The area of Clerkenwell became the centre of loft living and gained an achingly cool reputation as the centre of design chic in the 1990s. History had repeated itself. In the 17th century, the area had been a fashionable place to live with tea gardens, spas and theatres.
Then came the industrial revolution and Clerkenwell turned into a centre for skilled artisanal industries including printing, clock and jewellery making.
By the late 20th century those industries and the premises that housed them were in decline, yet it was these same work spaces that drew new residents and workers to the area.
The old buildings were a magnet to many in the creative industries from designers to architects seeking light airy, cheap studios.
Today, Clerkenwell has refashioned itself as the centre of London's much-vaunted creative industries. A stone's throw from the City, it is home to a plethora of new media agencies, graphic and interactive design studios, more than 200 architectural practices, designer-makers in studio workshops and the area has 60 design showrooms including world leaders such as Vitra, Knoll and Moroso.
Clerkenwell is celebrating its creative hub status with a brand new three-day design festival. Daren Newton of Media 10, one of the festival's founders, wants to create the same atmosphere in Clerkenwell as in Milan's Zona Tortona during the Milan Furniture Fair.
Many of the area's design showrooms will be throwing open their doors and a number, such as Moroso and Flos, will be showing off new products launched a few weeks ago in Milan.
The Poltrona Frau Group is transforming its showroom into the London Design Village to display edited highlights of its 2010 collections including, for Cappellini, the new Marcel Wanders Tulip Chair.
It will also show the TWB Collection by Raw-Edges, the design duo Yael Mer and Shay Alkalay, of an armchair, a stool and a bench, which look like crumpled paper and whose construction process renders each piece different from all the others.
Vitra will be showing Chairless (at £20 surely the cheapest most minimal chair it has ever developed) a sort of web belt that is strapped around the body to take pressure off the body while sitting on the floor.
Life on the outside
Non-Clerkenwell companies will get a look in at the Farmiloe building, an old warehouse with a Dickensian feel on St John Street. The pop-up exhibitions will include design brands such as Tom Dixon, who's launching his "Industry" collection of furniture and lighting based on industrial processes.
In addition, there are outside installations by artists such as Mechanical Alchemists, who create sculpture from engine parts and metal scrap, and Jonathan Batten, who has developed a series of multi-media installation sculptures Sound Flowers, which will push up through the pavements.
But that's not all...
The supporting programme of events will include a craft market at St John's Gate, life drawing classes by sculpture students from the Royal College of Art, twice daily showing of Eames's films at Vitra, a debate on fakes, as well as lectures and workshops on colour.
The Design Museum will pop up with "Designers in Residence on Tour", showing projects undertaken by a selection of designers who have worked in the museum and each designer, including Freddie Yauner, Giles Miller and Alexena Cayless will also be on hand to offer "access sessions" to the public to talk about their work, share ideas and engage in debate.
Local bars and restaurants will have special offers for festival visitors. Most events are free but priority will be given to those who register in advance.
Clerkenwell Design Week 2010 runs from 25-27 May, 2010. Visit clerkenwelldesignweek.com. Reuse content