London Design Festival 2019
From sculpted insect shelters to exuberant street furniture, The Design Edit brings you the highlights.
14th – 22nd 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.
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.
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.
‘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’.
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.
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.
These fierce, poignant, witty and ingenious masks were displayed alongside their owners’ objects and furniture, equally public expressions of private identities.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
London Design Festival – an 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.