMI / PHOTOGRAPH: Kate Anglestein

Further north, the exuberant French designer Camille Walala has transformed South Molton Street into a multicoloured open air living room. On the sunny Saturday we visited whole crowds of people looked ready to move in.

Camille Walala introducing ‘Walala Lounge’, 2019 on South Molton Street / VIDEOGRAPHY: Joseph and Michael Doran
Holding image: PHOTOGRAPH: Charles Emerson

Two years ago Walala made a splash with her LDF 2017 Landmark Project ‘Villa Walala’ – a playful castle installation constructed from soft vinyl building blocks. This year, commissioned by Grosvenor Britain & Ireland to do something to jazz up this sometimes staid shopping street, she has triumphed.

Camille Walala, ‘Walala Lounge’, 2019 on South Molton Street PHOTOGRAPH: Charles Emerson

Camille Walala, ‘Walala Lounge’, 2019 on South Molton Street
PHOTOGRAPH: Charles Emerson

Adopting a forthright vocabulary of primary coloured geometric shapes, translated on the ground into a variety of boldly configured benches and planters and overhead into a cheerful array of banners, Walala makes even the most sophisticated shopper smile.

Camille Walala, ‘Walala Lounge’, 2019 on South Molton Street PHOTOGRAPH: Charles Emerson

Camille Walala, ‘Walala Lounge’, 2019 on South Molton Street
PHOTOGRAPH: Charles Emerson

Our final top tip is to go inside the V&A, the beating heart of LDF, where, though other displays have been dismantled, you can still find three sculptures by American artist Jedd Novatt. Drawn from his renowned ‘Chaos’ series of works, in welded steel and bronze, these dynamic compositions of geometric forms remind us that design and art are split by a hair. These abstract constructions in time and space – drawings in three dimensions – achieving balance in apparent defiance of gravity, are an audacious marriage of ideas with materials.

Jedd Novatt, ‘Chaos Construcción’, 2011-13 COURTESY: Studio Novatt

Jedd Novatt, ‘Chaos Construcción’, 2011-13
COURTESY: Studio Novatt

London Design Festivalan annual event that would promote the city’s creativity, drawing in the country’s greatest thinkers, practitioners, retailers and educators to a deliver an unmissable celebration of design.

‘Urushi Wajima’ by Max Lamb, is at Gallery FUMI until 26th October.

Camille Walala’s ‘Walala Lounge’ will remain in situ for the next year.

Jedd Novatt’s ‘Chaos Constructions’ are on show at the V&A until 10th November

Article By

Emma Crichton-Miller
Emma Crichton-Miller is Editor-in-Chief of The Design Edit.