I ventured into London yesterday to see what the London Design Festival, which is being staged from 18 to 26 September at over 200 venues across the capital, had to offer. Despite the typical soggy British weather, I managed to stay mostly dry and see a number of rather interesting events and exhibits.
The Victoria and Albert Museum was my first stop as it’s the hub of the Festival. As well as hosting an extensive programme of seminars and special events, there are also a number of specially commissioned installations specifically for the Festival including Stuart Haygarth’s design which was made using discarded pieces of frame and installed on the grand marble staircase leading up to the architecture galleries.
I then headed over to Brick Lane in East London to have a nose around TENT London, which is in its fourth edition this year and houses over 200 designers in its exhibition space in the Old Truman Brewery. I made a beeline for the micro-show called Lab Craft: Digital Adventures in Contemporary Craft as I had previously interviewed one of the exhibitors – Daniel O’Riordan of Orchard Studio, creator of the Ripple Table – for a recent blog post. The show features 26 projects by designer makers who are all specialising in cutting-edge digital technologies such as rapid prototyping, laser cutting, laser scanning and digital printing.
Then, venturing into the main exhibition area, a stand that immediately caught my attention was Flux with its foldable plastic chairs. On closer inspection and after a chat to the company’s founder, Douwe Jacobs, I discovered that this Swedish company is aiming to bring well-designed foldable furniture to the market. The interesting thing is that each one is made from a single piece of injection-moulded polypropylene that can easily be folded into a strong chair. As Jacobs told me, they developed their idea in paper first and made over 80 prototypes until they found a design they were happy with. “The fault lines are so important to the shape so there was lots of trial and error,” he explains. They start production of their chairs in October and over 15 countries have already been lined up for distribution. The estimated retail cost per chair is £108.00 and, by the number of visitors milling around their stand, I am sure a number of pre-orders have been taken already.
Another product at TENT that caused me to take a second glance when walking by was the Nogg chicken coop. Making its debut at the show, this design stands out from other chicken houses on the market as its rather elegant and quite sculptural. I also think that the fact it’s shaped like an egg and made out of cedar wood with stainless steel trimming makes it rather eye catching. Nogg’s creator, engineer Matthew Hayward, spent a year carefully using his precision engineering and handcrafting skills to ‘hatch’ his design. He designed and built a workshop specifically in which to create it and has also engineered and constructed the machinery required to hold and build it.
Meanwhile, across the city at the 100% Design exhibition at Earl’s Court BMW announced plans to recreate the MINI as an electric scooter and unveiled three MINI Scooter E Concepts (top of page). At the launch Adrian van Hooydonk of BMW said: “As we have produced two-wheeled vehicles for a long time, it was an obvious step to create a scooter. We realised this was a great urban concept because with two wheels you can get further into the city, and park easily.” The scooters certainly look the part and the designers have done a good job of extending the brand as there is a definite MINI design DNA running through them. Features include customisable body panels, dedicated Centre Rail with specific accessories and a snap-in adapter for a smartphone (below) that can be used as a navigation system, music player or telephone as required. As a concept BMW will firstly gauge the public’s reaction to the concepts before announcing any plans as to whether they will go into production. However, I for one quite like it and can certainly picture myself whizzing round the city on one of them.
So, all in all it was a good day in the ‘Big Smoke’ and it was great to see the exhibitions so busy not only with those interested in design but the general public too. Next year I will certainly set aside more than one day to explore more of what the London Design Festival has to offer.