Focus on the one-off installations and events — the fantastic structures, wonderful (or even weird) workshops, talks with stellar casts and pop-ups filled with people to meet and things to buy — but will all too soon be popping down. And the four biggest shows launch tomorrow.
© Alex Lentati
At 100% Design, go to Chockablock, a 190ft-long bar of jazzy Turkish ceramics and lose yourself in the PaperSpace Hub with its clever cut paper shapes. At 100% Norway in Dray Walk, E1, is a magnificent 10ft-wide glowing “sun” disc by visual artists Christine Istad and Elizabeth Pacini that magically mimics the real thing as it moves across the sky.
Don’t miss the Endless Stair wood sculpture on the South Bank, and go to the Festival Hall to see the Mathmos — the largest lava lamp in the world. At the V&A, sparkle under the huge chandelier of multi-coloured, hand-blown glass globules cascading from the dome, drift through a white paper sculpture of turning windmills and tread the cork fantastic on a floor that mimics tile mosaic.
More countries than ever are at the London Design Festival to showcase ideas, designers and wares — it’s design tourism without leaving London. Trawl the globe at 100% Design where “country pavilions” include France, Germany, Argentina, Australia, Italy and Korea, plus Russia, Slovenia and Portugal. And big brand Epassio shows beautiful furniture from Brazil.
At Tent, find Shapes of Hungary (with its quirky pixellated chair) and Fresh Taiwan. And Young Creative Poland is staking out the newly renovated Ognisko Polskie (Polish Hearth Club) at 55 Exhibition Road, SW7, with the celebrated Art Yard Sale coming in from Warsaw (artyardsale.pl/eng).
© Alex Lentati
Meet and greet
Who are the people behind the names and brands? Find them in person all over the festival, ask them questions and put your point of view (I like to get my purchases autographed).
Michael Anastassiades is opening his 18th-century town house (completely designed by him) with its studio and shop in Lower Marsh, SE1, kitted out with his latest “string” lighting for the giant Italian brand Flos (from tomorrow until Sunday; book on firstname.lastname@example.org).
Talks and seminars
Bone up with new ideas, latest issues, expert views and a chance to add your own two-pennyworth. Make new design friends. The major shows have the best talks programmes of any festival yet — check them out via londondesignfestival.com.
At designjunction esteemed curator Aidan Walker has pulled together a heavyweight platform, with speakers from the Design Council, the Sir John Cass Faculty of Art, Architecture and Design, the V&A, and Wilkinson Eyre Architects to discuss Scale Models: Architecture, Urbanism and Product Design tomorrow at 4.30pm.
Saturday talks at 100% Design are in a cool space — called AMASS — designed by young Londoner Benjamin Hubert from a web of interlocking plastic strands. The structure will be broken up and given away from 5pm onwards.
Talks include We Blog Design (1.30pm), and The Joys of Getting Real (2.45pm) — a new humanistic design approach from Fixperts and Sugru. Design buffs should catch Iconic Finnish Houses at 3pm.
Events and special ticket offers
Designersblock (SE1) and designjunction (WC1) open tomorrow and are free until Sunday September 22. Tent (E1) also opens on Thursday September 19 but costs £10 to go in. 100% Design (SW5) opens today (Wednesday September 18 but is trade-only; the public day is Saturday September 21 (£15, but print this page for two-for-one tickets). Visit verydesignersblock.com; thedesignjunction.co.uk; tentlondon.co.uk; 100percentdesign.co.uk.
For exquisite one-off wonders, sadly at a price, explore the Super Design Gallery at Tent. See folded lights in thin copper sheet by Dutchman David Derksen, the glittering Stellar console table with 900 individually faceted mirrors by Londoner Jake Phipps (“inspired by amethyst geodes”) and the ethereal Yumi Chair with its flowing wood veneers. And colour-cast fragments of glazed stoneware are chugging around a 33ft-long conveyor belt, to be assembled into crazy lamps and candlesticks by Soderlund Davidson.
Plan your week
The “design districts” split the Festival into walkable chunks — with late nights on September 18 at Fitzrovia Now (W1) and on September 19 at Brompton Design District (SW7).
Saturday September 18 is a great day to do the South Bank with designersblock and the Festival Hall. And Sunday is good for the East End, with the Shoreditch Triangle masterminded by the SCP in Curtain Road. Pick up its newspaper map, then swing by glam Lee Broom in Rivington Street for an open-house for a new swish shop. Finish up at Brick Lane’s Sunday September 22 market and Tent with its “swing tag” Sunday when designers will sell stuff at big discounts. Along the way, try to fit in the Clerkenwell and the Chelsea design quarters.
Visit londondesignfestival.com/design-districts for all the details.