Friday 15 September 2023

21st London Design festival presents 'groundbreaking ideas', 'concepts'

LONDON Design Festival opens its 21st edition on 16th, and runs until 24 September 2023. With
 a vibrant and thought-provoking programme of events, exhibitions, and installations, the Festival once again provides a vital platform for designers and creative businesses to showcase their work. This year’s edition continues to foster growth and excellence in the sector, building on a two-decade-long legacy and commitment to promoting and supporting the UK’s design community.

The creative industries are a British success story, and a powerhouse of the UK economy, growing 1.5 times faster than the wider economy over the past decade and contributing £108 billion in gross value added (GVA) annually. Employment in the sector has grown five times faster than the rest of the economy since 2011. Against this backdrop, London Design Festival continues to play a pivotal role in promoting the design sector and positioning London as a global design capital.

The Festival provides an unrivalled platform that showcases designers to domestic and international audiences. Last year there were 1.5 million visits by 360,000 visitors.

The Festival's programme also encourages the next generation to pursue a creative career. Young and emerging talent are a vital part of the creative ecosystem and key to maximising the economic potential of the sector. However, the sector faces long-term challenges as design subjects continue to experience a decline at GCSE and A levels. The Festival remains predominantly free, allowing diverse audiences to discover and encounter inspiring design stories. By providing accessible and inclusive experiences, it aims to inspire young audiences, encouraging them to consider a creative career.

The 2023 Festival programme takes over the city presenting groundbreaking ideas and creative concepts that underscore the vital role of design. The programme features major installations, museum exhibits, Design Districts that highlight creative clusters across London, Design Fairs and the Global Design Forum, a thought leadership programme that brings together creative leaders to explore and propose solutions for pressing global issues.

Additionally, the annual London Design Medals, announced earlier this week, recognises the contribution made by leading design figures and emerging talent to London and the industry, with four London Design Medals awarded each year. The Festival is delighted to continue its long-standing partnership with Fortnum & Mason
 as the Supporting Partner of the London Design Medals 2023. 

Ben Evans, London Design Festival said : "The festival continues to provide an invaluable platform for the UK's design community. Over the past two decades, the Festival has cemented London's reputation as a global creative capital while supporting designers at every level of their careers. This year's programme promises fresh perspectives and boundary-pushing ideas that will inspire audiences. But just as importantly, the Festival provides opportunities for emerging talent and promotes inclusivity in the sector. We are incredibly proud of the vital role the Festival plays in helping designers and creative businesses to reach new audiences and championing design's significance in shaping our world.”

Justine Simons OBE, Deputy Mayor for Culture and the Creative Industries, London, said: London Design Festival is a highlight in the cultural calendar, which the Mayor and I are delighted to support. It celebrates the design excellence and talent of our creative community and showcases London’s position as a global design capital. The creative industries are playing a pivotal role in our economic recovery, bringing together people from all backgrounds and supporting young and emerging creative talent as we build a better London for everyone.”

Jemma Read, Global Head, Bloomberg Corporate Philanthropy, said: “At Bloomberg, we believe that public art can spur important collaborations and improve the quality of life in our cities. We are delighted to support London Design Festival's ambitious 2023 programme, bolstering London’s reputation as a creative and cultural leader.”

2023 marks the 300th anniversary of Sir Christopher Wren’s death. London Design Festival supported by Bloomberg Philanthropies takes the opportunity to delve into the legacy of the extraordinary architect and polymath through a modern lens. By collaborating with contemporary designers, the Festival aims to provide fresh insights into Wren and his collection of architectural masterpieces. The two Landmark Projects which will form part of the Wren 300 celebrations serve as a means of engaging with his architectural and scientific heritage, as well as exploring how his works remain relevant and inspiring in the present day. Through innovative responses and creative interventions, the Festival seeks to infuse these spaces with contemporary perspectives, celebrating Wren's enduring influence and showcasing his significance in the 21st century.

At St Paul’s Cathedral, London Design Festival in association with
 Artichoke presents Aura by Spanish artist Pablo Valbuena. The installation examines the potential of time, sound and light to create a contemporary response to the Cathedral. ‘Aura’ is a live installation that transforms the sounds present in the Cathedral into a pulsating line of light projected at an architectural scale. The piece is deeply intertwined with the context and fabric of Sir Christopher Wren’s masterpiece. It introduces new ideas while seamlessly integrating into the building and its daily life as if it had been part of the original design. ‘Aura’ listens to the sound, voices and music generated in St Paul’s and materialises them into a spectral, three-dimensional aura. 

Studio Waldemeyer presents Halo a transcendent light installation within St Stephen Walbrook Church. The conical pendulum traces a celestial path around Henry Moore's famed altar, evoking planetary motions and creating an ethereal halo. Slow colour transitions on the grand dome, inspired by natural phenomena like the aurora borealis, amplify the meditative aura. 'Halo' invites viewers from all walks of life to immerse themselves in a unified appreciation of history, art and spirituality. It is a captivating journey into the past and an evocative exploration of the celestial, encouraging the modern viewer to find spiritual resonance within the timeless and the ethereal.


Simone Brewster in collaboration with Amorim presents Spirit of Place at Strand Aldwych, an installation of 5 large scale sculptural vessels. This family of objects, ranging up to 2.5m, represents Amorim’s cork forest at Herdade de Rio Frio, Portugal. The future of the forest is secured by four key traits: drought resistance, fungal resistance, upright expression, and fast voluminous growth. These four characteristics act as the foundation for the visual language of the piece, with Brewster translating each factor into a visual equivalent that can then be experienced and enjoyed in the centre of London.


Inspired by powerful Buddhist principles, the Rubin Museum’s Mandala Lab in Canary Wharf is an interactive space designed to explore challenging emotions and consider how to transform them into wisdom. The freestanding structure, designed by Madrid-based architectural firm Extudio, and design and production office Enorme Studio, offer city dwellers a chance to unwind and immerse in five multi-sensory experiences. From video and scent to curated percussion instruments, the storytelling journey inside Mandala Lab will focus on self awareness and awareness of others.
Multi award-winning artist
 Morag Myerscough, known for her bold and vibrant style and automotive brand MINI present Nice to Meet You Again, an immersive installation that transforms Shoreditch Electric Light Station from 16 to 19 September into an urban oasis that offers a vivid glimpse into MINI's future vision.

Visitors are invited to dive into a realm where tradition seamlessly intertwines with technology. Drawing inspiration from her early adoption of electric vehicles, Myerscough envisions a future where the sensory experiences of cities are transformed by the advent of electric mobility. The installation will celebrate MINI’s latest vehicles including the new all electric MINI Cooper, while weaving an aspirational and enchanting tapestry of what a greener and more harmonious urban environment could look like. Visitors are invited to explore a multi-sensory world, where avian sounds and natural scents harmonise to create an enchanting atmosphere.



Daydreaming on the King’s Road provides a journey through time and design. Curated by Anna Stewart and Tetsuo Mukai, visitors can explore the rich history of one of London's most iconic thoroughfares and envision the legendary moments of artists, designers, musicians, and cultural movements that shaped the King's Road and its Chelsea neighbourhood.

The Trail invites you to walk in the footsteps of fashion mavericks like Vivienne Westwood, who left an indelible mark on the street's creative legacy, imagine the echoes of Mick Jagger's footsteps, alongside the likes of Terrance Conran and the Beatles. From the swinging 1960s to the present day, this trail unveils the hidden stories behind the facades of buildings and landmarks. Visitors will discover the evolution of residential areas, stores, clubs, and art spaces, as they delve into the design, fashion and cinema heritage that defines the King's Road's unique character.


Transport for London joins London Design Festival with a trail, exploring its long history of innovation, design, architecture and public art. The trail highlights places to visit and things to do to better understand how TfL’s design legacy has shaped London's identity over centuries.


See iconic spaces within the V&A Museum transformed by an extraordinary collection of specially commissioned installations by international contemporary designers during London Design Festival. This year's projects explore the global power of design to bind communities, reveal untold stories and rethink our relationship with materials:

Part exchange by Andu Masebo - this year’s V&A Emerging Designer commission - retells the life story of a scrapped car through a series of objects inspired by the people whose lives it touched over 25 years. Drawing on conversations with previous owners, the components of an Alfa Romeo Cloverleaf have been reconfigured into domestic furnishings.

Together with the Gifu Prefecture in Japan and London based Hayatsu Architects, the V&A presents a Hana Mikoshi or ‘flower shrine’. Inspired by the ‘Mino Matsuri festival’, this sculptural seating installation will be decorated with 50,000 sakura-inspired washi paper flowers handcrafted by craftspeople in Japan. The flowers will be applied to the structure by visitors to the V&A throughout the summer.

In But She Still Wears Kohl and Smells like Roses, Palestinian architect, artist and V&A Jameel Fellow Dima Srouji presents objects and film that reframe the history of glass in Greater Syria and Palestine. The new works include replicas of glassware from the V&A collection excavated from the region. The original vessels currently on display will be replaced with ‘tomb cards’ narrating the often-violent histories linked to their excavation.

Unstruck Melody is a collaboration between British-born Canadian artist Nirbhai (Nep) Singh Sidhu and UK arts organisation Without Shape Without Form. They bring together their practices of spirituality into a new installation. Tapestry, sculpture and film create moments of self-discovery through contemporary Sikh teachings while exploring their impact on design now.

Maya: The Birth of a Superhero is an immersive installation and VR experience by Poulomi Basu & CJ Clarke. It follows Maya, an ordinary 21st Century girl, as she transforms into a superhero whose powers derive from menstruation, in an odyssey of womanhood. The work is inspired by Basu’s law changing impact art project ‘Blood Speaks’ about menstrual exile and violence against women in South Asia.


Global Design Forum is London Design Festival’s curated thought leadership programme, celebrating design and the minds shaping its future. Hosted at the V&A, the programme brings together creative leaders and innovators to discuss the most pressing topics in design. This year's programme features speakers spanning diverse disciplines who will share fresh perspectives on how design can be more accessible, inclusive, sustainable, and drive positive change.

The programme for 2023 includes some of the most challenging and exciting topics that designers currently face from speculative re-imaginings; transdisciplinary design; designing for community; diversifying design; new material showcase; material sustainability; system redesign; design intelligence; harnessing the possibilities of AI and using design to adapt to extreme change.

Featured speakers include: 
Alon Schwabe & Daniel Fernández Pascual from Cooking Sections; Deep K Kailey from Without Shape Without Form; Dominique Petit-Frère from Limbo Accra; Henna Burney from Atelier Luma; Insiya Jafferjee from Shellworks; Shawn Adams from POoR Collective; Simone BrewsterSophie Maxwell from Pearlfisher; Yinka IloriYuri Suzuki from Pentagram; and Zongbo Jiang from The Sarabande Foundation.

All Global Design Forum sessions will take place at the V&A’s Lydia and Manfred Gorvy Lecture Theatre. The event is supported by Headline Partner SAP, alongside Pearlfisher, Istituto Europeo di Design and University of the Arts London. 


From North to South, East to West, the Design Districts are a key component of the Festival makeup. Each District has its own unique personality that reflects the local community and enables visitors to explore events a short walking distance from each other. There will be 13 Design Districts as part of this year’s Festival:


Home to Tate Modern, Shakespeare’s Globe and Borough Market, plus a plethora of landmark commercial and residential developments, Bankside is one of the most visited districts in London. This year, LDF explores its creative and design communities through sustainable public realm activations, craft exhibitions, workshops, VR installations and more.

District Late: Thursday 21 September

Battersea is renowned for its pioneering design heritage – from the first public telegraph, to early developments in rail and aviation manufacture, and its eponymous power station. The tradition continues with the recent opening of a new Royal College of Art ‘design and innovation’ campus and now, notably, in its inaugural appearance as an LDF design district.

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