Spinach Branding’s highlights from the London Design Festival 2021

‘Medusa’ by Sou Fujimoto at the V&A © Sou Fujimoto

The London Design Festival is in full swing. And for 2021, the programme is big and bold, and spread across much of the city to include the new design district at Greenwich Peninsula. With its vibrant exhibitions and events, and plenty of creative interventions on London’s landmarks, LDF 2021 has been adding a much-needed dose of creative energy to a capital city. As a London creative agency, Spinach Branding has been scanning the festival for insights and inspirations.

This year the festival takes on Brompton, Clerkenwell, Islington, King’s Cross, Mayfair, Shoreditch, Park Royal, Southwark and Greenwich Peninsula – with student-designed sculptural waymarkers directing visitors across the various design districts. On the whole, the agenda is rich in content, ranging from more conceptual work to new furniture and product designs by established and emerging creatives. And there is a running theme here, namely addressing the current climate crisis, focusing on the reuse and repurposing of products, creating materials from nature and waste, as well as taking a critical look at design’s role in the human/machine relation.

Greenwich Peninsula Design District © Design District

Over at the V&A – historically the beating heart of LDF – the centrepiece is a mixed-reality installation by Japanese architect Sou Fujimoto and tech studio Tim Drum. Responding to the Raphael Court, ‘Medusa’ is conceived as a living form that changes with the movement of visitors, while through sound, light and structure, questioning the human connection to space and nature. Fujimoto says he’s keen to return to the ‘the fundamental aspects of the architecture experience, creating the relationships between people and the place, or between a space and people’s feelings’ – a concept that took on a whole new meaning for many during the darkest hours of the pandemic.

Meanwhile, in the museum’s John Madejski Garden, the young architect Nebbia Works has created an immersive, low-carbon metal pavilion that demonstrates the possibilities of creating complex structures using minimum materials. ‘Between Forests and Skies’ is a self-supporting structure crafted from a single sheet of aluminium, provided by En+ Group, and sculpted in a way to create shade over the fountain courtyard.

Mellifera - Arthur Mamou-Mani (c) Mamou-Mani

Responding to the declining bee population, the LDF annual installation at Fortnum & Mason sees the French architect Arthur Mamou-Mani create a sculpture celebrating beehives. Made of bioplastics and 3D-printed, ‘Mellifera: The Dancing Bees’ poetically swirls down the historic atrium to highlight the department store’s new rooftop beehives. Meanwhile, on the streets Walthamstow, the William Morris Design Line takes on local community initiatives inspired by the legacy of the arts and crafts movement and the concept of ‘art made by the people and for the people’.

There are plenty more to see in the various design districts – most of which are more product-focused involving the various small and large designers and furniture stores. Worth visiting is Coal Drops Yard at King’s Cross where the ‘SuperNature’ initiative uses public realm installations and activations as a vehicle to explore circular design. Also in King’s Cross, ‘Planted’ is a design event and digital forum aimed at reconnecting spaces with nature. Meanwhile, the Greenwich Peninsula is a new creative hub unveiled in time for LDF, where the venue Magazine London is hosting ‘Design London’ featuring work by emerging talent and global design brands.

Yinka Ilori - Happy Street. Photo Luke O'Donovan

Finally, getting much public attention is Yinka Ilori’s colourful interventions across Tottenham Court Road. The winner of the 2020 Emerging Design Medal has worked with students from the University of Arts London to respond to what the London Mayor, Sadiq Khan, has dubbed: ‘Let’s Do London’. The slogan may need some refining, but the initiative is commendable. Supported by City of London Corporation, Cheapside Business Alliance and Bloomberg Philanthropies’ Asphalt Art Initiative, the campaign provides grants for art street interventions in public spaces as a way of improving safety and engaging local communities. Ilori says he wants to ‘celebrate London being open again, try to bring everyone out and celebrate what it means to be a Londoner.’ We can all salute that.

London Design Festival is on from 18 to 26 September.

Images: ‘Medusa’ © Sou Fujimoto, ‘Mellifera’ © Arthur Mamou-Mani, new Greenwich design district © V&A, Yinka Ilori’s ‘Happy Street’ © Luke O’Donovan.

Spinach Branding is a specialist branding agency based in London. We work with established businesses and start-ups around the world to build and refine their brands. See how we work and get in touch to discuss your brand.

Yinka Ilori. Photography Andrew Meredith
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