London Design Festival 2012

At the tenth edition of the LDF, the ever-growing festival saw trends for craft, digital technologies, ethical and environmental concerns, joined by a spreading emphasis on food design.

Now in its tenth year, the London Design Festival (LDF) shows no signs of slowing down with age. It gets bigger each year, with more events, commissions, exhibitions and installations packed into its ten-day programme. Existing formats, such as the 100% Design tradeshow, got a new look, while designjunction , which debuted last year, moved into larger premises, an ex-Sorting Office in central London. Meanwhile, "Landmark Projects" such as Trafalgar Square's BE OPEN Sound Portal enabled the public to glimpse just some of the creativity on which they could feast their eyes, ears and mouths, as trends for craft, digital technologies, ethical and environmental concerns were joined by a spreading emphasis on food this year.

The Festival's expansion ever eastwards continued, with the new London Fields Design District joining a variety of offbeat locations. Highlights included Dominic Wilcox's solo show at KK Outlet and Gallery Fumi's Prostheses and Innesti exhibition of work by Brazilian architect Marcio Kogan and his Studio MK27. Echoing Enzo Mari's interest in the anonymously authored furniture of Italy's workshops, they collected furniture from construction sites and modified these with luxurious artisanal interventions, including Murano glass, Como silk and gold-dipped nails.

Worker chic was also on show at Studio Toogood's canal-side space. Alongside a wall of Faye Toogood's Shaker style Batch furniture collection were utilitarian overcoats, shoes made out of felt blankets and even food for hungry workers in the shape of the M25 Lunch , a collaboration with Italian food designers Arabeschi di Latte . Using ingredients gathered within the motorway that encircles London, this was one of a number of projects showing design's current love affair with food, for both social and sustainable ends.

As with several designers, Arabeschi di Latte popped up in more than one place this year. They had also set up shop in 4 Cromwell Place, the flagship new venue in South Kensington's upmarket Brompton Design District. They were joined by Design Marketo and Haptic Thought's Kopiaste food project as well as several other exhibits that reflected the diversity of this year's Festival, ranging from Peter Marigold's collaboration with cashmere firm Oyuna to Out of Print's examination of digital media.
Top: "Prostheses and Innesti" by architect Marcio Kogan + Studio MK27, Manuela Verga and Paolo Boatti, Gallery Fumi. Photo Petr Krejci. Above: Peter Marigold's installation with Oyuna a 4 Cromwell Place
Top: "Prostheses and Innesti" by architect Marcio Kogan + Studio MK27, Manuela Verga and Paolo Boatti, Gallery Fumi. Photo Petr Krejci. Above: Peter Marigold's installation with Oyuna a 4 Cromwell Place
Temporarily setting up space in a nearby basement was Image for a Title: Placebo Effects in the Cultural Landscape , in which the duo Workshop for Potential Design had commissioned designers including Sam Jacob, Tim Parsons and Jessica Charlesworth to reflect on our perceptions of objects and how we use these to navigate the world around us. Using strategies including readymades and design fictions, this exhibition provided one of this year's most intriguing installations.
"Prostheses and Innesti" by architect Marcio Kogan + Studio MK27, Manuela Verga and Paolo Boatti, Gallery Fumi. Photo Petr Krejci
"Prostheses and Innesti" by architect Marcio Kogan + Studio MK27, Manuela Verga and Paolo Boatti, Gallery Fumi. Photo Petr Krejci
Still in West London, the V&A retained its place as the Festival's hub and it provided several highlights, from Keiichi Matsuda's Prism data-based installation up in the building's cupola, to Rolf Sach's The Journey of a Drop and, on a more historic note, a display of Gio Ponti's work sponsored by Molteni & C. Greeting visitors in the main entrance was one of Nendo's ghostly Mimicry Chairs , one of eleven installed throughout the Museum, the form of each modified according to its surroundings. The Museum's garden was occupied by Established & Son's Bench Years , in which designers including Industrial Facility and Jasper Morrison used the bench form to explore the properties of materials including Corian and ceramics. Material exploration was also the subject of Out of the Woods , a collaboration between the RCA and the American Hardwood Export Council, in which Lauren Davies food-based treatments for her Leftovers chair and James Shaw and Marjan van Aubel's timber waste Well Proven chair were particularly striking.
There is no denying the energy and creativity on show even if, as with every design festival, I felt the need for even more engagement with social issues and non-design audiences. Yet, as the organisers are quick to recognize, commerce is the festival’s beating heart
In the "Out of the Woods" exhibition The American Hardwood Export Council teamed up with the
Royal College of Art to merge design with sustainability. Above: the Well Proven designed by James Shaw & Marjen Van Aubel. Photo Petr Krejci
In the "Out of the Woods" exhibition The American Hardwood Export Council teamed up with the Royal College of Art to merge design with sustainability. Above: the Well Proven designed by James Shaw & Marjen Van Aubel. Photo Petr Krejci
South of the river, a mix of recent graduates and more established names at Digital Crystal: Swarovski at the Design Museum used a variety of technologies to reflect on the concept of memory in the digital age. These were presented alongside the Designers in Residence display, the museum's annual championing of the next generation of practitioners. Finally, central London saw the launch of a new gallery with the pleasingly eclectic 19 Greek Street , while nearby Gallery Libby Sellers celebrated its first birthday with two shows; Hot Tools , an exhibition of ECAL students' glassblowing experiments that demonstrated the ongoing interest in process amongst designers, and in the gallery's rear space, more fruit from Marigold and Oyuna's collaboration.
Studio Toogood: The Back Room
Studio Toogood: The Back Room
This is a glimpse of just some of what was on offer at the LDF, and pinning down this year's overall identity is a challenge. There is no denying the energy and creativity on show even if, as with every design festival, I felt the need for even more engagement with social issues and non-design audiences. Yet, as the organisers are quick to recognize, commerce is the festival's beating heart — and so as an umbrella for experimentation and innovation the LDF remains an essential and welcome event in the design year. Catharine Rossi (@cat_rossi)
The M25 Luncheon curated by Arabeschi di Latte Italian food designers
The M25 Luncheon curated by Arabeschi di Latte Italian food designers
Sam Jacob's readymade in the exhibition "Image for a Title: Placebo Effects in the Cultural Landscape", curated by Workshop for Potential Design
Sam Jacob's readymade in the exhibition "Image for a Title: Placebo Effects in the Cultural Landscape", curated by Workshop for Potential Design
Be Open sound portal in Trafalgar Square
Be Open sound portal in Trafalgar Square
<i>Mould in Motion</i> by ECAL/Philipp Grundhöfer, in the "Hot Tools" exhibition at Gallery Libby Sellers
Mould in Motion by ECAL/Philipp Grundhöfer, in the "Hot Tools" exhibition at Gallery Libby Sellers
Tim Parsons & Jessica Charleswoth's project, in the "Image for a Title: Placebo Effects in the Cultural Landscape" exhibition, curated by Workshop for Potential Design
Tim Parsons & Jessica Charleswoth's project, in the "Image for a Title: Placebo Effects in the Cultural Landscape" exhibition, curated by Workshop for Potential Design

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