The Royal Academy's Architecture Curator reports on the first days of the London Design Festival
The London Design Festival is well underway and with more than 250 events and exhibitions taking place across the capital, it can seem somewhat overwhelming. Icon magazine's design trail booklet is a useful guide to the highlights. Unveiled yesterday, the pocket-sized guide lists around 100 recommendations and can be picked up at any of the festival's participating venues.
The Skyroom (Will Pryce) The trail was launched at The Skyroom, a new temporary structure atop the Architecture Foundation designed by David Kohn. Kohn was behind the impressive interior of FLASH, Bistrotheque's popup restaurant at the Royal Academy during 2008's GSK Contemporary Season.
A bold commission funded by Lake Estates, Kohn's new space highlights how much potential there is in London’s underutilised rooftops. It is quite magical sitting in the open ‘room’ as the sounds of the city swarm around you without intruding. Normally unseen vistas are framed by the structure's well-placed balconies, and there's a special view of Renzo Piano’s Shard rising from its site nearby. This elegant and creative outdoor room will host events this week including a discussion called Manifesting Change with erudite and challenging young architect Indy Johar. Johar spoke at the Royal Academy a few years ago with a new perspective on urbanism, as well as chairing an RA Forum event in 2008 on Geopolitics with Eyal Weisman.
Popup restaurants and cafes seem to be the new highlight this year. Of special note is a temporary restaurant near Old Street called Hel Yes. Commissioned by the Finnish Institute, it showcases food and design from Helsinki.
British designers Established & Sons take up residence down the road at the Wenlock Arms, where they are hosting a series of events complete with a happy hour. At their flagship West End gallery, they have converted the normally pristine space into a workshop (see above). Each day, a new designer battles the clock to produce a work. It is a great insight into the design process, bringing its audience closer to the creativity and energy that goes into it.
When we visited, the front of the gallery displayed the works produced by Monday’s designer Richard Woods who celebrates the idea of home improvements (and who transformed the RA's main galleries in 2002's The Galleries Show). Venture downstairs to enjoy browsing through some fantastic books on sale through Gestalten bookshop, and don’t miss the scrumptious chocolate brownies provided by Konditor and Cook. So enjoyable, we will return at 6pm this week to see the finished products by the designers and enjoy a cocktail.
If you want to see a whole host of established and upcoming designers under one roof, visit west London's Variability - an exhibition which looks at 'how design influences what we choose'; or head east for The Tramshed. Initiated by De La Espada’s founding director Luis de Oliveira, this exhibition at a post-industrial venue in Rivington Street has 25 international designers on show. Also in the East End, the huge Tent London at Truman Brewery features more than 200 designers showing their wares. If you get tired, the popup café by Vonsung at Tent is worth a look.
Thomas Heatherwick has been awarded the London Design medal, no doubt largely due to his acclaimed British pavilion at the Shanghai expo. You can hear him speak at the V&A on Wednesday morning as part of their Times breakfast talks. While there, check out the numerous other activities and exhibitions, such as Stuart Haygarths ‘Framed’ commission, as the V&A acts as a central hub for the festival.
Keep an eye on this blog for updates as the week and its design events unfold.