Exploring 2016 London Design Festival

The Smile by Alison Brooks and Arup credit Dav Stewart and Jon Cardwell

A giant smile greets visitors outside the Chelsea College of Art. This 3.5m high, 4.5m wide and 34m curved tubular structure by architect Alison Brooks and engineering firm Arup uses engineered hardwood CLT to push the limits of timber and explore alternative materials for construction. It is one of London Design Festival’s highlights this year. On until the 12 October, it’s really worth visiting for the sheer scale and engineering craft.

The week has been an exciting one for Londoners as LDF (17 to 25 September), now in its thirteenth year, once again transforms the city into a big gallery of real and conceptual design. The festival has grown substantially in size and scope, and alongside the inaugural London Design Biennale, it certainly proves London to be a hugely strong creative force. We at Spinach are very proud to be working in this exciting city, and we welcome such events for they really do inspire our team.

At the festival hub at the V&A there are a number of exciting site-specific projects to see. Foil is an immersive installation by British designer Benjamin Hubert of Layer in the Tapestry galleries – a room that seems to respond so well to contemporary conceptual design projects. Created for the German electronics brand Braun, and as a nod its famous shavers, Foil is made of 50,000 hand-made metallic panels that dance slowly creating a sort of wave motion whilst LEDs splash small blades onto the walls and corners of the room for an incredibly hypnotic effect.

Elytra by University of Stuttgart at the V&A

Other highlights include Elytra, a growing shelter in the V&A courtyard by the University of Stuttgart as part of the museum’s engineering season. Inspired by beetles, the robot housed inside this intriguing structure creates new components as it responds to our presence thus exploring possible futures for architecture. Whilst Beloved, by architect Tabanlioglu, is a seductive introduction to Madonna in a Fur Coat. Here on the bridge of the Medieval & Renaissance Galleries, we peak through tiny cracks in the 13-meter long mirrored black box to glimpse and hear teasing moments from the classic 1943 novel by Sabahattin Ali.

MINI Living Asif Khan Create

Over in east London, in our former neighbourhood in Shoreditch, Forests offers a trio of urban sanctuaries. Asif Khan has envisaged ‘spaces within spaces’, according to the British architect – pop ups dotted around dense urban settings. They include an interactive workspace to promote creativity, an elevated hideaway to switch off and meditate, and a space designed to meet, make friends, share food. It forms part two of MINI Living, an initiative by the car marque to explore the future of urban life, which began at the Milan design fair earlier this year.

MINI Living by Asif Khan Connect

Whereas the Milan installation was a physical example of an innovative shared living concept, in London Khan is exploring the relationship between public and private space through the use of plants, in this case a gorgeously exotic selection by London horticulturist Jin Ahn for mini green jungles in this urban jungle. Khan explains, ‘There is a Japanese phrase shinrin yoku, which literally means forest bathing. It means every sense switches to absorb the forest atmosphere, what you hear, what you smell, even the feeling underfoot.’

Relax by Asif Khan for MINI Living

Popped up amongst the housing estates and crowded office blocks of Shoreditch, east London, they are a welcome sanctuary, especially on the day of my visit as my guide greets me with news that her mobile phone was snatched en route. It certainly highlights the less tasteful sides of urban life. Yet as we climb into the meditative sanctuary Relax surrounded by exotic plants and immersed in the sound of silence, all our worries seem to wash away.

Images: The Smile © Dav Stewart and Jon Cardwelland, Elytra by University of Stuttgart, Asif Khan for MINI Living

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MINI Living Relax by Asif Khan
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