Whether you want to know more about design and architecture, track down super-cool furniture and lighting you won’t find anywhere else, or just discover one of London’s most creative neighbourhoods, Clerkenwell Design Week (May 21-23) has something for everyone.
Squeezed between the buttoned-up City and the frenzied commercialism of the West End, Clerkenwell has long been a magnet for alternative creative types. In the past decade, a steady influx of architects and designers has reinvigorated EC1 and since the Design Week was launched four years ago, it has proved a great and growing showcase for local — and international — creativity and ideas.
Clerkenwell Design Week: main locations
The event has three main locations where more than 150 manufacturers and designers, including new brands and up-and-coming names, will be exhibiting their products.
1. Farmiloe Building, 34, St John St, EC1M 4AY
The largest location is the Farmiloe Building, at the Smithfield end of St John Street. Some of the freshest talent in UK furniture making and product design will be here in this atmospheric, 19th-century former warehouse. Young rising stars like Hackney-based Norwegian Magnus Pettersen will be showing his furniture here for the first time. There is even a whole floor dedicated to lighting, including leading international brands like Foscarini.
2. Order of St John, St John’s Gate, Saint John Street, EC1M 4DA
At the Order of St John, a bit further north just off Clerkenwell Road, the mix of exhibitors has been chosen to reflect the latest interior decoration trends and includes sophisticated British furniture and lighting brands Ochre and Sé.
3. House of Detention, Sans Walk, EC1R 0AS
Keep heading north to find the third location, The House of Detention, tucked away behind St James’s Church Garden. This literally cool subterranean space is, as the name suggests, a former jail, but it’s now home to the newest designer names, representing a mix of furniture, ceramics, lighting and product design. Check out the striking innovative pieces from young Viennese designer Philipp Aduatz, who combines cutting-edge technology with craft techniques.
With a lot packed into a small area, we suggest you download the CDW app to help you find your way round.
© Marcus Peel
Guided tours by textile designer Jane Young
However, those who would prefer someone else to take the lead can get a local expert to guide them. Jane Young, a textile designer and historian, will be leading groups daily around the area. Her tours were a great hit last year. This year's programme includes tours on the gin lanes of Clerkenwell, which gives an insight into the area's gin distilling past, and another looking at coffee house culture in the area. To sign up and join her, go to creativeclerkenwell.com.
Talks, seminars and workshops
Brintons workshop: 1 Sycamore Street, Clerkenwell, EC1Y 0SF
Experiencing design isn’t just limited to looking at CDW — there’s also the chance to get some hands-on creativity. Renowned UK carpet company Brintons is running a competition and a workshop at its Sycamore Street showroom — visitors can paint a Union Flag, or design a bowler hat — and the winning entries will receive tickets to the Coronation Festival at Buckingham Palace.
Hands workshop: 26-27 Great Sutton Street, London, EC1V 0DS
At the Hands showroom on May 22, visitors can learn all about leather and make a key fob to take home.
Poltrona workshop: 150 St John Street, London, EC1V 4UD
Craftsmen will also be demonstrating their skills at the St John Street showroom of top Italian furniture firm Poltrona Frau.
Many of the showrooms will be hosting talks, seminars and workshops. CDW attracts high-profile names in the world of design and this year is no exception.
Erwan Bourollec talk: 30 Clerkenwell Road, London, EC1M 5PG
One of the highlights is on the evening of May 22, when French designer Erwan Bouroullec will be at the Vitra showroom, talking about his work as a designer. The Bouroullec brothers, Erwan and Ronan, unveiled a series of office products for Vitra last month. Vitra’s space will be transformed into a working office for CDW visitors for the duration so pop in, check your emails and try their award-winning designs for yourself.
Installing ideas out on the streets
Clerkenwell is home to about 50 showrooms for interiors products — many of them opening to the public next week — but you don’t even have to go inside to spot great ideas.
Design is taking to the streets with a number of intriguing, inspiring and even amusing installations. Look out for four huts built by Architecture for Humanity, following on from the success of the charity’s Love Hut last year, and for chairs — 200 of them, designed and made by Assemble who will be giving away instructions on making them.
There will also be sheep — snap yourself with one of Sedus’s fake flock of four and you might win a prize; tables (10 tables topped with Lubna Chowdhary’s beautifully coloured glazed ceramics will grace Charterhouse Square); a huge target right beneath the historic St John’s Gate — design practice Giles Miller Studio has collaborated with maker Tecan to create the steel and brass pieces for this three metre-wide installation, plus amaze in St John’s Square, made by Mobile Studio), and more…