Innovation Triumphs At The London Design Festival 2011

By Tristan Parker

It’s difficult to know where to begin in an overview of the ninth annual London Design Festival, such was the range of work exhibited at various venues throughout the capital.

It proved a fascinating and hugely varied event – spread over nine days – more than reflecting both the vast spectrum of ideas encompassed in the concept of design and the huge influence that design has on so many aspects of our lives.

The festival explored areas as diverse as fashion, architecture, furniture, graphic design, craft, lighting and fabrics, with more than 280 events across nine days. Some of the many highlights included a Lego Greenhouse, a short films screening, an eco-friendly fashion exhibition/shop featuring recycled jewellery and clothing, and an installation and performance space constructed from a vast red dress.

As well as the categories above (and many more), the festival also showcased a number of ‘Landmark Projects’ – innovative one-off pieces created by renowned designers and architects invited by the festival to experiment with their work.

The results included ‘Timber Wave’ (a giant, intricate cascading oak spiral placed grandly outside the main entrance of the V&A Museum) created by architecture firm AL_A and engineering company Arup, and ‘Textile Field’ by Ronan and Erwan Bouroullec – a huge and colourful foam and textile installation that covered much of the floor of the V&A’s Raphael Court – allowing visitors to lounge comfortably and view the timeless Raphael Cartoons in an unusually informal and relaxed way.

Festival Director Ben Evans shed some light on the ethos of such a wide-ranging festival: “It was set up to promote London as the design capital of the world and to celebrate the wealth of creative talent based here. The magnetic effect of creative London is key to sustaining our reputation as the global leader.”

A key aspect of the festival is the major projects it commissions in public buildings, including the ‘Landmark Projects’ mentioned above. “These might focus on particular materials or a new approach to fabrication”, says Evans. “This year we have invited the architect David Chipperfield to install a piece made almost entirely out of glass outside the Royal Festival Hall. The glass contains a fine mesh made by Sefer that creates different shadows in the light.”

Although works were displayed at venues and public buildings around London, the famous V&A Museum (itself strongly affiliated with the history and art of design) played host to the bulk of the festival’s content and acted as a base for the event. “The V&A is the hub of the Festival,” explained Evans, “a natural home for an event which celebrates the best of design.”