In a peaceful area of the Bankside District, an abandoned building hosted probably the most alternative and socially engaged exhibition of the London Design Week.
Two days away from the conclusion of the staggering London Design Festival
in its tourbillon of exhibits, events and parties, there is still an important stop to make at the Bankside Design District: Designersblock, the annual exhibition/event curated by Rory Dodd, Piers Roberts and Bud Moore. The venue chosen this year is a semi-abandoned building next to the OXO Tower Wharf, somewhere between Waterloo and Blackfriars Bridge, South of the Thames.
Its placid neighborhood feel makes us forget the context in which is set, favouring our attention upon the projects thereof shown. The limited amount of visitors, along a very generous distribution of space among designers, especially important in a place such as London where space is money, introduces us to a collection of experimental projects virtually all aimed at a true search of sustainability. Social propositions are not planned choices here, but the result of life experiences from which this group of designers draw everyday.
It is worth to speak about Joshua Akhtar’s Bait Hive, the son of an apiculturist, who has devoted the past few years to the creation of low-cost, high-yielding alternative apiaries, which are simple to build and move around, a way to contrast the ever decreasing bee population. Claudia Brewster, on the other hand, has concentrated her creativity on objects which can help individuals affected by dyslexia and dyspraxia. “Those with these conditions are tired of the usual products that either don’t work or stigmatize them”, Brewster explains, “Dispraxia and Dislexia cooking utensils give them confidence in the kitchen in an attractive, inclusive and desirable way. They aim to solve three of the key issues associated with the conditions: spilling, gripping and organising”.
, fascinated by less attractive parts of our bodies, designs in a purely environmental approach, taking into consideration the complete product cycle, resistant ropes using disposed human hair from hair salons. Olive Lab, on its part, is concerned of domestic well-being, especially for those individuals suffering from SAD (Seasonal Affective Disorder). The studio created a “domestic sun” that reproduces the lights of our favorite landscapes: when on holiday, for example, if we find a particularly pleasant natural light, we can record it and replicate it later once back home.
Robyn Tayler Payne studies new building panel surfaces in Namibia which can collect significant amounts of dew water, whereas guerrilla gardener Vanessa Harden offers us a series of accessories to plant and do clandestine gardening. Wataru Kobayashi
, perfectly aware of an imminent food crisis, shows us his entire insect eating-ware, and Mamiko Yamazaki promotes the urgent need of an itinerant Food Rescue Clinic to improve people’s eating habits.
The names and projects are many and they range from sports to fashion, from communication to interior design, from architecture to service design. By talking to Rory Dodd, founder of Designersblock in 1998, we learn that this edition purpose is based on the 17 United Nations Sustainable Development Goals. “We feel these are some of the most exciting projects of the moment” Dodd explains, “we have always given space to this type of proposals, but this year we wanted to do something more explicit. They may appear somewhat isolated, but if you are to see the whole, you can perceive a new form of industry, which will ultimately save us in the future, is being born.”
The first Designersblock was presented almost twenty years ago at the Truman Brewery in Brick Lane, where the London Design Fair takes place now. The spirit has not changed, to give new independent international and British designers the opportunity to find alternative channels for their products and ideas, without having to necessarily attend the traditional fairs. Among others we recognize names such as Tom Dixon, Inflate, and Michael Young, to name a few.