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September 25, 2012

It’s been a rather momentous year for London as the city played host to the Olympic Games and celebrated the Queens diamond Jubilee. The mood of positivity and the buzz of excitement that built over the summer spilled over into this last week’s edition of the London Design Festival. Celebrating its own ten-year anniversary, the Festival was bigger than ever with over 250 projects taking place across the city over the course of ten days. Here’s what we saw and loved.

A view from the top: London’s V&A museum opened up its cupola—the space within the building’s dome. Ordinarily closed off to the public, visitors made their way to the to the top via a winding staircase that is situated just off the ceramics galleries.
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Before reaching the very top, inside the blacked out dome structure, London-based artist Keiichi Matsuda installed Prism, a giant sculpture installation made from paper. Each one of its 47 colorful facets displayed a projected data stream that communicated information about the city outside. Kiichi explained, “I can now understand and read the Prism enough to be able to tell you what the conditions are like outside, it’s probably fairly windy, there are very few Boris bikes available for hire, which would imply that there’s no rain.”
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The view looking down from the cupola. The Prism installation was particularly tricky to install as all of the components and structural elements had to be carried up via the narrow winding staircase or hauled up through this small opening.
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Japanese designers Nendo installed a series of delicate chairs made of fine wire mesh and angular white frames. Called Mimicry, the chairs were presented in multiple locations across the museum, their minimal forms creating a striking contrast with the opulent setting. Oki Sato, head designer of Nendo, explained how the mesh backrests had been carefully hand pressed by craftsmen to create the subtle quilting effect.
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In the John Madejski Gardens outside was an exhibition of nine benches by nine designers, created in collaboration with British design brand Established & Sons. The original plan was to display 10 but Luca Nichetto’s Red Glass bench sadly didn’t survive the trip from Italy. Each designer was assigned a different material to work with. Shown here is the Bench of Plates by architect Amanda Levette’s studio, AL_A.
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Bench of Plates was produced in collaboration with Spanish ceramics producer Ceramica Cumella and the colorful ceramic components were inspired by the V&A’s own ceramic collections.
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British designer Alexander Taylor’s mirror-polished stainless-steel creation was inspired by felled woodland logs and produced in collaboration with steel engineer Caparo.
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British designer Jay Osgerby of Barber Osgerby stands next to his Western Façade bench. The duo ran vertical and horizontal holes through a block of marble in reference to the shrapnel damage on the V&A’s Exhibition Road façade caused by the WWII Blitz.
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This chair was part of an exhibition by The American Hardwood Export Council, British furniture brand Benchmark and the Royal College of Art. RCA students were asked to design a chair using the American Hardwood that explores the entire lifecycle of the product. Marjan van Aubel and James Shaw found a way of incorporating waste shavings into their design by mixing them with bio-resin. When combined together with colored dye, the shavings and the resin formed a strong but lightweight foam which they molded into a chair.
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Over on the other side of town, 100% Norway exhibited a strong collection of new and old Norweigian design. 2012 marks their ninth year at LDF and their first time in the Dray Walk Gallery space in East London. Our favorite piece was the Hunter cabinet, designed by Oscar Narud, who was also responsible for the exhibition’s immaculate layout. Hunter’s bold design references traditional Norwegian timber-frame architecture.
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There was also a brilliant selection of smaller galleries and in-store events to see in London’s east end. British designer Lee Broom showcased a very atmospheric installation of his new Crystal bulbs in his Shoreditch studio. Cut in Dartford, England, the crystal bulbs were a response to requests from customers who asked that Broom design a smaller more accessible object that they could carry home. The ornate bulbs have been so successful that Broom is currently working on a table version to launch later this year.
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Just around the corner, design store SCP showcased a range of interesting brands as part of their Design Department store. We particularly liked the sculptural display of reissued, mid-century vases by Italian ceramics brand Bitossi.
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London concept store Darkroom set up a striking selection of products inspired by their interest in the culture and craft of the South African Ndebele tribe. Working in collaboration with London-based designer Camille Walala, the store created a collection of distinctive, tribal-inspired prints that adorn stationery, ceramics, and textiles.
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Those who knew where to find the unassuming entrance to British designer Jasper Morrison’s shop were treated to a lovely little exhibition of tape. Members of the studio assembled an enormous and colorful variety of sticky tape collected from all over the world. The motive behind the exhibition was explained as: “For the purpose of examining the extreme variations and seductive nature of an object type with which we are all familiar.”
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This year’s undisputed hotspot was Design Junction. Now in its second year, the event moved into the impressive space at the old Royal Mail Sorting Office in the centre of the city. They also joined forces with the Tramshed, another successful showcase for design, now in its third year. The industrial space provided the perfect backdrop for the event and more than 100 brands were on show across three floors. We loved the America Made Me booth, a celebration of American designers and manufacturers organized by Bernhardt Design; especially these brass and walnut Candlesticks by Lindsey Adelman for MatterMade.
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Also on show at Design Junction was a collection of glassware designed by students of the Luxury Industry and Design course at Switzerland’s prestigious ECAL academy. The pieces were produced by Baccarat and the show was curated by London-based designer Bethan Laura Wood. Shown here are Chevron, Tartan, and Harlequin by Spanish and American designers Ana Varela and David Luraschi.
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One to watch is master craftsman and all round wizard of wood John Galvin who exhibited his exquisite collection of furniture and accessories. Working out of a studio in Glasgow, the Irish-born designer creates contemporary pieces with Scandinavian and mid-century influences.
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The Flos showroom in Clerkenwell launched Spanish designer Patricia Urquiola’s Tatou lamp. Tatou, meaning Armadillo in French, is made from four methacrylate sheets that combine to make the perforated, dome-shaped shade.
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Over at London furniture showroom Twentytwentyone, Ronan & Erwan Bouroullec and Pierre Charpin presented a gallery of never-before-seen prints in an exhibition called the Wrong Shop Editions. The drawings, taken from the individual collections of the designers, were available to buy as limited edition prints. Shown above is one of the Bouroullec’s prints, which was on sale for £495 framed.
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At the 100% Design trade show in Earls Court, there was a distinctly more commercial feel. Geared towards architects and designers, this year the show was under new management and was divided up into five very well organized sections. Above, the owner of Japanese-inspired YO! Sushi restaurants and Yotel hotel chain, Simon Woodroffe, presents his latest concept, the YO! Home. Promising to transform the way we live, Woodroofe’s 80-square-meter concept is a multi-functional apartment that features a bathroom, an office, a kitchen, two bedrooms, a dining area, and a living room. Although the décor was questionable, the functionality was certainly impressive.
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We spied these clever lights by French designers Drugeot Labo on the 100% France stand. Made out of a hollowed-out pieces of solid oak, the Elagone lamps are fitted with an ultra thin LED strip light that reflects off the warm wood to create a soft glow from within.
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Finally, in West London’s Brompton Design District we saw a great exhibition called Wonder Cabinets of Europe. Curators Livia Lauber and Maria Jeglinska tasked eight designers with decorating the inside of a cabinet with a recent project of theirs. The cabinets served as mini exhibitions in and of themselves that examined the processes and working practices of each designer. Here is Philippe Malouin’s Functional Shapes cabinet, featuring a new series of objects for the home and office made in black polished and unpolished MDF, alongside his material samples and working models.
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1 London Design Festival
A view from the top: London’s V&A museum opened up its cupola—the space within the building’s dome. Ordinarily closed off to the public, visitors made their way to the to the top via a winding staircase that is situated just off the ceramics galleries.

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