London Design Festival 2016 – 5 must see installations

LDF is set to return and over the next few days we’ll be taking a look at some of the key events to look forward to in a series of previews, starting with installations.

The Smile

LDF has come to be known as much for its large-scale public installations as it has for its trade shows, talks and launches.

We’ve picked out five installations to look out for.

The Smile, by Alison Brooks

The Smile -AHEC-ABA-tulipwood CLT (6)

A regular favourite is the installation created with the American Hardwood Council. In recent years we’ve seen dRMM Architects’ Escher-inspired Endless Stair and Amanda Levete’s Endless Wave.

This year, The Smile has been created by architect Alison Brooks. It’s a 34 metre curved wooden structure that you can walk in and around.

Its two ends sitting three metres off the ground will offer viewing platforms and a new perspective to see surrounding buildings.

Created from cross laminated tulipwood timber, it has been designed so that even if 60 people were to run to one end of the structure, it wouldn’t see-saw.

The Smile has been anchored with a cradle of 20 tonnes of steel counterweights.

The Smile can be found in the grounds of Chelsea College of Arts, UAL, next to Tate Britain from 17-25th September.

Mini Living, by Asif Khan

MINI LIVING_Forests by Asif Khan Create space

Asif Khan has created a three-part exploratory piece for Mini that looks at architectural solutions for urban living challenges.

Three locations have been identified as underused public spaces or “third places” – a term originally defined by sociologist Ray Oldenburg as places which “host the regular, voluntary, informal, and happily anticipated gatherings of individuals beyond the realms of home and work”.

Each of the new “forest” environments contain plants which visitors can take home during the festival. Located on the busy streets of Shoreditch, the spaces offer new areas for people to convene and socialise.

At the Square next to Shoreditch Fire Station a long communal table has been installed, in Charles Square new stepped seating becomes a place for people to work and where Old Street meets Pitfield Street an elevated room offers a secluded green space.


Asif Khan says: “There is a Japanese phrase ‘shinrin yoku’, which literally means ‘forest bathing’. It means every sense switches to absorb the forest atmosphere, what you hear, what you smell, even the feeling underfoot.

“At another scale we use plants as a tool to assert our personal space at its boundary with public space, whether on our desk at the office or at the perimeter of our home. The project brings these two ideas together for visitors to experience new sensations within the city.”

Mini Living runs from 17-25 September and these are the exact locations: Vince Court N1 6EA; Charles Square Gardens N1 6HS; and the corner of Pitfield Street and Charles Square EC1V 9EY. 

Beloved, by Tabanlıoğlu Architects


Beloved is a 13-metre long mirrored black box designed for the Victoria & Albert Museum’s (V&A) Medieval and Renaissance Galleries.

It is a response to Turkish author Sabahattin Ali’s 1943 novel Madonna in a Fur Coat. 

Murat Tabanlıoğlu of Tabanlıoğlu Architects says: “We wanted to introduce the book to a new audience in London, as the book has recently been published in an English translation for the first time in its 73-year history.”

Visitors can look inside the structure where they will witness scenes from the novel playing out as film, physical objects, text, light and sound.

“The installation is a physical, multi-sensory realisation of the way the human mind imagines scenes from a book as they read,” says Tabanlıoğlu, who adds: “It’s a very intimate experience that celebrates literature, passion and the human condition.”

Beloved will run from 17-25 September at the V&A, Cromwell Road, London, SW7 2RL.

Split Shift installation, by Bert & May and Darkroom


Design store Darkroom has collaborated with tile brand Bert & May to create the Split Shift tile collection, which will be part of an installation on Bert’s Barge – a barge, with an interior installation created by Darkroom director Rhonda Drakeford.

Tiles, fabrics and painted surfaces help frame an onboard pop-up shop where the new A/W collection of Darkroom products has been set up.


An installation has been created using three tiles highlighting three shapes and “limitless permutations”, which can be set out to appear structured or randomised.

Darkroom-designed interior accessories and jewellery are also for sale on the barge, which will be afloat from the 17-30 September and you can find it canal-side of this address: 67 Vyner Street, E2 9DQ

London Design Biennale


Not technically part of London Design Festival, but curated by the team that puts LDF together, is the London Design Biennale – a series of installations from design representatives of countries around the world.

It’s the inaugural event and sees the theme of Utopia addressed by design teams who have interpreted it broadly with some looking at how global problems might be solved through design, and others conjuring more abstract utopian and dystopian visions.

You can read more about what we thought about it here.

The London Design Biennale takes place at Somerset House, Strand, London WC2R 1LA from 7-27 September. Tickets are £15 with an additional £2.35 booking fee if booking online, or £11.85 concessions. Buy tickets here.

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