September 28, 2023

London Design Festival 2023: The Meeting Point of Past, Present, and Future

Author: Radmila Durasinovic
Tags: design Category: magazine

London Design Festival 2023: The Meeting Point of Past, Present, and Future

In the heart of one of the world's most culturally vibrant cities, the annual London Design Festival gathers design enthusiasts from around the globe for a series of events, from exhibitions to design trails and forums. Transforming the British capital into a playground for creativity and innovation each year, the LDF has cemented London’s position as the global centre of design over the past 20 years. There’s a lot to unpack from this year’s edition as we delve into the extensive festival programme spread out across London from 16-24 September, highlighting the most memorable design stories that at their very core foster and celebrate design excellence. A recurring theme identified throughout LDF23 is the convergence of the design's rich past with its promising, but also challenging future, as exhibitors pay a heartfelt tribute to iconic names of the past, like Sir Christopher Wren, or more recently Alvar Aalto, Kaare Klint and Eileen Grey, while offering up new directions for the future development of the industry.

Halo at St Stephen Walbrook by Studio Waldemeyer © Ed Reeve

Centrestage / Wren 300

Among the most anticipated events were two landmark projects celebrating the legacy of architect Sir Christopher Wren through a contemporary lens—immersive light installations in churches designed by the British architect in the English Baroque style he pioneered three centuries ago. Inside St Paul’s Cathedral, 'Aura' by France-based Spanish artist Pablo Valbuena, transforms the sounds, voices, and music present in the space into a pulsating line of light, turning auditory inputs into a dynamic, three-dimensional aura. ‘Halo’ by Studio Waldemeyer takes viewers on a spiritual journey through a two-part installation at St. Stephen Walbrook Church—an illuminated conical pendulum that circles the marble altar evoking the movement of celestial bodies, a theme further amplified by the second layer of the exhibition, a moving projection of coloured light onto the dome of Wren’s architectural masterpiece.

‘Hackability of the Stool’ exhibition by Daisuke Motogi / DDAA © Artek

Stool 60 turns 90 with ‘Hackability of the Stool’ / Daisuke Motogi

The still-ongoing exhibition ‘Hackability of the Stool’ by Japanese architect Daisuke Motogi, coinciding with this year’s LDF, presents 100 ideas for altering Alvar Aalto’s Stool 60 at the Vitra and Artek showroom in Shoreditch. Motogi and his creative lab DDAA began the research project back in 2019, developing over 400 ideas on how to modify or “hack” the iconic piece and presenting the results in an online exhibition on his Instagram account in 2020, where it ultimately caught Artek’s attention. The modifications were reduced to 100 examples of modified function or form of the stool—from a reading light, to a clothes rack or a mirror, bin and an iron board—and shared with audiences throughout Europe this year in the form of this well-timed exhibition, as the iconic Aalto stool turns 90 this year.

Moncloud sofa by Patricia Urquiola © Cassina

Echoes – a celebration of the past with a new vision for the future / Cassina

For the 50th anniversary of the Cassina iMaestri Collection, the Italian design brand presented a preview of the upcoming book ‘Echoes’ during LDF. Officially launched in 1973 with models by Gerrit T. Rietveld and Charles Rennie Mackintosh, the iMaestri Collection has, for half a century, brought together some of the most iconic furniture by leading figures in the Modern Movement. While the collection continues to evolve, the pioneering method that Cassina has established over the years to authentically edit the great classics through painstaking research is recounted in the book, expected to be released early next year.

Cassina also showcased new pieces alongside its iconic designs, building their vision of the home characterised by quality and innovation. At the centre is a new design by Art Director Patricia Urquiola—the Moncloud sofa, a “generous, welcoming refuge that celebrates comfort and hospitality”. The sophisticated yet homely design demonstrates the company’s commitment to innovation and sustainability, with the development of a special construction technique that minimises the use of polyurethane, marking major progress for the industry.

Faaborg Chair by Kaare Klint © Carl Hansen & Søn

A tribute to Danish Modernism / Kaare Klint by Carl Hansen & Søn

One of the founding fathers of Danish furniture design, Kaare Klint influenced several generations of furniture designers, including Arne Jacobsen, Mogens Koch, Poul Kjærholm, Hans J. Wegner and Børge Mogensen with his functionalist approach to design. Decades after their creation, Klint’s designs have earned iconic status in the history of furniture design, with works such as his Red Chair Series or the Faaborg Chair still prized today. In 2023, Carl Hansen & Søn pays tribute to the legendary designer by re- introducing new designs, and showcasing highlights from Klint’s impressive oeuvre at the Carl Hansen & Søn Flagship Store during LDF. Concurrently, the brand’s Clerkenwell showroom featured the ‘Wonders of Wood’, a display of sculptures by Nicholas Shurey that explored the qualities of the material, along with workshops by Michael Murphy that allowed participants to connect and work with the material first hand.

Kupoli dining table © Cameron Design House

Kupoli / Cameron Design House’s Technicolour Vision

As some look towards the past, meticulously preserving legacies or reinterpreting iconic works, others are firmly directed towards the future. During this year’s LDF, bespoke sculptural lighting studio Cameron Design House provided an exclusive preview of their debut furniture collection Kupoli—a series of statement design pieces characterised by refined craftsmanship the studio is renowned for. Each piece features a body of domed steel tubes finished with a glass top, which can be uniquely configured for each project, but the stand out feature is undeniably the range of sumptuous colours and finishes developed for the versatile collection of tables.

Eileen Gray Wendingen Rug © Aram

Extending the Eileen Gray Legacy / Aram

Eileen Gray emerged as a leading exponent of revolutionary design theories during the 1920s and 1930s, collaborating closely with other prominent figures of the modern movement in shaping the new design landscape. In the early 1970s, shortly before her death, she worked with Zeev Aram to introduce her designs to the global market, granting worldwide manufacturing and distribution rights to Aram Designs Ltd in 1973. While celebrated for her seminal contributions to furniture design and architecture, her origins as a painter, consistently engaging in various artistic mediums throughout her extensive career, are lesser known. Gray's gouache paintings, while standing firmly as works on their own, also served as rich inspiration for her distinct rug designs, produced by Aram today. This year at LDF, Aram unveiled three new rug designs—De Stijl, Cassis, and La Lune—which, rooted in Gray's 1920s and 1930s artwork, feature a combination of deep tones and geometric shapes. The display—a salutation to the avant-garde spirit of early modernism—celebrates Gray's artistic legacy, showcasing alongside her rugs, her iconic furniture and lighting designs.

September 28, 2023 Author: Radmila Durasinovic
Tags: design Category: magazine

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