The London Design Festival (LDF) returns to the capital for a 17th time in September, marking a citywide celebration of all things design. An eclectic mix of events, fairs, workshops and exhibitions spanning nine days, the festival will feature numerous specially commissioned works from renowned international designers.
Formed by Sir John Sorrell and Ben Evans in 2003, the festival seeks to bring together creative individuals from around the globe to promote London as a global powerhouse for art and design. The Victoria and Albert Museum (V&A) acts as a hub for the festival – taking place from 14-22 September – housing a number of innovative installations and hosting the festival’s thought-leadership programme: The Global Design Forum. Visitors can listen in to inspirational talks, take part in debates and workshops, and enjoy daily tours.
Encompassing trade shows, exhibitions and installations across the capital, London Design Festival dives into the world of design innovation and its impact on everyday life.
In order to make as many of the London Design Festival’s 400 events and installations as accessible as possible, events are clustered into Design Districts – groups of events all within a short distance of each other. The number of districts has increased alongside the festival’s popularity, with ten areas set to showcase the best in design in 2019.
Bankside Design District
Running along the banks of the River Thames from Borough Market to Oxo Tower Wharf, the Bankside Design District will champion the region as ‘London’s Other Side’ in celebration of the area’s thriving creative industries. Alongside innovative installations by Tate Edit and The Africa Centre, the iconic Oxo Tower Wharf will showcase craft and design from its abundance of designer-maker shops and studios.
Brompton Design District
As the oldest of LDF’s designated districts, the Brompton Design District is renowned for having a focus on progressive and responsible design. Expect an array of installations and exhibits that explore the theme of Nature/Nurture for 2019, with designers urged to reassess human relationships with nature to determine how design can aid preservation. Leading international designers including Marlene Huissoud and Jorge Penades are among those taking part.
Clerkenwell Design Quarter
The Clerkenwell Design Quarter is preparing for its eighth year and brings together an array of multidisciplinary design strands dotted across the historic part of London, stretching from the boundaries of EC1 to the Barbican and Hatton Cross. The region hosts new product launches and events from showrooms and retailers, as well as plenty of bars, pop-ups and restaurants.
Marylebone Design District
Home to a diverse collection of design retailers, galleries and workshops, the Marylebone Design District has everything from small independent designers to internationally famous brands. As well as exclusive launches, there’ll be a number of partner-hosted demonstrations and workshops for the duration of the festival.
Mayfair Design District
The Mayfair Design District seeks to showcase how this small portion of London is embracing modern art and design. Established galleries and pop-up spaces host inspiring exhibitions, while major estates including The Crown Estate, the Pollen Estate Commission and the Duke of Westminster’s Grosvenor Estate have all commissioned architecture. A number of international collaborations put a further focus on the importance of design in an area rich with regeneration.
Pimlico Road Design District
A creative hub just minutes from Sloane Square, the Pimlico Road Design District is home to internationally renowned designers, studios and an abundance of shopping opportunities. Known for its antiques, art and fine furniture, the district provides a unique insight into design in Belgravia.
Shoreditch Design Triangle
Since being established in 2008 to aid collaboration among designers in the East End, the Shoreditch Design Triangle mixes exhibitions and installations with product launches, talks, tours and workshops, as well as numerous culinary options. Past years have seen as many as 60 individual events, showcasing everything from furniture and accessories to lighting, prints, cookware and textiles.
Victoria Connections Design District
With a theme of Connections: people and places, the Victoria Connections Design District will showcase the role that design has played in creating the Victoria that exists today. This newly formed Design District launched last year and different forms of design will be highlighted at a variety of events and activities, delving into the area-wide transformation that has occurred in recent years.
West Kensington Design District
Another newly formed district, having first made an appearance in 2018, the West Kensington Design District will bring together exciting cultural institutions, leading design destinations and numerous events for the duration of the festival.
Kings Cross Design District
A new district for 2019 to coincide with the widespread development of the region, the Kings Cross Design District is recognition that the area is now a thriving hub of design, architecture and creative industries. Expect an extensive programme of events, including large scale public installations, contemporary design event, designjunction, and plenty of other exhibitions.
The London Design Festival will see Finsbury Park Square, in Broadgate, transformed by British designer Paul Cocksedge’s landmark project, Please Be Seated. Marking the most ambitious of British Land’s commissions to date, the installation will feature curves for people to sit on and walk under. Made from scaffolding planks, the project represents a reimagining of how building wood is used.
Trade shows and exhibitions
This year marks 25 years of 100% Design, a trade event that showcases innovative exhibitions, panel discussions and talks from some of the biggest names in design. Renowned as being a centre of design and innovation, the show features a stellar line-up of more than 400 exhibitors, inspirational installations and thought-provoking experiences that push the boundaries of design.
Designjunction will return to King’s Cross, presenting an exciting range of over 200 internationally known design brands for four days from 19 September. Now in its ninth year, the exhibition features pop-up shops, temporary structures and brand activations, alongside the latest developments in furniture, lighting and technology design.
The London Design Fair takes place from 19-22 September and welcomes 550 exhibitors from around the world to the heart of East London at the Old Truman Brewery Site near Brick Lane. Independent designers and more than 300 established brands are involved, while a host of international country pavilions showcase innovations from particular parts of the globe.
Focus/19 includes an array of collection launches and immersive events from 600 international brands, spread over six days from 15 September. The Design Centre, Chelsea Harbour, hosts Design Discovery Tours, meet the designer sessions and workshops that explore various elements of design, accompanied by talks from world-class speakers.
French-born designer Camille Walala will attempt to create an ‘urban living room’, transforming South Molton Street in Mayfair into the Walala Lounge, featuring 11 unique, geometric and boldly colourful benches for the public to enjoy. Surrounded by international boutiques and cafes, the design aims to make Molton a place for reflection and relaxation.
Matthew McCormick’s Falling Sky multi-storey design-art installation will hang in the V&A for the duration of the festival, with a focus on global warming and its impact on life. Manually crafted from reflective aluminium, the installation is designed to mimic frost-like formations that are seemingly frozen in time.
The V&A’s Medieval and Renaissance galleries will be home to Rony Plesl’s unique glass installation Sacred Geometry, featuring hexagonal glass tree trunks. Marking the first time the exhibition has been seen outside of Plesl’s native Czech Republic, it details how new technology enables glass to be casted into any array of 3D shapes.
Housed in the former Bankside Power Station, the Tate Modern’s collection of contemporary art is the most extensive in the country. Offering free admission to the majority of the pieces, including Picasso, Rothko, Dali and Matisse, there are also after-hours ‘Tate Lates’ events on the last Friday of every month, as well as ticketed exhibitions. One such exhibition coinciding with the LDF is ‘Takis’, one of the most celebrated artistic voices to come out of 1960s Europe.
The Design Museum
Kensington’s Design Museum will host the Beazley Designs of the Year exhibition in September, showcasing the best ideas that the design industry has seen over the last 12 months, as voted for by the public and experts.
Where to eat
In a former tram-generator building, Tramshed offers high-quality food, with many sharable dishes. Meals are served with a backdrop of Damien Hirst artworks, most notably his ‘Cock ‘n’ Bull’ installation. Run by renowned chef Mark Hix, the East End eatery is a unique blend of food, art and style.
Located in Hyde Park, Chucs Café is a modern architectural gem in itself. Designed by iconic architect Zaha Hadid, the café is located in the ‘Magazine’ extension of the Serpentine Gallery. Open from breakfast to dinner, it serves everything from fresh salads, pizza and fish dishes.
Inspired by the traditional tearooms of 1960s Hong Kong, Duddell’s serves high-end Cantonese cuisine in a richly decorated Grade II deconsecrated church. Found in London Bridge, in the shadow of the Shard, the elegant interior is complemented by ‘museum-quality’ art exhibitions, displayed all year round.
Where to drink
In the trendy area of Dalston, Hackey, Untitled Bar serves cocktails by celebrated mixologist, Tony Conigliaro, in a tinfoil-covered, minimalist space.
Within the new Battersea Power Station’s Circus West Village is the luxe-1960s inspired bar and restaurant No29 Power Station West. With a cocktail menu ranging from ‘Long & Fresh’ to ‘Short & to the Point’, this is a bar carefully designed and curated for a modern yet homely atmosphere.
Lyaness (formerly Dandelyan) has an interior as rich as its reputation, and is renowned for its flavoursome cocktails. With a multi-award winning bartender dubbed ‘Mr Lyan’, Lyaness is located in the Sea Containers hotel, overlooking the River Thames.
Where to sleep
In the heart of Shoreditch, The Hoxton Hotel offers rooms ranging from ‘Shoebox’, which although a money-saver, does not scrimp on style, to the bigger ‘Roomy’ size. The ‘Concept’ rooms, each individually designed by a local artist, offer a unique design experience, while the Hoxton Grill offers American dishes, served all-day. Prices start from £109 per night.
Found near Spitalfields and Brick Lane, Leman Locke offers an over-night experience lying somewhere between relaxed apartment living and boutique hotel. Every inch of the aparthotel is design-led, with a refreshing pastel colour scheme, simple industrial-chic furniture and space-saving layouts. Prices start from £180 per night.
With ten unique bedrooms located in the heart of London’s West End, Artist’s Residence offers eclectically designed rooms and suites. Luxury additions include roll-top baths, floor-to-ceiling windows and a rainfall shower. The Tate Britain, the Saatchi Gallery and the hub of the London Design Festival, the V&A are all within walking distance. Prices start from £215 per night.