London Design Festival 2023 begins today! Now in its 21st edition, the design event has hosted an array of exhibitions, installations, talks, workshops, and pop-up shops pertaining to the disciplines of art, craft, design and architecture, over the years. The latest edition of the design festival spreads farther across the city of London, in UK, with three new design districts. The event will run from September 16 to 24, 2023. Over the span of these nine days, the Design Districts, Design Fairs, and Partners will play host to over 300 events. The 13 Design Districts this year include Bankside Design District, Battersea Design District, Brompton Design District, Chelsea Design District, Dalston to Stokey Design District, Fitzrovia Design District, Greenwich Peninsula, Islington Design District, Kings Cross Design District, Mayfair Design District, Park Royal Design District, Shoreditch Design Triangle and Southwark Design District.
While each of the design districts comes with its own unique personality that reflects the local area, the Design Fairs at LDF stage some major consumer and trade shows. The Partner programme, on the other hand, will host a Launch Pad, an initiative that aims to platform designers who typically face barriers in accessing the festival’s partnership scheme.
“Each year, London Design Festival provides a global platform for the city’s creative community to share their innovative ideas and connect with audiences from around the world. The 2023 edition arrives at an important moment when bringing people together through creativity and design matters more than ever. Across our Design Districts, Fairs and Partners, this year’s programme promises to spark discovery, build community, and drive progress through the power of design,” shares Ben Evans, London Design Festival Director.
STIR takes a virtual recce across the design districts, design fairs and partner events to scout happenings pertaining to different themes and intents.
Bankside Design District
The Bankside Design District, running east to west along the Thames from Borough Market to Oxo Tower Wharf, will host a wide range of programmes that showcase the best of design, craft and innovation, and celebrate the area’s creative industries. Accredited the designation of one of London’s most creative and cultural districts, it boasts a rich industrial heritage and is home to various world-famous destinations such as Shakespeare’s Globe, Tate Modern and Borough Market. The upcoming design week will witness further activation of this space through sustainable public realm interventions, craft exhibitions, workshops, VR installations, and more.
Within the design district, Melek Zeynep Bulut, winner of this year’s ‘Public Medal’ at the London Design Biennale, will present OpenWork I Açık Yapıt, a performative and theatrical exhibition of transitions. The interactive installation is designed to alter and react when touched. “The abstract gates and the plan created by the resonating audible surfaces that work just like a musical instrument turn into a game of ‘exchange’ with the touch of the visitor,” reads an excerpt from the event description. The large-scale installation beckons visitors to come and experience the impact that their decisions as rational beings can make within larger systems (as represented by the monumental installation).
Some other interactive and multi-sensorial experiences planned for Bankside with the intent of shaking visitors’ consciousness include Muskeen Liddar’s Sound, Chaos and the Sky, Caitriona McAllister’s Interactive Digital Arts & Creative Coding, Vivian Yang’s Botanic Dreams, and Tian/Zhanyan Zhang’s PP Land II – Pilgrimage to Dragon Fruit Buddhist, 2023. Various exhibits at the fair also delve into the projection of thoughts and ideas through photographs, poetry, and animated works of art. These include Zhan Zhang’s Nearby, Ariana Cowan’s The Visual Poetry Exhibit, and Daniel Montanchez’s Whispers of Wonder. Workshops such as Tihara Smith’s Raffia Embroidery Hoop Art Workshop, on the other hand, hope to involve visitors with analog crafts.
The Tyre Collective – Amount of tyre wear produced by different vehicles Image: Courtesy of London Design Festival 2023
Various events and exhibitions hosted by Bankside seek to ponder upon the questions of sustainability. One of these includes clean-tech startup The Tyre Collective’s From Pollution to Products, an exhibition that brings designers, material scientists and chemical engineers together to create objects from tyre wear particles (captured at source), which is a leading source of vehicle pollution. Isola Design’s Nothing Happens if Nothing Happens, too, focuses on using ‘regenerative resources and repurposing waste materials in an effort to bring the spotlight on a circular design approach.’ Another exhibition, Microplastic In The Thames River, by Jinxiu Chen & Lu Zheng, seeks to explore microplastic pollution in high-density areas. Presentations by students of MA Sustainable Design from Kingston University, too, ponder upon the topic of sustainability with Futureproof: Sustainable by Design.
Paying homage to unfinished projects as well as ones that are in progress, Chair of Virtue presents Prototype / in process – capturing intangible notions, which hosts the display of sculptural chair prototypes, works in progress and unfinished works by 12 emerging and established makers. The exhibition aims to highlight the concepts that shape these objects. A pop-up shop in the design fair, Kasama Potters 2023, includes works by a collective of ceramicists from the Japanese ceramic town of Kasama, which are up for sale.
Oxo Tower Wharf, an award-winning building located on the South Bank of the River Thames, will host an array of ceramics, leatherworks, woven objects and more. Designed for the craft-curious, the building will station over 25 design-maker open studios across its two floors. The second edition of the Material Matters exhibition, with an accompanying talk panel, will also be hosted within the building, at Bargehouse. Additionally, Gallery@OXO, situated within the structure, will showcase buildings, furniture and products shortlisted for this year’s Wood Awards.
Some product launches scheduled for LDF 2023 include SophiaTypeLove’s Foldit: The first variable color font with variable-gradients + Colrv1 demo, and Marina Garlo’s debut piece, the GARLO I Chaise Longue. The latter will be presented at Hilton London Bankside. “A harmonious blend of a light, art installation and a furniture piece, the GARLO I offers guests the chance to both view and physically interact with the piece,” reads the product description of GARLO I Chaise Longue.
One of the talks that the district will play host to is Sea Containers London’s NOW Gallery at Sea Containers: Simone Brewster: The Shape of Things, which promises an evening of conversations (with the leading contemporary designer Simone Brewster) around the talismanic qualities of objects that aid one’s empowerment. Manyone London’s Entertain, Educate, Include, on the other hand, will platform two talks, namely ‘Fun as a platform for learning’ and ‘Neurodivergence by Design.’ The former will delve into the processes of desiging for children under the age of 10, with key speakers from Moonbug Entertainment, We Are Family, and Manyone. ‘Neurodivergence by Design,’ designed as an open debate seeks to answer the question: How can we redesign the design process itself to create a more inclusive and considerate practice? Elizaveta Stolyarova will deliver a lecture on the integration of AI in creative fields for Co-creative Partnership with AI: Shaping the Future of Design and Creative Work.
Battersea Design District
The Battersea Design District, known for its pioneering design heritage, as well as initial developments in the realms of engineering and transport, is joining the London Design Festival for the first time. The debut programme of the district aims at celebrating local heritage and highlighting the creative communities in the neighbourhood. The presentations in the district range from art, design, and craft exhibitions, open studios, talks and panel discussions, workshops and design trails and tours.
While Wandsworth Council’s exhibition Layers of Truth: Unveiling Perspectives hosts a collaborative art installation celebrating the multifaceted nature of tuth, Metculture LTD’s The Preciousness of Superfluous things in the space – Ceramic Craft and Artistic Pottery exhibits carefully crafted utensils such as teapots and teacups, along with a tea-tasting ceremony. A second exhibition by Wandsworth Council, namely Ingate Works Takeover, will host established and emerging designers in a creative takeover within the building. The likes of Wandsworth-based Luca Bosani and The 503Studio in Nine Elms will host open studios at Battersea.
The talk Activating the Low Line: Allies & Morrison with Wandsworth & Lambeth Councils ponders upon processes that can be undertaken to activate the unique Victorian viaduct running through the heart of Battersea to Vauxhall Image: Courtesy of London Design Festival 2023
Some talk progammes scheduled to be hosted within the distinct include those hosted by the Wandsworth Council, namely Designing for the Climate Emergency – the Role of the Public Realm and Urban Design in Creating Sustainable Cities; Activating the Low Line: Allies & Morrison with Wandsworth & Lambeth Councils; and London’s New Immersive Concert Hall: A Venue For The Future. Greystar will host Bloom Interiors Unveiled: Design Talk and Tours at Bloom Nine Elms, which will include an interactive Q&A session for the attendees.
Some tours and design trails that form part of the schedule at Battersea aim to provide visitors with a view and understanding of the area. These include Wandsworth Council’s Art and Architecture Walking Tour of Battersea Nine Elms; A Garden for Everyone – a gold medal garden fit for the community; There is no design without people – Exterior Architecture; and Battersea Design & Tech Quarter Walk/Talk and Explore. The four design trails are themed to cover different aspects of the area (such as landscape, materials, art, collectibles, urban design), with architecture harking a concurrent space. Workshops such as Mini Rug Tufting Workshop by Tufting London and Nature, Design & The Dining Table by Merchants Way by VINCI St Modwen, on the other hand, aim to involve visitors with the craft of tufting and pottery, respectively.
Brompton Design District
The Brompton Design District, one of the oldest districts of LDF, is known for the display of established design brands and temporary programmes uniquely curated each year around an annual theme. This year’s theme is ‘Conviviality – The Art of Living Together.’ It celebrates design as a medium of connecting people and places with each other.
The curated programme includes the showcase Farm Shop, by Fels Gallery in collaboration with Grymsdyke Farm. The event will host homeware collections developed by 15 designers following residencies at Grymsdyke Farm. Japanese designer Rio Kobayashi will host his first solo exhibition at LDF this year. Along with the showcase of his carefully handcrafted objects, one will get a chance to witness the convivial experiences designed by his invited friends in the gallery space. Brompton will also witness the return of Peter PiIlotto and Christopher De Vos as PPCDV with an exhibition presenting works that exist at the brink of fashion and interiors.
Pentagram’s Bags of Art and Design Pentagram exhibition Image: Pentagram, Courtesy of London Design Festival 2023
Pentagram, Cass Art, and Bags of Ethics have come together to redesign tote bags. The result is a series of 12 unique bad designs that will be exhibited alongside the original artworks, prototypes and mock-ups. SCENTMATIC marks its return to LDF with KAORIUM, the world’s first AI system trained to express scents and flavours using a bank of existing vocabulary at hand. In the arena of sound design, sound artist, designer and electronic musician Yuri Suzuki collaborated with the Shope at Japan House London. The works created as part of this collaboration include two window installations and Suzuki’s Ambient Machine, which invites visitors to design their own background ambience.
The New Craftsmen – Banksia Vessels by Darren Appiagyei Image: Courtesy of London Design Festival 2023
The exhibition Join, Assemble, Hold will showcase new pieces from designers Matthew Raw, Bibbings & Hensby and Studio AMOS of The New Craftsman, alongside other designers. Closing off a street for the festival, the design district will host an outdoor design installation called All Together at Egerton Gardens by Eva Feldkamp and the team of All in Awe. Several brands such as Occhio, Sub-Zero & Wolf, Cassina, Molteni&C, Meridiani, Giorgetti and B&B Italia will showcase their 2023 collections at the fair.
RCA – Back of House by Shivangi Gupta Image: Courtesy of London Design Festival 2023
Royal College of Art’s exhibition Back of House will present exhibitions in the realms of industrial design, product and multidisciplinary design. The name of the exhibition hints at the theme of highlighting not only the end products in the exhibition but also shining a light upon the backend processes that gave form to these objects.
Chelsea Design District
The Chelsea Design District was established in 2019 with the intent of celebrating this area in West London that hosts some extraordinary design heritage. The design district explores the legacy of bohemian free thought, while also highlighting creativity in the disciplines of architecture, interiors, fashion, jewellery, and food.
An introspective exhibition at Roca London Gallery, namely Small Spaces in the City: Rethinking inside the Box, attempts to examine the challenges of tiny homes in big cities such as London, Tokyo, Berlin and more. Another exhibition within the design district, Anthropologie X Artfully Walls, by Anthropologie and Artfully Walls, showcases contemporary fine art prints. In the realm of product design, Marthe Armitage Prints and design studio Sigmar will present upholstered furniture and printed textiles. Birdie Fortescue will host the live demonstration of botanical casting, along with Edinburgh-based artist Katy Eccles.
Showcase by Carl Hansen & Son Image: Courtesy of London Design Festival 2023
Carl Hansen & Søn will present the Nature collection, a series of objects that will pay homage to iconic designs by architect Kaare Klint. On the other hand, Lema will hold an exclusive preview of their new home collection at their London Flagship store.
Dalston to Stokey Design District
This district, another new addition to the 2023 iteration of LDF, promises to host creative businesses and individuals that carry their own individual identity in their design language. “As a fertile landscape for designer makers, arts, and culture, the curation will spotlight some of its brightest talents,” reads an excerpt from the press release.
Kinsukes Kingdom Tower Theatre Company 2021 Image: Robert Piwko, Courtesy of London Design Festival 2023
Blisters: Time to Play by Print Club London will showcase over 50 new and exclusive screenprint editions that feature works created by artists in response to the theme of the play. The result is the expression of a series of concepts and themes such as fairground games, colour and abstraction. These artworks come in many different styles. Some bear semblance to street art while others feature the intricacies that characterise fine art.
Various events in the district are formatted to provide an intimate look at the work done by the local creative community. Open studios hosted by Praxis N16 will invite visitors to explore and meet 50 resident artists and creatives based in the Victorian warehouse space. On the other hand, Absorb Arts Studio will welcome visitors to view the showcase of work done by painters, sculptors, printmakers, graphic designers and more. Know and Love’s showcase of hyperlocal products from 47 North London artists and makers will bring to the fore their innovations in areas such as ceramics, skincare and chocolate making.
Some products on display at the event include maquettes, collages, and textiles by Emily Forgot, new furniture and colour variants for their coffee tables and dining tables by Fred Rigby Studio and Monoware, and 3-D printed footwear and futuristic jewellery by Atelier100. In order to make the district inclusive and interesting for younger audiences, KindHaus has collaborated with Stokey Popup to design a series of child-inclusive experiences. These include family design challenges that will allow parents and children to identify and solve design-related issues.
Fitzrovia Design District
The third district in the list to debut this year, the Fitzrovia Design District is popular as a nexus for global leaders in the discipline of furniture design. The district, located in the central part of the city, is also home to several creative industries, innovative start-ups and the city’s finest and favourites independent restaurants and bars.
Console by Den Holm, on show at Charles Burnand Gallery Image: Courtesy of London Design Festival 2023
The design district will play host to Charles Burnand Gallery’s Planet Rock, which features futuristic reinterpretations of everyday materials and objects. It showcases works by Dawn Bendick, Labaye/Sumi, Den Holm, Matthew Nunn, and Studio Furthermore. Another explorative exhibition that showcases innovative creations is the showcase by students of Kingston University. Alongside 10 shortlisted works by third-year students from the university, sit iconic seating designs such as Togo by Ligne Roset, Egg by Fritz Hansen, and Forum by Robin Day for Case. Complementing the physical works at the district are virtual creations such as MOOOI’s AI-powered custom room fragrance experience that invites visitors to curate their own rooms with fragrances of their choice.
The Greenwich Peninsula is swiftly gaining traction as London’s boldest modern landscape. Located on a riverside and home to The Tide, which is an elevated, linear walkway and public art trail, the design district boasts of a bright future, with 15,000 new homes in the area and nearly 48 acres of public space up for planning in the next few years. This year’s design itinerary for the district includes a healthy influx of artistic interventions in the public space.
The Tide, on show at the Greenwich Peninsula Image: Courtesy of London Design Festival 2023
The design district will showcase a series of public artworks. One of these is a new collaboration, with graphic artist Murugiah who has created a piece of work inspired by the traditional Rangoli art form, in celebration of Diwali. The Greenwich Peninsula Art Trail offers visitors the opportunity to move across the city and view the works of renowned artists such as Damien Hirst, Morag Myerscough, Allen Jones, Studio Weave, Alex Chinneck and Conrad Shawcross.
In honour of the week-long design event, The Tide will feature a reimagined stairwell by Turner Prize nominee Ian Davenport and a lyrical and poetic rendition by Beirut-born artist Marwan Kaabour, called The River in Verse. “The River in Verse is a lyrical and poetic mirror of the river Thames. The artwork is a series of multilingual text extracts that contemplate water, fluidity and expressiveness of its ebb and flow. The artwork incorporates English, Greek, Polish, French, Farsi, Arabic, Yoruba, Mandarin and Turkish languages, which resonate with communities in Greenwich and on the Peninsula,” reads a description of the work.
NOW Gallery will present The Shape of Things, which celebrates Simone Brewster’s multidisciplinary approach to art and design, and Faber Futures and Ginkgo Bioworks will showcase Normal Phenomena of Life, which presents products made and grown using advanced biotechnologies. Rose Bruford College, on the other hand, will explore design in performance settings with the help of talks, workshops and installations.
Islington Design District
Now in its third year, the Islington Design District promises to present a mix of local and international presenters. Its theme this year is ‘Diversity, Inclusion and Collaboration,’ which acknowledges ‘independent design shops, studios and designers from across the creative industries, localised in one of London’s main creative enclaves.’
Travel Things Museum – ReMapping New Worlds Image: Courtesy of London Design Festival 2023
Fiskars | Gifu | Hiroshima by twentytwentyone is an exploration of the similarities that exist between Finland and Japan. Works by Maruni, Nikari, Ozeki & Co. and Woodnotes will feature alongside designs by Barber Osgerby, Cecilie Manz, Claesson Koivisto Rune, Jasper Morrison, Joanna Laajisto, John Pawson, Kari Virtanen and Ritva Puotila. Carl Hansen & Søn’s Wonders of Wood, on the other hand, invites visitors to view their latest launches such as the 2023 limited edition CH07 Shell Chair by Hans J. Wegner. Travel Things Museum will present everyday objects from around the globe reinterpreted to fit new functions. The handblown glass specialists, Molten 1090, will share unique insights pertaining to circular design in tandem with their innovations.
Kings Cross Design District
Housing various design brands, this district, situated on an estate filled with architectural delights, various generously designed public spaces and a renowned art university, is now in its sixth year of hosting programmes during the London Design Festival. The district plans events with resident brands and institutions such as Tom Dixon and Central Saint Martins to enable the public to experience creative endeavours in the institutions in the area.
Work by Yibei Liu of Central Saint Martins Image: Courtesy of London Design Festival 2023
Tom Dixon will present HYPERMOBILE at the brand’s headquarters. The showcase will focus on his new portable lights, with a large-scale installation. On the other hand, Central Saint Martins will present Design Transforms ’23, a celebration of work done by students and staff in the arena of product, industrial and ceramic design.
Studio Snoop will present Tilly2, the world’s first AI designer, ‘representing an unprecedented human-AI collaboration that reimagines our environment.’ Wolf & Badger will present works by Spanish designer and artist Jaime Hayon for Fritz Hansen, displayed alongside florals curated by Edie Rose. They will host interactive workshops led by various independent brands. Yu Mei Huang and Bao will present an exhibition that melds visual and tactile art.
Mayfair Design District
Mayfair Design District was established in 2017 with the intent to foster a collaborative environment. Keeping up with this inceptive aim, the design district unites the area’s galleries, auction houses, cultural institutions and brands and encourages community ties.
Ralph Pucci – Ara Side Table in Land of Sun Image: Elizabeth Garouste for Ralph Pucci, Courtesy of London Design Festival 2023
The district will host exhibitions such as This Island Sunrise at Sadie Coles HQ and Alchemy of Form at Mint Gallery. While the former will feature British designs by Tom Dixon, Eduardo Paolozzi, and a 17th century woodturner, the latter will help explore the interplay of form and materials with alchemical concepts showcased by 50 designers. David Gill Gallery will present the new works of Barnaby Barford. APPARATUS’s open gallery event will showcase the lighting, furniture and objects built by the studio. Various brands such as Holly Hunt, SoShiro Collections, Ralph Pucci, and Porcelanosa will present new launches.
Park Royal Design District
This West London hub is one of the Mayor’s of London’s newest Creative Enterprise Zones. Having incubated new talent, the district promises to offer a programme of ‘exhibitions, open studios, demonstrations, workshops and launches across a range of disciplines – from leathercraft and millinery to furniture and glasswork.’
West London Art Factory – Elliot Minor Image: Courtesy of London Design Festival 2023
Several studios will welcome visitors to discover the works of artists, designers and makers working in the area. At Bill Amberg Studio, visitors will get a chance to view their new collection of sustainably sourced wood and leather furniture. At 42 Gorst Studios, which hosts a multidisciplinary community of creatives, one can participate in interactive exhibitions. Other such studios include Queensrollahouse and POW Workshops. In addition to granting the opportunity to view the works of creatives, one will also get a chance to learn and participate in the making of innovative crafts and designs. Re-Made in Park Royal will present an array of salvaged and innovatively configured creations such as wood pallets, film sets, shop interiors and raw clay, by local artists and makers.
Shoreditch Design Triangle
Now in its 15th edition, Shoreditch Design Triangle 2023 hosts various exhibitions that address the theme of circularity and sustainability, play host to a range of interactive workshops and events, and platform various talks and panel discussions.
LEGO x It’s Nice That host an interactive showcase at London Design Festival Image: Courtesy of London Design Festival 2023
From LEGO® Group and It’s Nice That’s invitation to build lego botanicals to SCP’s exhibition Soft Power, which presents sustainable creations and workshops that promise to teach various individual crafts, the range of events in this arena is diverse. Some of the events in the area include Vitra’s Hackability of the Stool, Donna Wilson’s talk, Six Dots Design’s The Localist Cafe, Osmose Studio’s pop-up, The House by M.A.H’s The Bedroom & Study, Art Practice’s group exhibition, and more.
Southwark Design District
The Southwark Design District is known for the vibrant, creative and multicultural communities it houses. “Southwark Design District facilitates an inclusive and sustainable design community in South East London. We celebrate local designers, makers and creators who work, live and play in the area through diverse design happenings. We connect our community, culture, education and enterprise to bring about a local creative economy. Our purpose is to diversify design and make it accessible to everyone in Southwark,” reads the description on their website.
Peckham Festival Image: Courtesy of London Design Festival 2023
Amongst the events hosted in this area is Microclimates, a group exhibition and festival themed on social change, by Camberwell College of Arts; Evolving Docks by Bizzie Bodies, which brings together local change-makers to host workshops with the intent of driving digital inclusion. The Peckham Festival features a free weekend-long arts and music festival for all ages. Stéphane Barbier Bouvet, in his open studio, will show works developed in collaboration with Maniera Gallery in Brussels. Lastly, London College of Communication, in partnership with Elephant Park, hosts a series of installations, talks and workshops at The Tree House, with the intent of connecting the community and enriching the cultural exchange in the area.
London Design Festival is back! In its 21st edition, the faceted fair adorns London with installations, exhibitions, and talks from major design districts including Shoreditch Design Triangle, Greenwich Peninsula, Brompton, Design London, Clerkenwell Design Trail, Mayfair, Bankside, King’s Cross, and more. Click here to explore STIR’s highlights from the London Design Festival 2023.