Things to see and do at London Design Festival 2021

With a promise to help people “rediscover the whole city”, Design Week picks out the not-to-be-missed features of this year’s London Design Festival.

Installation: The Cube by Velux

Billed as an “artistic representation of daylight and fresh air”, The Cube by Velux will be positioned at Observation Point along London’s South Bank. It’s been designed by Danish architecture studio Henning Larsen, and features a mosaic of roof windows.

Visitors to the installation are encouraged to enjoy a “moment of calm” within the structure. Such a moment will be supported by a bespoke soundtrack from Danish musician Kasper Bjørke, which will recreate sounds of nature like birdsong and wind.

According to Henning Larsen design director Eva Ravnborg, the installation is an example of how designers can work with light. “In Scandinavia, where we’re based, daylight is a resource that we work with very consciously. It is sometimes in abundance, sometimes scarce, but most of all, it’s ever-changing.”

Find it: Observation Point, 56 Upper Ground, London, SE1 9PP, from 18 September.

Installation: The Dancing Bee Hives

In celebration of the beehives atop Fortnum & Mason, French architect and designer Arthur Mamou-Mani has partnered with the department store for a new installation in its famous atrium. Mellifera: The Dancing Bee Hives features 3D printed beehives, which will “swirl and dance” around the space.

The installation aims to highlight the need for rewilding in urban spaces – and encourage more projects like Fortnum’s beehives, which help boost biodiversity and pollination in the city.

Each of the printed modules is made from a material containing fermented sugar and are fully compostable “in the spirit of the circular economy”, LDF says. Each piece will be available to purchase after the festival.

Find it: Fortnum & Mason, 181 Piccadilly, London, W1A 1ER, from 18 September.

Exhibition: The Future of Home

Earlier this year, Design Week wrote about the design opportunities that might exist in the home of the future – this Brompton district exhibition explores the topic further. The show has been curated by Edinburgh-based studio Local Heroes, and will feature a showroom demonstrating the “experimental processes and emerging concepts” which may make their way into your home in the future.

A total of 20 Scottish designers from 15 Scottish design studios have worked on the exhibited projects. The collection includes furniture, lighting, textiles and collectible craft, all made from sustainable and experimental materials where possible.

Jeni Allison’s blankets, for example, push the boundaries of digital and manual knitting processes by blending “the master craftsmanship of intarsia with cutting edge 3D modelling”. Meanwhile Instrmnt Applied Design has developed a minimalistic armchair using wind-felled sycamore wood, sources from the Wemyss Estate on the east coast of Scotland.

Find it: 6-7 Thurloe Place, South Kensington, London, SW7 2RX, from 18 September.

Exhibiton: It’s a Sign!

Located at design studio dn&co’s gallery space in Bermondsey, It’s a Sign! Is a collaborative exhibition that invites visitors to “share in the beauty of the humble sign”. The show is comprised of pictures and signs shared by the design community, following an open call from the studio for people to share their favourites.

Ranging from “hastily scrawled arrows, to nationwide motorway signage systems”, the showcase will offer a diverse set of examples, as picked by well-known designers and architects.

“Finding our way and getting lost is part of life, but as the world opens up and we start to explore our cities again, how do we know where to go and what we’ll find when we get there?” says dn&co creative director Patrick Eley. “We’ve long nurtured a healthy obsession with signs and wayfinding and with this exhibition we wanted to look at things through the lens of those who share our infatuation.”

Find it: Ground Floor Space, 3 Tyers Gate, London, SE1 3HX, from 18-19 and 24-26 September.

Talks: Global Design Forum

This year’s Global Design Forum will take place in a hybrid format with live sessions hosted at the V&A and digital sessions online. There’s a host of talks slated for the festival, from across the design industry.

The first day of sessions will be Sunday, where much of the discussion will be focused on design as an agent of change. Talk topics include “design at the forefront of change”, and “unlocking the creative activist”. Meanwhile talks on Monday are dedicated to the circular economy, and ask how designers can help close the loop in industries like food, fashion and plastic.

Further on in the week will be a keynote presentation from human-centred designer Usha Raghavachari, lab director at D-Ford, a global innovation “start-up lab” inside the Ford Motor Company. Raghavachari spoke with Design Week last year on a similar topic.

Find it: V&A Museum, Cromwell Rd, London SW7 2RL and online, from 19 September.

Talks: Doodle Talks

South London-based creative organisation Rye Here, Rye Now is teaming up with Peckham Levels for a two-day mini festival within the wider LDF celebrations. Called Doodle Talks and produced in collaboration with Drawing People Together, the event is designed to show off the “vibrant local creative community” found in the area.

It will feature a handful of local speakers. Those announced so far include graphic designer and LogoArchive founder Richard Baird, graphic designer and art director Émilie Chen and 3D modeller Ethan Francis.

Aside from a speaker line-up Rye Here Rye Now will also be offering a makers’ market and exhibition of local designers across the two day event. Additionally, the group will celebrate its fourth birthday during the festival.

Find it: Peckham Levels (florr 5 auditorium), F1-F6 Peckham Town Centre Carpark, 95A Rye Lane, Lodnon, SE15 4ST, between 25 and 26 September.

Trade: Design London

While several tradeshow mainstays will not be making an appearance at LDF 2021, the event will see the inaugural instalment of Design London. It’s being billed as a “curated showcase of cutting edge furniture, lighting and contract interiors brands”, as well as the “largest destination for contemporary design” at this year’s festival.

The showcase will be on display at Magazine London, a brand new venue on the Greenwich Peninsula. Displays will come courtesy of a slew of international brands and names, like Italian manufacturers Ethimo, and Dutch furniture designers Artifort.

Beyond the trade exhibition, the four-day event will also play host to a series of talks under the name Discussions at Design London. Expect to see sessions from well-known “industry influencers and thought leaders”, LDF says, including the likes of Yinka Ilori, Henry Holland and Pearson Lloyd.

Find it: Magazine London, 11 Ordnance Cres, London, SE10 0JH, between 22 and 25 September.

Trade: Tactile Baltics

Another new feature this year, Tactile Baltics is an exhibition-tradeshow hybrid. The Shoreditch-based showcase will feature the work of 36 Baltic designers, and explore topics like local materials, sustainability and tradition and craftsmanship.

The idea behind the show is to offer closer insight into the design scenes of Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania. Visitors can expect to see products like tableware, textiles, furniture, lighting and conceptual work, from up-and-coming designers like Aap Piho, Studio Aine and Paili Keiv.

Tactile Baltics is being put on in collaboration with Adorno, a curated online gallery for contemporary collectible design. All products featured in the showcase will be available to buy via Adorno or NID Store.

Find it: Dray Walk Gallery, Dray Walk, London, E1 6QL, between 18 September and 3 October.

Also check out:

  • Outdoor art gallery: designer Yinka Ilori has partnered with students from University of the Arts London (UAL) to transform the city into an outdoor gallery space. The project aims to share students’ work, after more than a year of cancelled shows and closed galleries. Find it along Tottenham Court Road.
  • Designposts: each of the ten LDF design districts in 2021 will come with a “unique sculptural waymarker” made out of American red oak wood. The wayfinding solution comes courtesy of 10 design graduates and students from the city, and is facilitated by the American Hardwood Export Council. Find them at the entrance of each district.
  • New Contracts: the graduate for the Royal College of Art’s MA design products course examines how we might draw up different contracts and relationships with the world around us, given the ever-changing environmental, social and political landscapes. Topics covered will include the use of resources and the application of “disruptive technologies”. Find it in the Brompton Design District, between 18 and 26 September.
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